How to do Manual Backups with Time Machine for Mac
Letting Time Machine run on a routine backup schedule is important for all Macs, but there also times where you’ll want to initiate a backup yourself, like before installing system updates or major OS X upgrades. If you find yourself needing to initiate a manual Time Machine backup, you’ll be happy to know it is very easy to initiate. Let’s get to it.
Be sure you have an active Time Machine backup drive connected to the Mac and configured, it’s quite easy to setup even if you only have a single hard drive that doubles as general file storage for media. Without a drive connected or configured then a backup is obviously not possible.
Start a Time Machine Backup in Mac OS X Manually
This will instantly start a new backup. You can do this as often or as little as needed for a Mac:
- Click on the Time Machine icon located in the OS X menubar
- Select “Back Up Now” to begin the instant backup
Time Machine will now begin a full manual backup of your Mac’s hard drive. This can take quite a while depending on how many changes have been made to the Mac and the file system, and thus should be left alone to run a full backup course.
Start Instant Backups from the Mac Desktop
Another option is to initiate an instant backup directly from the Desktop. This works if you have desktop icons visible, and all you need to do is:
- Click on the Time Machine drive icon (it must be shown on the desktop, or you can choose it from Finder view)
- Right-click the drive icon and select “Back Up Now” from the pop-up menu
This will perform the exact same function as a manual backup initiated through Time Machine system preferences or the menu bar. Use whichever is more convenient for you.
How to Disable Automatic Backups in OS X & Set Time Machine to Only Rely on Manual Backups
Time Machine runs on a schedule that performs backups for you automatically, but if you would rather that not be the case then you can disable automatic backups.
This is not recommended for the vast majority of users, and should only be used if you have a strong reason to turn off automatic backups. With this feature set, backups will rely entirely on user input to initiate manual backups using the methods described above.
- Open System Preferences from the Apple menu and choose “Time Machine”
- Switch Time Machine backups to ‘Off’ to disable automatic backups
Again, this disables all automation of backup processes and is generally not recommended unless you have a strong backup process outside of Time Machine.
With the scheduled backup feature of Time Machine disabled, you can also choose whether to display the menu bar icon through this System Preference by checking the box to display it or not.
Because it’s so easy to forget to perform manual backups, we would highly recommend just leaving the automatic backup feature enabled for the vast majority of users. Having regular backups is one of the most important parts of a maintenance routine and should never be overlooked for any computer, Mac or otherwise.