How to Backup MacBook Pro to an External Hard Drive

macbook pro data back to external drive

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The easiest way to back up your MacBook Pro to an external hard drive is with Time Machine. Just play in a hard drive, set up Time Machine, and let your Mac back itself up automatically. 

I’m Eric, a Mac expert, and owner of a MacBook Pro. I back up my Mac routinely with Time Machine and wrote this guide to show you how. 

So, let’s get started. 

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.

Once you have a large enough external hard drive, plug it into your MacBook Pro to allow the backup process to begin.

Depending on your model MacBook Pro and the external hard drive, you may need an adapter to connect them. 

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

When you see this box above, 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, click on System Preferences (System Settings on macOS Ventura and above), and select 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 ensure 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.

Why Backing up MacBook Pro to an External Hard Drive

The reasons to back up your MacBook Pro to an external hard drive are pretty obvious. However, if you are unfamiliar with the reasons or backups, you should learn about them.

Backing up your computer means that you are making copies of all the critical 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 vital 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.

Final Thoughts

Backing up your files from your MacBook Pro to an external hard drive is easy with Time Machine.

It is a simple step you can take to recover important information in case your MacBook Pro breaks or gets stolen. 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.

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

About Eric
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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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    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.

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    John Murray

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

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