How to Backup MacBook Pro to an External Hard Drive

macbook pro data back to external drive

Almost everyone knows that backing up all of the files on your computer or any other device you have frequently is a good practice.

You never know when your device, even if it’s reliable and secure (like a MacBook Pro), might fail, break, get lost or stolen. If any of these things happen it can be devastating but if you backup your data with an external hard drive, you at least have all of your files and other important information.

These days, backing up your MacBook Pro is easy to do and if you own one of these computers you should learn how to back it up and do it often.

It can be as easy as a click of a button but we will take a look at all of the steps necessary to backup your Mac as well as some other information to consider during the process.

Why Backing up MacBook Pro to an External Hard Drive

The reasons to backup your MacBook Pro to an external hard drive are pretty obvious but if you are unfamiliar with the reasons, or with backups in general, you should learn about them.

Backing up your computer basically means that you are making copies of all the important information found on your computer. This could be all of your photos, music, videos, files, and any other piece of data found within your MacBook.

All of this data exists stored and saved within the hard drive built into your computer but making a backup of these is a good idea for a couple of reasons. Your MacBook Pro is an electronic device and these devices can break or fail due to accidents or because of manufacturer’s defects.

Also, because of the popularity and cost of Apple products, your computer might be a target for theft. Because of these possibilities, it is important to back up your computer in case any of them happen to you.

An external hard drive makes it really easy to back up your computer so it’s a good idea to purchase one and learn the steps to back everything up.

Hard drives can vary in cost and storage capacity but even though they are an added expense, they are more than worth it in the worst-case scenario of a broken or stolen MacBook.

How to Backup MacBook Pro to External Hard Drive

The first step to backing up your MacBook Pro is to connect your computer to an external hard drive.

Hard drives come in many different shapes and sizes but all have a cord that will connect the drive into your computer. Plug this cord into the corresponding input on your MacBook Pro to allow the backup process between the hard drive and your computer to begin.

Depending on what model MacBook Pro you have and which hard drive, this cord could be USB, Thunderbolt, or Firewire.

When you plug the hard drive into your computer, a popup box should appear that will ask you if you’d like to backup your computer using Apple’s built-in backup program, Time Machine.

When you see this box above, go ahead and click on Encrypt Backup Disc and then the Use as Backup Disk button.

You can also open up the Time Machine settings manually if it doesn’t happen to appear automatically.

To do this go to the Apple menu in the top left corner of your screen then click on System Preferences and then on Time Machine.

Once in the Time Machine box, click on Select Backup Disc to choose your external hard drive as the device to store the backup.

Click on the Use Disk button once you locate your external hard drive and your MacBook Pro will begin to back up your files.

If you turn Time Machine on and keep your computer plugged into your external hard drives, it will complete backups at scheduled intervals so you don’t have to worry about going through this process that often. You can choose the frequency you’d like backups to take place but having it set to automatic is an easy way to make sure your most current data is backed up.

Time Machine can automatically back up files every hour for 24 hours, once a day for a week, and weekly for previous months of use. The first time you back up your MacBook Pro to an external hard drive, it can take a long time.

After this initial backup, it shouldn’t take as long and if you have Time Machine set up to conduct automatic backups, you might not even realize the backups are occurring.

Final Thoughts

Backing up your files from your MacBook Pro to an external hard drive is important and you should really consider doing it.

It is a simple step you can take to recover important information in case of something bad happening to your computer. The automatic backup feature on Time Machine makes things even easier and once you follow the steps above, your computer will be consistently backed up.

There are many different options when it comes to choosing an external hard drive. The main thing to consider is how much storage space you need.

I’d recommend getting at least a 1TB size hard drive and that should cover an average person’s files from their computer.

If you want a smaller drive, 500GB might be enough but hard drives these days are pretty compact so getting one with a larger capacity is recommended.

Do you backup your MacBook Pro often? What size hard drive do you use?

About Eric
Eric currently uses a 15-inch MacBook Pro for both work and personal errands. He did all the research and testing to make sure all the fixes and optimization tips shared on the blog are relevant to Apple’s latest macOS updates as well as fact-checking.

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  • Al

    Mac OS high serria 2011. no time machine. backed up to apple 1 tera bite several years ago in the apple store.
    Never shown how to do it . Have not found and help so far.
    plugged in extrenal hard drive and no window pops up to tell me what to do.

  • John Murray

    I’m backing up my old (2010) 15 inch MacBook Pro as it needs to be refurbished

  • marcy

    how do you properly eject the disk once the backup is complete?