MacMost Now 231: Choosing a Time Machine Backup Drive

If you aren't using Time Machine to back up your Mac, then it is time to start. Here are some options for a Time Machine backup drive.



Here are some recommendations of hard drives I have used:
I’ve used many Western Digital MyBooks in the past. Here is the current 1TB hard drive for less than $120.
For internal drives I’ve used several Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB 7200 RPM SATA II Drvies which run under $100.
I’ve also used those internal drives in a Vantec NexStar NST-D100SU 2.5-Inch/3.5-Inch SATA to USB 2.0 and eSATA Hard Drive Dock, which I have connected to my Mac via USB.
Currently I am using a Data Robotics DR04DD10 Drobo 4-Bays USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 Fully Automated SATA Robotic Storage Array for my time machine backups with four of those internal drives. It handles all of my Macs.
Another option is a portable drive. They are smaller and don’t require external power, but are a bit more expensive. I’ve used one similar to this in the past: Western Digital My Passport Essential 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive WDME5000TN

Comments: 28 Responses to “MacMost Now 231: Choosing a Time Machine Backup Drive”

    11 years ago

    I would love to see a podcast on how to use Automator.

      11 years ago

      Hello Dean. What sort of task would you like to see Automator do? It is an interesting tool, but hard to do a tutorial on because it can do such a wide range of things.

    Arthur Price
    11 years ago

    I have just purchased a new 15 in. Mac Book Pro.
    Watching your Video on backups you said I can use a second internal drive for my time machine;.
    Is this correct and if so how do I do this?

      11 years ago

      You would only be able to do this with a Mac Pro, as it is the only Mac capable of having more than one internal drive.

    Camille Kander
    10 years ago

    Hello,
    I would like to know what does Time Machine do when the backup drive is not plugged in. Like for instance, if I leave the drive at home, and go to work with my MacBook Pro, how does it do the backup at the end of the day when I come back ?
    Will I be able to access hourly backups as if the drive had alwas been plugged in, or will I end up with one backup for the whole day ?
    I don’t know if I’m making myself very clear here ^^
    Anyway, thanks in advance.

      10 years ago

      It simply shows a exclamation point in the TM icon in the menu bar, and a message in the menu that it couldn’t connect to the drive. Then it will resume backups when it finds the drive attached at the next scheduled backup time. This is a very normal way to use TM if you have a MacBook.

    Camille Kander
    10 years ago

    But does it create the hourly “versions” of my Mac ?

      10 years ago

      Only for those hours that it can connect with the hard drive.

    Gloria
    9 years ago

    I have an external hard drive that I previously used for a pc. Can I now use this for my Time Machine backups? Will my MacBook automatically re-format the external hard drive for Mac use and will the former pc data be lost.?

      9 years ago

      Yes, you can use it. But is it a large enough drive? I’d recommend something about twice the size of your internal drive that you are backing up. When you set it up as your TM drive it will reformat it and all previous data will be erased.

    Brendan
    9 years ago

    I have a macbook pro with 2 user logins. Can i backup to an external HD with time machine knowing the difference between the 2 users? Also, to keep my macbook HD as empty as possible, can i then delete the files on the macbook only retaining the files on the external hard drive? Lastly, can i then select any file from the external HD to copy back to the macbook is so desired. Thank you

      9 years ago

      Not sure what you mean by “knowing the difference between the 2 users” — the TM backup should backup both users.
      Do NOT treat the TM backup as an archive. If you delete something from your internal drive, then TM will eventually get rid of it too. It is a backup, not an archive. A backup is for emergencies and mistakes, not for storage. Get a second HD and transfer files you no loner need to that drive for long-term storage.

        Brendan
        9 years ago

        Gary. Thanks for that. In essence i need an archive drive as you said. HowD would you suggest I format the HD for archiving Iphoto and especially Imovie? EG MAC with journaling? (I think)

          9 years ago

          Just use standard formatting. (Mac OS X Extended, Journaled)

    John Kubler
    8 years ago

    I have a MBP and an iMac connected to an Airport extreme through wifi. I am trying to setup the two pcs using TimeMachine. The MBP sees the external HD connected to the USB port of the Airport Express, but the iMac does not. The iMac sees the external HD connected through the firewire to the iMac.
    What do I need to change so that I can use the external HD connected to the Airport Extreme as backup for both pcs?
    By the way, I really like your videos on the various issues. They are very helpful and easy to understand.

      8 years ago

      So one Mac sees the network drive, the other doesn’t. Just check your settings in File Sharing for both Macs, make sure they are both connected to the network, etc. Just troubleshoot. Hard to advise on this because there are so many factors.

    Mr Anthony Cotton
    8 years ago

    Can you do a video on how to use Time Machine. I have never used it,and from all the tech jargon in other peoples questions has got me lost off. When you find the time. Thanks Gary

    Dent
    8 years ago

    I have a MacBook pro with Leopard and a new Mac-mini with Lion. From finder each system can see one another and connect. On the Lion Time Machine I can choose the Leopard system for backups but the Pro Leopard version cannot see the mini Lion system in Time machine. Very new to Macs so any help would be appreciated.

      8 years ago

      So you are trying to back up each machine to the other? Bad idea. Just get an external drive for each machine, or a Time Capsule router to do it.

        Dent
        8 years ago

        No I am not trying to back up to each other. I only illustrated the connectivity that I have. I want to backup my Leopard system to the Lion which is the one I can’t have time machine see.

          8 years ago

          You say you want to back up your Leopard system to your Lion Mac? That’s what I mean by “back up to each other.” Just get an external HD and back up to that.

    Dent
    8 years ago

    That’s a non-solution for me and doesn’t address why my Leopard Time Machine doesn’t see Lion.

      8 years ago

      Very hard to tell why that could be happening. Just try checking and double-checking all settings in both places.
      But what I am saying about using one machine to back up another still stands — I don’t recommend that. A cheap external HD would be much better. I’m just trying to help with some good advice.

    Dent
    8 years ago

    I have it working, without a full understanding yet, so to date: Both systems were wireless. Moved the Lion system to wired and everything went well. I will look further into this and post any info I have.

    Tracey
    8 years ago

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting this video. It was unbelievably helpful in helping me learn more about both external backup and Time Machine. Just what I needed. Thanks again!

    Na Phillips
    7 years ago

    I have MBP and my external hard drive hooked up to Time Machine is almost full. I need to get another external hard drive, but when I hook it up, will it back up my whole computer or is there a way that I could have Time Machine just back up from the day I connect it. Hope this makes sense. Your videos are really helpful. Thank-you!

      7 years ago

      Why do you need to get another drive? Do you have more data on your regular drive than the size of your TM drive? Otherwise, it is natural for a TM drive to fill up. Then TM will automatically rotate out old backup versions for new ones. That’s how TM works. No need to pay attention to the amount of free space on your TM drive.

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