The right hard drive for the Time Machine backup - my recommendations

A Seagate 4 TB HDD is my Time Machine Volume

Apple's in-house backup solution called "Time Machine" is a recommended feature of macOS that you should definitely use. The backups are created in the background - usually when the Mac is idle anyway - and you usually don't have to worry about anything if you have everything set up correctly in advance. This includes, above all, the selection of the appropriate storage medium.

What I am writing here are not official recommendations from Apple or rules that someone has set, but are merely tips for you that I have gathered from my years of experience with Macs and with Time Machine. Better suggestions and criticism are always welcome!

Important note: format before use!

No matter which hard drive you get: In order for it to work reliably as a Time Machine Volume, you should open it in the hard drive utility Mac OS Extended (Journaled) reformat. You could too APFS but currently Time Machine does not appear to be 100% compatible with APFS.

Since the external hard drives are mostly formatted in ExFAT by the manufacturer, you should reformat them in Mac OS Extended before use.
Since the external hard drives are usually formatted in exFAT by the manufacturer, you should reformat them in Mac OS Extended or HFS + before using them.

First of all, my hard drive recommendations for anyone who does not want to read a lot

I will of course explain in the post below why I consider the following hard drives to be the best choice. If you don't like to read the whole text and just want a few tips, here is a short list of 2,5-inch and 3,5-inch models that you can't go wrong with. My assessment is based partly on my own experience and - if I do not use the model myself - on the evaluation of customer ratings on Amazon.

Bold type denotes my personal choice based on the price and my experience with the brand.

3,5 inch hard drives

If you can live with the fact that your hard drive comes with its own power supply and is therefore more suitable for iMac, Mac Mini and Power Mac, you will benefit from high capacities and low prices with these hard drives. Almost all models are also available with 6 TB, 10 TB and sometimes also 12 TB. You can make the selection when you are on the product page. At the moment, however, the 8 TB models are the ones with the best price-performance ratio.

The WD Elements is the good & cheap line from Western Digital. The backups of my wife's Mac have also been reliably backed up on this for years (Photo: Sir Apfelot).
The WD Elements is the "good and inexpensive line" from Western Digital. The backups of my wife's Mac have also been reliably stored on this for years (photo: Sir Apfelot).

2,5 inch hard drives

Personally, I work a lot on the MacBook Pro and like to have 2,5 inch hard drives that don't necessarily need their own power supply. I have an active 13-port USB hub (described here with a test report), which takes care of all my external HDDs. That saves space on the desk and, if necessary, I can work with the hard drives on the go - without a hub, of course, directly connected to the MacBook Pro.

For the 2,5 inch hard drives, the 4 TB and 5 TB models are the cheapest when you look at the ratio of capacity and price. If you have an internal 1 TB system hard drive in your Mac, you can do very well with a 5 TB Time Machine Volume. For this reason I have listed the 5 TB models here. You can also switch to 4 TB on the product pages if 5 TB is too much for you.

My tip: never just trust Time Machine

Whenever Apple throws a new macOS version into the ring, I get desperate emails from some Mac users who hastily made the update and ran into problems. Something has stopped working and there is no backup. This is of course very risky, which is why I recommend a 1: 1 backup with SmartBackup, Carbon Copy Cloner or superduper! close.

After all, some users already have a Time Machine backup at the start, but even here there are sometimes problems with the restore and the Mac does not want to import the backup for whatever reason. I've seen too often that people trust Time Machine as the only backup solution and then end up without a backup in an emergency. A popular error message:

An error occurred while restoring from backup. The files could not be restored.

For this reason: Please don't just rely on Time Machine, but also make a 1:1 backup and perhaps also create an online backup with Backblaze - although of course you cannot boot with the online backup.

Backblaze is not as nicely integrated into the system as Time Machine, but in a pinch you can get all files and even different versions. In dire need they will even send you the complete backup on a hard drive by express mail.
Backblaze is not as nicely integrated into the system as Time Machine, but in a pinch you can access all files and even different versions of them via the web frontend. In the greatest need, they'll even send you the complete backup on a hard drive by express mail.

What capacity should the Time Machine volume have?

The size of the hard drive plays an important role in Time Machine, as this backup is not a direct copy of the volumes to be backed up, but rather different versions of files are saved over time. As a result, the Time Machine volume must of course be significantly larger than the hard drive to be backed up.

I would recommend that the Time Machine volume be at least four times the size of the hard drive being backed up. For example, I run a 4 TB hard drive to back up my internal SSD on the MacBook Pro, which is one terabyte. The larger the Time Machine volume, the more versions of the documents Time Machine can keep. When it runs out of space, it will have to delete older versions to make room.

At the moment I would not use an SSD as a backup volume for Time Machine, but would prefer a mechanical hard drive (Photo: olafpictures / PIxabay).
At the moment I would not use an SSD as a backup volume for Time Machine, but would prefer a mechanical hard drive (Photo: olafpictures / PIxabay).

SSD or HDD as a storage medium for Time Machine?

This is one of the first questions I will probably ask new users. When I started with Time Machine, SSDs were still so expensive and low-capacity that they weren't really an option for data backup. With falling SSD prices, one could slowly get the idea that one could use an SSD as a Time Machine Volume.

In my opinion, using an SSD as a Time Machine Volume makes little sense for several reasons:

  • The price per TB is still significantly higher than mechanical hard drives.
  • The speed of the SSD will have little impact on Time Machine, as it is not just about “writing data”, but Time Machine also compares and merges data. The bottleneck will probably not be the speed of the storage volume, but rather the CPU.
  • If the volume breaks, it is Datenwiederherstellung Difficult to do with an SSD. With an HDD you can possibly still do it yourself with the appropriate software.

For me, however, the price and the available capacity are the main reasons to rely on rotating hard drives. From my point of view, more capacity is preferable to speed - and USB 3 hard drives on modern Macs are no longer that slow.

I prefer the small 2,5 inch hard drives because they are powered by the USB cable. Here is my Seagate Expansion Portable Drive with 4 TB (Photos: Sir Apfelot).
I prefer the small 2,5 inch hard drives because they are powered by the USB cable. Here is my Seagate Expansion Portable Drive with 4 TB (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

Which size: 3,5 inch or 2,5 inch?

The 3,5 inch hard drives usually have the advantage that they are a bit cheaper than the smaller 2,5 inch hard drives. The price difference for a 4 TB hard drive is around 15 euros (80 instead of 95 euros). Furthermore, very large capacities are usually reserved for the 3,5-inch models. While capacities of up to 3,5 or 8 TB are still affordable with the 10 inch hard drives, the 2,5 inch models offer a maximum of 5 TB at a reasonable price (as of 02/2020).

An example of the price difference: The Seagate Expansion Portable (2,5 inches) with 4 TB costs around 95 euros, while the Seagate Expansion Desktop (3,5 inches) with the same capacity only costs 80 euros.

In addition to the price, the size and the power supply also play a role for me. While the 3,5 inch models are always operated with a power supply unit, the 2,5 inch hard drives can usually be supplied with power via the USB port. This makes them much more manageable, does not require an additional socket and is less noticeable on the desk.

The last advantage of the small disks is that you can use them on mobile Macs on the go, as you don't have to rely on a power outlet. For this reason I have only bought the 2,5 inch devices for years.

Bottom line: my hard drive recommendation

To break the whole article down to a short statement, I would like to name the hard drive model that I use and with which I have been driving well for years: WD Elements portable (2,5 inch).

24,09 EUR
WD Elements Portable external hard drive 5 TB (portable storage, USB 3.0 interface,...
  • The WD Elements external hard drive offers with USB 3.0 a high storage capacity of up to 5 TB as well as high ...
  • The external hard drive allows you to transfer a full-length HD movie. The WD Elements works seamlessly with ...
  • Increase the performance of your PC. No more deleting files to get your PC going again ...

I don't have the 5 TB version yet, because a year ago it wasn't available at a reasonable price, but I have already ordered it because it is still available 27% (40 €) discount on the plate gives.

If you work with a modern Mac and have a USB-C port, you might want one USB-C to Micro-B cable order at the same time. With that one can - as described here – also connect “normal” hard drives with Micro-B connection to USB-C Macs without the hassle of an adapter.

If you have any unanswered questions about choosing the right Time Machine medium, please let me know. The comment field is available to you.

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87 Responses to “The right hard drive for Time Machine backup – my recommendations”

  1. I don't quite understand why it seems that you have to have tons of old versions of your data in the TM backup and therefore have to have 5x larger disks than the internal ones. For many years (!) I have used an external 1 TB for Time Machine for my iMac with internal 2 TB HD (and still had a partition on it for a current CCC clone of the internal system partition).

    Although the computer was used daily for work in the graphics area, the space for the TM backup never reached its limits on the 2 TB HD. And there were always enough old file versions for occasional restoration ...

    Of course: those who work on a lot of really large files in the GB area (again and again) are certainly well served with the really large disks.

    1. When you start editing videos, you'll quickly notice how quickly even a 5TB drive can fill up when multiple versions are backed up. It may be that you only have a small amount of data and therefore can get there well with the 2 TB, but my 1 TB disk is almost full. I've already outsourced photos ... I think it's a personal thing that you feel is necessary and unnecessary. Since the prices for the hard drives are quite cheap, I would always go for the larger rather than the smaller one.

      An example: The WD Elements with 1 TB costs only half as much as the 5 TB disk. Why should you restrict yourself in terms of space and run the risk of having to buy a new hard drive in a year?

  2. Sure, with video this is definitely (especially) crucial - there is just something really going on in terms of data ... There may also be other areas that are similar.

    It was never an issue for me and I usually "archived" old jobs after a certain period of time, if it was not to be expected that I would really have to continue working on them. Layout and image data, even more extensive Photoshop files, ultimately do not (no longer) really appear that way.

    As you already said, it's a matter of personal circumstances and at some point you have a certain idea of ​​what data comes together and how clearly you want to organize yourself.

    But if you are in doubt, you should of course always choose the larger option - the prices today are generally such that you don't have to struggle for long.

    1. My wife often works with more than 20 or 30 layers on her Photoshop print files. Whenever I see a file from it, it is not infrequently 500 MB or so. If you then do versioning, you can need a lot of storage space even without videos. But as you said: it always depends on your personal needs, of course. There are probably a lot of Mac users who just write Pages files, use mail, and surf the web here and there. Of course, there is not much involved.

  3. Would like to operate 2x external 3,5 ″ HDDs and a monitor on a USB-C hub, is that possible? (iMac 2017 27 ″)

    1. Hello Thomas! Yes, it should work. The 3,5 inch HDDs come with an external power supply and if you have the right hub that has two connections for the HDDs, then nothing stands in the way of operation.

        1. Yes, I would recommend not using a cheap hub. I had tested a few from non-name manufacturers and they sometimes had the quirk of simply disconnecting the hard drive for no reason. If that happens while the disk is writing something important, it can become illegible and all data is lost. I have this little hub from Satechi (ST-SCMA2M) in operation for a long time and it works without dropouts. If you need more than two USB ports, you can also use this Satechi ST-TCMA2M to take. The has three USB 3 ports. Both of course have a USB-C input so that the MacBook can also be charged during operation.

  4. I don't need any advice or tips at the moment, but I just wanted to say thank you anyway, as really good information has been put together here and it is very interesting to read.

  5. I've been reading here for a while. Great Articles!

    Now I need some advice: I currently have an iMac with 1 TB and a backup via TM. Unfortunately, the iMac's hard drive is too full of photos. My plan is photos on an external FP and an even bigger hard drive for TM. Is that a good thing or maybe a NAS is better? I do not need access from everywhere ... and I have often read about problems with NAS with MAC ...

    1. Hello Klaus! So my recommendation here would be that you get a large, "spinning" hard drive for Time Machine and a small SSD for photos. Speed ​​isn't that important with Time Machine, but if you put the Photos library on an external drive, the program sometimes takes 15-30 seconds to start. That's how it is for me and I keep planning to move it to an SSD. That was a tip from another reader, by the way. :D

      My current product recommendations for this would (still) be the WD Elements with 5 TB for Time Machine and the 1TB Sandisk Extreme Portable for the photo library. Both great and, above all, reliable storage solutions.

      I cannot recommend a NAS here, as the data transfer is significantly slower compared to a directly connected hard drive. I only use my Synology Disk Station as a storage location to back up data that I don't need all the time. For example old macOS installers or something. ;-)

      If you need to access the data from anywhere, this can be easily done via the file sharing (System Preferences> Sharing) of the Mac to which the two hard drives are connected.

  6. First of all, thank you very much for the many informative and (for me as a layman) easily understandable articles! I read the newsletter with interest every Friday.

    Now to my concern: I'm looking for the right external 2TB, 2,5-inch HDD hard drive to make a TimeMachine backup of my MacBook Air (13-inch, 2017; 500GB hard drive).

    In my search, I came across the WD My Passport for Mac. Have you had any experience with this hard drive? If so, would you recommend the WD Elements Portable or the My Passport for Mac that you recommend in the article?

    Thank you very much for your feedback.

    1. Hello Liel! The My Passport hard drives have an integrated encryption option. And the “for Mac” hard drives are pre-formatted for Mac. Funny: The "for Mac" models cost about 5 euros more and for that I can also fire up Disk Utility and format the hard drive to "Mac OS Extended (Journaled, case-sensitive)". Whoops, I saved 5 euros. And if I want to encrypt the Time Machine backups, I can do that on the Mac too. So it remains the same (also in terms of price) whether you use the WD Elements or the WD My Passport. At Amazon, the My Passport with USB-C only got bad reviews because of the cable. I would therefore recommend the WD Elements with someone else USB-C to Micro-B cable pick up. That seems to be the best variant, which has also been reliably in operation with me for a long time.

  7. Hello, thanks for the article. I came across this after my WD My Passport was no longer recognized by my Macbook. When researching the cause, I was able to understand the error that is being discussed in various forums: if the Macbook goes into sleep mode during a backup (via Time Machine), the external WD disk can come along, but will not be correct again afterwards activated. The consequence: the data is gone, the external disk should be encrypted - as with me. That does NOT speak for WD. Did this mistake happen to you too? I would appreciate a short exchange of ideas. Regards, Klaus

    1. Hello Klaus! No, I haven't had anything like that yet. But it can be at different points. For example, I have a USB C dock in the monitor and whenever the monitor goes to sleep, it cuts the power on the dock, so all devices and hard drives attached to it are unplugged. If that happens at the wrong moment, the disk is just garbage. To get to the bottom of the cause, I would use a different cable with you and connect the disk directly to the Mac. Simply offer as few sources of error as possible. It shouldn't be WD. I've used quite a few records from them and so far they've all woken up with the Mac. You don't get capped when he goes to sleep.

      1. Hello, thanks for the advice on the dock: I didn't have that on my radar. It could be because I use an external dock. I am currently starting the backups manually and have deactivated the sleep function.


  8. Hello, Jens

    Thanks for the helpful tips on your blog.
    I am a true Apple layman and would have the following questions ...

    The hard drive of my MacBook Air (13-inch, early 2014, MacOS Catalina) is probably formatted with APFS.
    Can / should I format the (new) external HDD with MacOS extended journaled anyway?

    Can I save individual (small) HDDs that are formatted with Mac OS extended (upper / lower case and jourmaled) as well as a very old one with MS DOS (Fat32) (my Mac can still read!), All on a (new) HDD? ? If so, how should the new HDD be formatted to read (backup) these different formats?

    And with which format should I format a (new) HDD for TimeMachine?

    I hope I can back up the external hard drives directly from hard drive to hard drive via the two USB ports in the MacBook - because there is no longer enough space for intermediate storage on the hard drive ... If this doesn't work, how can I get it done? (Hub?)

    Many many thanks!

    1. Hello Tina! Thanks for your mail. You can format the hard drive in APFS. That should work. You can also copy the files and folders from the Fat32 disk and the Mac OS Extended onto it. And don't worry: you can connect both hard disks in parallel and then copy the data directly from one to the other - without any intermediate backup.

  9. I have the following problem since I have a Mac mini M1. I create 2 backups with time machine. 1. on a normal hard drive. 2. on Synology DS413j. When I open the normal hard drive on which the backup is located, several green Time machine hard drive symbols appear. These are all the same size.
    The backup on the Synology runs for a very long time and I have the impression that the time machine is running constantly and the backup is getting bigger and bigger.
    Sincerely, Jürgen Bosse

    1. Hello Jurgen! Yes, a NAS is of course not connected as quickly as a hard drive that is directly attached to the Mac. For this reason, the backup takes a long time - especially since the Mac apparently also has to make two backups in parallel. And yes, a Time Machine backup just keeps getting bigger. The reason for this is that it not only backs up the last status, but also the 10 minutes ago, the hour ago, the day ago, etc. That means it uses as much space as is available to backup over time close. At some point he will have completely filled your NAS with it. For this reason, I would recommend that you only put Time Machine on an attached hard drive that ONLY contains the Time Machine backup and nothing else. An addition to your backup setup might be that Online backup tool Backblaze. This means that your files are encrypted and sent to the cloud and even if the booth burns down, you still have a backup available here. I've been using this for years ...

  10. Matthew Ludwig

    Hello Jens,
    I have had an MBA M1 at home for about 1 week - great thing.
    Of course I want to save. I already have a 2TB SSD in a USB-C enclosure. I would like to use 1tb for TM and the other half as general storage. From my previous "window view" the SSD would have to be partitioned into 2 x 1TB each. is that even possible, or does the apple claw the whole LW as a backup disk?
    In the hope that I have made myself understood, greet you very well and with thanks in advance


    1. Hello Matthias! Exactly, you can do that. Where 1TB is not much for a Time Machine backup. To be honest, I would rather use a cheap hard drive (HDD and not SSD) for a Time Machine backup. Time Machine makes incremental backups and for that it is good if you have more space than is on the main hard drive of data. But theoretically you can do it as you want: partition the SSD and use a partition for Time Machine and a partition for storage.

      1. Matthew Ludwig

        Thank you Jens! I still have an 8TB WD Desktop on which my W10 backups are. Then I'll mouse 3TB.
        Greetings M.

        1. Hello Matthias! That sounds like a good plan. : D Better than using the SSD for something like that ... it's way too fast and too good for backups. : D

  11. Hi Jens,
    I'll keep it short, the new Apple operating system meant that I had to reset to factory settings. The Time Machine backups (there were maybe 30 to date) didn't work anymore either. Thank God I still had my important files on my Air. But I now have an external hard drive with 30 days of Time Machine on it. Is there a trick how I can restore it to normal, i.e. conjure it back into a normal storage medium? Or is she “drawn” forever? Thanks and regards, Linda

    1. Hello Linda! Of course that works: You open the hard disk utility (Applications> Utilities). Then select the hard drive on the left that was used for Time Machine and click on Delete at the top of the icons. Then it's best to choose APFS as the format and the arbor is ready. : D

  12. Hi Jens,

    I have a MacBook Pro 13" 2016 with four Thunderbolt 3 ports. The memory is 8 GB and I need an external hard drive for data backup because my display will be replaced next week. Because of the connections, I've been researching a suitable external hard drive for a long time. What do you think of the “wd my passport for mac”? Or do you have another recommendation? I think 2TB is enough.
    Thank you for your feedback and sunny greetings, Bianca

    1. Hello Bianca! The WD My Password has a password protection function that you as a Mac user do not need. If you like, you can easily encrypt any hard drive with FileVault. With the backup hard drive I would not do this and therefore the much cheaper one WD Elements with 2 TB to take. I would use a USB C to USB Micro B cable (like dieses hier) so that you can connect the hard drive directly to your MacBook Pro without an adapter. Otherwise: good plan! : D

  13. Hi Jens,

    Thank you so much! I just ordered the things through your links!
    I hope the data backup works now.

    Many greetings, have a nice Sunday evening and THANK YOU again!

    1. Thank you very much for using the links. And you have a great Sunday evening too. If you have any questions about the setup, please get in touch. LG, Jens

      1. Hello Jens, what do I have to do when setting up? Somehow I can't handle it. Is there a guide somewhere?
        Thank you for your feedback and have a nice evening, Best regards, Bianca

        1. Hello Bianca! You connect the hard drive to the Mac. Then open Disk Utility and format the hard drive to Mac OS Extended (Erase option). Then open the Time Machine app in the Applications folder and set the new hard drive as a Time Machine volume. And done! You should leave your Mac on for the next few hours (preferably overnight) as it is now backing up all data. That takes a while. In the future, he will only back up changed and new data on the side. I hope this gets you further?

  14. Liana Kapitzki

    Hi Jens,
    I have just ordered the MacBook Pro 13 inch M1 and would like to make backups on an external hard drive. However, I am looking for a hard drive with WLAN functionality. Can you recommend one for the Mac? I mainly work with Lightroom and Photoshop, photos in RAW format.
    In addition, of course, a hard drive to save the photos, i.e. the internal SSD for all utilities and processing and the external one for permanent storage. Is an HDD enough for this, or does everything slow down too much?
    I hope I was able to express myself clearly ...
    I would also use an affiliate link 😉
    Thank you in advance,

    1. Jen Kleinholz

      Hello Liana! Thanks you for the question. Controlling an SSD via WLAN does not make sense, since the WLAN completely slows down the SSD. So you can save the money. You could use a NAS for your purposes. That's pretty much what you're looking for, except that you're also quite "lame" with a NAS via WLAN. I've had a Synology NAS (quasi the market leader) for years and copying a lot of data was terribly slow if you're used to an internal SSD. So the question is: do you want it fast? Then I would prefer a hard drive directly s.Mac. Or should it be wireless? Then you can - if you have a Fritzbox - get the hard drive directly into the WLAN with the Fritzbox. Or you can also use a NAS, then you can set up a RAID, which protects your data internally in such a way that the failure of a hard drive does not mean data loss. That would be quite good if it is important data that you must not lose. Maybe you can tell me what you have in mind, then I would look for a suitable product for you. And thank you for your offer with the affiliate link. That's sweet!

  15. Liana Kapitzki

    Oh dear, a NAS is definitely beyond my budget 😰
    After an Eizo moves in, I first have to bake small rolls. So it will be an external 1 terabyte hard drive that I connect directly to the Mac to save photos, so to speak of outsourcing. Is an SSD worth it?
    As a backup then a 2 TB. However, I don't have a FRITZ! Box, but the Telekom Speedport pro plus. But the connection should also be possible.
    What do you think of my plan?
    Best regards,

    1. Jen Kleinholz

      If you use the 1 TB hard drive more often, I would use an SSD. Otherwise, the HDDs are fast enough when they are attached directly to the Mac. And because of speed sports: there are here instructions from Telekom, how to make a NAS from hard drive and speed port. But I have no idea whether this will work with all Speedport models. And if you buy an HDD: mostly the 1TB models are disproportionately expensive ... the 3-5 TB models have the best price-to-TB ratio. : D

  16. Liana Kapitzki

    Thank you very much for your quick help.
    Of course I have subscribed to your newsletter and I look forward to further helpful tips from you.
    Nice that I found your site!
    Best regards,

  17. Guenther, Selzer

    an NA is a good alternative for backups, from my own experience I can only recommend one, XIGMANAS, you can find here:
    For many years I have had a NAS to back up the data and all devices (two Imac, one IBook, two IPad and two Iphone and a Windows computer) and a second NAS to back up the backup.
    Yes a little, but I only became when I realized that a USB disk is worth a shit if it's the only backup you have.
    Note: Data that is only saved in one place can be considered deleted. Keep important data in at least two independent locations, regular complete. Data backups and incremental backups in between. Then nothing should happen.
    It is very painful to lose data and it is very expensive to read a defective disk. With the system I have named, you are on the safe side even in the event of the physical destruction of one plate in a combination of 4 plates.
    If you are serious about backing up data, you shouldn't look too much at the money here, a XIGAMA NAS can start small and is easy to adapt to your needs.
    Always ask yourself what does it cost to lose or restore the data and what does a good NAS cost.
    If you have any questions, I can tell you more ...

    1. Jen Kleinholz

      Hello Günther! Thanks for your contribution. The XIGMANAS looks interesting. But what hardware do you use for it? A PC with 4 disks and FreeBSD on it? I would still be interested. LG, Jens

  18. Selzer Gunther

    My hardware:
    *** NAS No. 1: xigmanas Vers., Embeded on 8 GB USB stick, HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 Entry Server - Celeron G1610T 2.3 GHz - 12 GB RAM ECC unregistered, 2 pieces x WD-RED 2 TB, WD20EFRX, 2 pieces 2 TB SAMSUNG HD203WI 1AN10003,
    **** Nas Nr 2: xigmanas Vers., Embeded on 8 GB USB stick, HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 Entry Server - Celeron G1610T 2.3 GHz - 12 GB RAM ECC unregistered, 4 x WD-RED 2 TB, WD20EFRX


  19. Gunther Selzer

    But you can also start with an old PC, ecc-unregistered RAM is the first choice. You can also find help in the German XIGMANAS forum.
    Current hardware:
    Dell / PowerEdge T40 server approx. 430,00
    16 gb ram approx 105,00
    Wd 2TB Hd the piece approx. 69,00 but needs four pieces
    Intenso Usb Sick 8 GB approx. 5,00

    You see, it's an affordable, safe solution
    You can set up users and groups with different permissions, stream music or films.
    A NAS is also important, and secure data backup is only possible if the data is not only available in one location. You have to evaluate it correctly, I don't have to back up software that I can restore from the cloud at any time.
    But I do not entrust the many important data that represent my working capital, for example, to a simple USB disk, because if the electronics fail there, everything is gone. You may then only be able to achieve something with a lot of money.
    An insurance that covers such operational damage also costs square money.
    Oh and one more thing!
    Also a point that is not hardware dependent now.
    Who has ever tried out whether and how it works with restoring the data?


    1. Hello Günther! Thank you for your explanation. Yes, the one with the USB disk in the same building = no backup, I see it the same way. You just have to think about the operational damage that you would have if the plate were suddenly irretrievable in the bucket. Then you are more willing to take a few hundred euros in hand to cover the case. A tip from a data rescuer was also to buy several identical hard drives if possible. Since the controllers often break, you can still replace them if necessary and still get the data. And of course the hard disk must not be completely poured in ... if you can't get to it, it's all over. Greetings, Jens

  20. Hello my dear, cool article.
    You can definitely help me with my problem. I've had a Time Capsule for years, and I've now learned that it likes to have hard drive problems. This is what happened now. WiFi works, but the backup storage no longer works. I would like to continue to use the TimeCapsule as a router (due to the way it looks). Which hard drive can you recommend to me, which I - ideally - simply connect to the TC and then create the backup via wifi. Computer in my case is a MacBookPro from 2021. Thank you for your help! Greetings from Berlin, Rolf

    1. Hello Rolf! The recommendations here in the article also work on your Time Capsule - at least they should. I would 5 TB portable from WD to take. Since Time Machine makes incremental backups, it can make good use of the size of the disk to store many versions of your data. All you have to do is format the disk as Mac OS Extended. I think the Time Capsule can't do anything with APFS.

  21. Hello, Jens

    I have an old MBP Mid2009 in use. Thanks to the Catalina patch from DosDude1, things are still going great. I gave it two SSDs (500 and 1TB). Some of them have various partitions (had to do the system updates in several steps and also want to have access to iPhoto).

    Now my question – actually I just want to backup the partition with Catalina (now my “main HD”). But Time Machine doesn't give me the option not to backup the other partitions! That means I have to backup the whole 1TB SSD (including the volume “ElCapitan”). But I don't want to delete this partition.

    Are there any solutions?
    Greetings Karel

    1. Hello Karel! Can't you exclude certain hard drives or volumes under System Preferences> Time Machine> Options? With me I find a list with the volumes that he shouldn't backup.

  22. Hi Jens,
    thank you for your blog.
    So far I have been using a MB Pro with an internal 1TB SSD. For the data backup with TimeMachine up to now a 4TB disk. Since we are often in more exotic countries with no or very slow internet access for long periods of time, it is important to me to have all of the data available offline.
    Since I constantly hit the limits of the internal SSD, I tried to move the media library to an external SSD. According to the tip and instructions from the network, it worked really well. But only until the next MacOS ;-(
    Therefore, as soon as they appear, I'll buy an MB Pro with 8TB of internal storage.
    My question about this:
    Think I should use a NAS with 16TB disks for the backup?
    Haven't had any experience with NAS yet. But since this is likely to be a larger investment, I need sound advice. Tried researching on the Synology website, but even the "adviser" there is more for people who are familiar with it. I also read the PC World article. I'm looking for the right configuration/size? Can you give me a tip about this?

    PS. I just subscribed to Backblaze on your recommendation here. Thank you for that

    Greetings Michael

    1. Hi Michael! I haven't had a good experience with my Synology NAS. On the one hand, data transfer via WLAN cannot be compared with a hard drive that is directly connected to the computer. I always found it slow as a grotto. On the other hand, the supposed data security disappointed me seriously, as two of the four disks broke almost at the same time. So there was hardly anything to restore and the data was lost because a NAS is not backed up by Backblaze. If it had been a hard drive on my Mac, Backblaze would have backed it up to the cloud.

      For this reason, I would and will in the future rely on a hard disk enclosure from Orico in which I can install several hard disks. Something like this Orico 5 Bay housing with USB-C connection. The trick with these things is that the hard drives can also be combined into a volume and then macOS can address them like a huge hard drive. The thing is then simply clamped to my Thunderbolt Dock with a cable and Backblaze also backs up the data. I think this is safer, faster, and cheaper than a NAS. I hope this is helping you. But maybe there are other recommendations and opinions from other readers.

  23. Hello Jens, would you also recommend APFS for HDDs? According to various technology sites ( it is noted that APFS is better suited for SSDs and is supposed to slow down HDDs extremely. This is probably not the problem when writing the backup, but when reading or restoring. Have you already had experience with this? I'm sitting here on a MacBook Pro Late 2021 with 1TB internal hard drive and Monterey and would like to do without the expensive 4TB external SSD and prefer to use an HDD as a backup.

    1. Hello Steffen! I don't have any readings ready, but my experience has not shown me a huge difference whether I have APFS or HFS + on an HDD ... The SSD would be too expensive for me, especially for a backup. And if I really have a broken Mac and need the backup, I don't care if it takes 20 or 30 minutes to restore. And there won't be more difference. But as I said: I unfortunately don't have any measurements available.

  24. Hey Jens,
    at the age of 59 I (finally) switched from Windows to Mac. So far I've been enthusiastic without end. Now the question about security: I have your recommendation of the portable FP 5TB in my shopping basket, also the adapter cable and the Multiport Satechi.
    You wrote that Time Machíne shouldn't be trusted alone. Can I make 2 different backups on the external one? Or is it better to create a partition beforehand? And if yes, how does it work???? With Windows I know ... Thanks in advance, I will certainly ask more often, Happy New Year and thanks for the great information.

    1. Hello Oliver! Well then, welcome to the club. :D In principle, you can also make two backups on one hard drive, but then both are gone once the hard drive crosses the Jordan. This is perhaps the critical point of a backup. I have this with me on two separate disks. You can still use the 5TB for Time Machine. I would only buy an external hard drive the size of your internal hard drive (you can find the info in the top left of the About My Mac apple menu). That's mostly 1 or 2 TB and they don't cost a lot of money. Then I use the (unfortunately chargeable, but extremely good!) app, for example Carbon Copy Cloner and use it to clone the internal disk to the external disk every few weeks or before major updates. I also have an online backup at Backblaze run in the background. You can't boot a Mac with it, but it saves all data encrypted (including those from external hard drives!) In the cloud.
      And you are welcome to ask more often here. There is also that Sir Apfelot Forum, in which better discussions are then also possible.
      Happy New Year to you too and see you soon!

  25. Good evening Jens,
    thanks for the quick information.
    The Mac is "only" used for office work and privately, I only bought the 2 TB out of sheer caution, so in 10 years it will be full... :-)
    I'll take a plate and partition it, then look at carbon, it looks very good at first glance, I currently have Cloud with 5TB, that's enough for me with things.
    Thank you very much for the tips.
    And in the forum I will look more often, although I can't help but reading along brings a lot, I've already started.

  26. Hello, Jens
    Thank you for all your good tips!

    In various forums (...) it is strongly recommended to use APFS (NOT upper / lower case) when relocating the photo library. Since I have formatted various external hard drives with APFS (upper / lower case), my question: can I still transfer data from an APFS (upper / lower case) formatted external hard drive to another only APFS (without upper / lower case and unencrypted) and vice versa and read again?
    And: is there the option of encrypting individual folders at Apple (password protection)?

    Many many thanks!

    1. Hello Tina! Unfortunately, I am not that well versed in this area. I know the two formats, but I have no idea how it works when you move files back and forth. : D But if you find out, I'll be happy to hear from you, whether it works or not. : D

    2. Good evening Jens,
      Disk 5TB runs brilliantly, backup was ready after 1 hour.
      The CCC trial version is currently running, it saves on the 2nd partition.
      I save the rest in the cloud, which is 3 backups.
      Now two questions:
      I backed up my Outlook emails manually, that should be enough. Then the folders should also be there, at least it was the case with Windows, here too? I have an .olm file.
      2. Question: CCC is now backing up, is this a bootable backup or do I have to do something manually?
      Thanks in advance!

      1. Hello Oliver! Thank you, nice that everything is going well for you. Unfortunately, I don't know how it works with Outlook. But if you back up everything from the library folder, then the folder structure is usually also backed up. Regarding CCC, I can reassure you ... the backup is bootable. However, if you have a Mac with Touch ID, make sure that you allow the Mac to boot from an external drive in the startup security utility.

          1. Here at Apple you can also find the one about the startup security utility, among other things:
            Open the startup security utility
            1. Turn on your Mac and immediately hold down Command (⌘) -R after the Apple logo appears. The Mac will start from macOS recovery.
            2. If prompted to select a user whose password you know, select the user, click Next, and enter their admin password.
            3. When the macOS Utilities window appears, choose Utilities > Startup Security Utility from the menu bar.
            4. When prompted for authentication, click Enter macOS Password. Then select an administrator account and enter the corresponding password.

  27. Pierre Laboisse, President and CEO of Aledia, a leader in nanowire-based MicroLED technologies for the displays of tomorrow

    Hello, Jens
    Thank you for the detailed and easy-to-understand article.
    I still have one question: I attached a Drobo-5D with 5 HDDs to my Mac while working as a TM backup. This raid is constantly on the Mac during the day so that every hour is backed up. When it came to choosing the HDDs, I wasn't entirely sure - there are some that are better suited for round-the-clock use than others. Which one would you recommend?

    1. Yes, there are special hard drives for NAS devices and they are usually also used for servers or rather intended for servers because that is the most common use case. There are, for example WD RED series and you can also follow Hard drive NAS search. But for years I had perfectly normal hard drives in the NAS and they only broke after many years. However, all of them relatively promptly, which then led to considerable data loss despite the NAS. : D

  28. Good evening Jens
    Thank you for the useful information.
    I have a question: there are four users on our Mac. Does this mean that every user has to be backed up via Time Machine?
    What size do you recommend for external storage?
    Can you recommend LACIE Mobile Drive (USB Type-C, 4 TB, silver)?
    Many thanks in advance for your answer.
    Kind regards and good night.

    1. Hello Jacky! It's impossible to answer the question if you have no idea how much data each user is consuming. For example, if you have a large photo collection that's already using 200GB, then 4TB may be difficult because Time Machine does incremental backups. So it doesn't throw away old data right away, but keeps it until space runs out. From the feeling I would plan a little more with 4 users, but of course you can simply try it with the 4 TB and see whether it is sufficient in your constellation.

  29. Hi, well written and consistent with my experience, except for the record selection.
    I would like to make a brief reference to this.

    I've always been a fan of Western Digital too. Until then WD no longer offered any software for raid disks, some disks mounted an indefinable "CD" partition that could not be turned off and occasionally led to errors and ultimately until all my premium disks one after the other gave no more signs of life. The cloud systems from WD can neither be used professionally nor reliably. Had three different models, with catastrophic consequences ranging from data loss to complete failure. According to WD, the disk should be reset to factory settings, which means that all data is gone.

    In conversation with WD it was said "can happen, are already older". Yes, of course, but a disk that I only use for backups and that was offered under Premium has to run longer and, above all, the software for the raids has to be continued.
    I was forced to replace all WD's one by one. After examining the individual disks, many defects of the individual disks were found.

    Unfortunately, this has disqualified WD. I have had very good experiences with Toshiba disks.

    1. Hello Fox! Thank you for your comment. Of course, it's all personal feeling. And I just use the external disk without RAID or cloud bells and whistles. Everything works fine so far. Of course, if you use a MyCloud thing like that and then get told to reset the thing, you lose faith in their support. It should also be clear to them that you don't have two of those things lying around and that the data on them is probably important. But ok... In a pinch, they can tell you that you probably didn't make a backup. 😂

  30. Michael Smith

    Hi Jens,
    I'm also dealing with the Time Machine Backup I have a Mac Book Air from 2020 with the M1 chip. When it comes to the hard drives, I'm slowly getting lost. My device has a USB-C connection. I would follow your tip and no ssd. take and the WD Elements hard drive. Then why do you need an adapter to USB-c Micro – B cable. Won't everything then be unnecessarily slower than if you buy a hard drive with USB-C right away? And when it comes to formatting the hard drive, everyone says something different. Which will be the best format ? APFS or something else?
    Kind regards Michael

    1. Jen Kleinholz

      Hi Michael! If you have a recent macOS, you should format the hard drive to APFS. If someone says something else, then probably in old forum entries. About the adapter: Unless you buy one of the expensive Thunderbolt hard drives, a USB-C hard drive is basically the same as an external hard drive with a USB-A connector. They all have USB 3 under the hood, so you don't lose speed with the adapter cable. And you really don't need a Thunderbolt drive for Time Machine. The backups run in the background anyway and it doesn't matter whether a transfer takes 3 seconds or 1 second.

  31. Hi Jens,
    I got a MacBook Air M1 with 512GB. What hard drive size would you recommend? 5TB is a bit too much? Or can I share them and use them for "normal" data such as photos or the like. Or would you prefer a smaller HDD and then an SSD for the other data if necessary? Thank you for the great contribution.

    1. Hello Julia! You could also get a smaller one, but they're disproportionately more expensive per terabyte. With the 5 TB variant you have enough space and you don't save much if you only take 2 TB. Thank you for your compliments too.

  32. Hi Jens,
    Many thanks for this appearance, the well-founded analyzes and have been for 20 years. Amazing that I only now stumbled across it, since you seem to be the only knight far and wide. I was looking for the Time Machine issues on MacOS Ventura.
    Anyway, you've given me some food for thought about the backup strategy at home.
    1) Time Machine and APFS doesn't seem to be an incompatibility in MacOS 13.1 (Ventura) but a serious issue. If I format the external medium with APFS, ALL backup programs stop after a short time. Tested with TimeMachine, SmartBackup and CCC. To SuperDuper! I didn't even come, CCC does exactly what I want.
    This problem becomes critical with TimeMachine, because I can format the medium with the extended journaled FS, but TM simply overformats it with APFS, writes 16 GB to RAM and then aborts. SmartBackup does a similar effect, collecting data in memory and trying to write to the media kernel panics and reboots.
    My guess, the operating system delivers the data too fast to write it to the medium, bus overflow and end. I exclude the disk controller in the external housing, tried the slower variant with a USB-SATA dongle and achieved the same effect.
    2) Choosing the right program. SmartBackup comes at no cost, but also without support. There probably isn't a port to Ventura yet either. The program is not an alternative for me.
    CCC offers 30 days of trial, I need 2 to see if the program does what I want. Version 6 costs 39 euros. I doubt whether I want to boot from the backup medium. What should I do with an operating system that has received a cumulative update 5 times, i.e. fragments from the old instances? Makes no sense to me. The data is important to me, the less important ones go to the cloud, the important ones stay local, possibly with an encrypted copy in the cloud. I haven't tried SuperDuper, but I mentioned that.
    3) Is Time Machine still relevant? The little tool is really making a fuss in the background, I notice that now that it's no longer running. The computer has become really quiet. One reason why I use an external SSD was TimeMachine and the need to constantly scan the data to see if anything could be copied. The sound of the records almost drove me insane.
    I used the tool exactly once when switching from PowerPC to Intel Mac. I also used the archive function exactly once, and the backup was useless there.

    FunFact: If writing to the APFS disk was aborted without success, the disk was no longer usable and could not be erased or reformatted. bricked! The solution to this is that the Windows PC removes everything it doesn't know. Removing the volume was quick and easy.

    Conclusion. I have a USB-C enclosure with a 7TB SanDisk Ultra 32D SSD on the Mac Mini i1 4 GB and 3 TB SSD. The first backup with 961.000 files and 676 GB took 51 minutes. The hourly updates take about 1,5 minutes. That's how backup works. Why am I backing up at all? I imagine a catastrophe could happen and I grab the external SSD when I go out and put it in my pants pocket. But it's probably going to be different...

    Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year

    1. "I'm thinking there might be a disaster and I grab the external SSD when I go out and put it in my pants pocket." Something like this is always in my head too. :-) And such an SSD fits much better in your pocket than a NAS.

  33. Hi Jens,
    I stumbled across your article while looking for an external hard drive for my MacBook Pro. You recommended using an additional bootable backup via CCC, SmartBackup or SuperDuper! to create. Is it possible or does it make sense to partition an external 5 TB hard drive (1/4 TB) in such a way that the smaller partition can be used for this backup and the rest for Time Machine? Should only be an interim solution and later replaced by a 2-bay NAS in RAID 1 mode. I would really appreciate an answer.

    1. Hello Frank! So with the latest macOS versions it is no longer possible to create a bootable backup via CCC. At least that's how I understood it. But you always have a recovery partition and the option of booting via the Internet. Therefore, a bootable backup is no longer so important. But what is recommended is a normal backup that is independent of the Time Machine. Can also be created with CCC and of course also on a partition from the TimeMachine disk, but I would like to point out that it is not the best idea to have the two backups on one disk. If one gets a quirk, both backups are gone.

      1. Hi Jens,
        but that went well. :-) Thank you very much! As written, it should only be a temporary solution for the upcoming vacation, so that I don't stand there quite so "naked" in the worst case. Later I will devote myself extensively to the subject of NAS.

      2. Hey Jens,
        everything worked. WD Elements Portable 5TB, 4/1 partitioned, backup with CCC and the rest with Time Machine. Thanks again!

  34. Hi Jens,
    I also used an Apple Time Capsule for my Time Machine backups for years. At some point it stopped working: There was always an error message saying that the backup had failed or could not be completed.

    Since I found backing up via WiFi convenient, I looked for a new solution and some time ago bought a “Western Digital MyCloud Home” because it was advertised as supporting Time Machine backups. This also works for one or two backups. But after a short time the error message came up here too:
    “Time Machine has finished checking your backups on 'MyCloud-1D…..local'. To improve reliability, Time Machine needs to create a new backup for you. Click on 'Start new backup'…”.
    The error message then appears:
    “Time Machine was unable to complete the backup. Time Machine could not delete the backup image “/Volumes/.timemachine/myCloud-1D…_smb._tcp.local/5359….backupbundle”.”
    Neither WD nor Apple support could help here. Do you have any idea?

    I have now given up working with the WD MyCloud Home and instead use HDDs connected to my computer via USB cable. I would like to encrypt them. A few questions about this:
    1. Does it make a difference if I select an encrypted format when formatting the HDD for the first time or if I check the box for 'encrypt backup' later when I mount the HDD in Time Machine for backup?
    2. If I have formatted in encrypted form, do I also have to make sure that the TM box for encrypt is set or does this happen automatically?
    3. Which format should I use when formatting the HDD for the first time - an APFS or a Mac OS Extended Format with the addition of "encrypted"? What does the addition “upper/lower case” mean?

    4. The disk utility shows for the SSD installed in my MacBook and thus to be backed up: “1T shared by 5 volumes”; But I only see a very small APFS volume and a larger APFS volume with the addition “data”; are there 3 others that don't show up in Disk Utility?
    5. How can I tell whether the SSD in my MacBook is encrypted or not? Could I encrypt these later?

    It would be great if you could help me. Thank you, Lothar

    1. Hello Lother! I also have WD My Cloud running for our backups. So far no error messages. But to your questions:

      1. You can only encrypt either the hard drive or the backups. I had just discussed this with another reader and he had tried encrypting both. That did not work. He then didn't encrypt the hard drive and encrypted the backups.

      2. see point 1: Do not encrypt the hard drive.

      3. APFS is currently the required format for the Time Machine volume.

      4. I can't say exactly what volumes these are, but I assume it could be the recovery partition or something like that that the system creates. Everything else would have been shown to you.

      5. The SSD in your MacBook is encrypted if you have FileVault enabled. I don't know offhand whether this can be recognized in the disk utility. But if the SSD is encrypted, you should be asked for the password relatively quickly when booting. If necessary, you can also see it in the system settings under FileVault and see whether the checkbox is checked.

      I hope this helps you. Unfortunately, I'm a bit stressed at the moment because I have to finish editing the podcast. But I wanted to answer you quickly. 😊 LG, Jens

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