Use Disk Utility to Back Up Your Mac

When you decide to back up your Mac, it’s important to choose the right way to do it. While using Time Machine is a great option, sometimes it’s helpful to weigh all of your options.

For example, if you’re looking to replace your MacBook’s hard drive, consider creating a disk image of your hard drive and storing it on an external drive. You can do that using Disk Utility.

Creating a backup of your Mac will allow you to create an exact copy of your current hard drive and restore all the information when you install the new drive. Having a backup copy of your startup disk also eliminates the risk of losing your data while performing system updates.

Prepare to back up your Mac

Before you start backing up your Mac, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

  • Disk Utility is free and included with macOS. You can find it in Applications > Utilities.
Utilities window with Disk Utility ticked
  • Before you start backing up your Mac, make sure you have an internal or external hard drive ready. It needs to be large enough to store the data you have on the current boot disk, and it doesn’t have anything you want to keep on it. The backup process will erase the receiving drive.
  • The destination drive also needs to be formatted properly. Especially if you’re using an external hard drive or external SSD to back up your data, as most of them aren’t preformatted for Macs.
  • Check the destination drive for errors before you start the process.
  • In the end, the whole process will take anywhere from half an hour to several hours, depending on the data you are backing up. So make sure your computer is plugged in and you won’t need to use it for the next few hours.

Verify the destination drive with Disk Utility

Run the First Aid prompt

If your destination drive has any errors, that could cause problems with your backup and you won’t have a reliable copy of your boot drive.

We recommend using Disk Utility to verify the destination drive before starting the backup process. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Open Disk Utility.
  2. From the list of devices, select the destination drive.
  3. Click First aid at the top of the application. Then choose Run.

This will initiate the verification process in no more than a few minutes.

Completed first aid alert

If Disk Utility shows a verification error, you will need to repair the disk before continuing. To do that, click First aid in Disk Utility again to repair the disk. If you get a final confirmation message, you’re ready to go.

Conversely, if the error still listed after you repair the disk, you will need to repeat the whole process until the disk is completely repaired and you get the Disk Utility confirmation message.

Start the Mac backup process

Now that your target drive is ready, you can start the cloning process and make a copy of your startup disk. To do that, follow these steps:

  • In Disk Utility, select your startup disk.
File -> New Image in Disk Utility ” class=”wp-image-8431″  /></figure>
<li>From the Disk Utility menu, select <strong>File</strong> > <strong>New image</strong> > Pictures from “your drive name”. </li>
<h4><span class=What to do if the Create Image Options is grayed out

Sometimes the option to create an image from the current disk will be grayed out. That happens because some versions of macOS have a rather complicated file system arrangement. Disk Utility will sometimes only show you volumes but not all available devices.

Show all devices in Disk Utility menu

To fix that, open View menu in Disk Utility and select Show all devices. Then you will see a different file structure. To create an image of your internal disk, you will need to select it under “Internal” and then repeat the process FIND > New Image > Image from “your disk name”.

  • Before starting the backup, you can change its name. If you’re only using that disk for backup purposes, we recommend choosing something like Mac Backup to help you remember it in the future.
Mac backups are saved without encryption
  • Select your destination drive.
  • For general use, select the default options: “compression” in Format and “are not” below Encode.
  • Click Save. This will start the backup.

Disk Utility will require some time to create a backup of your Mac depending on how much data you have on your startup disk. Once done, Disk Utility will notify you. You will then have a complete copy of the hard drive that you can use to recover your data later.

Use Startup Manager to test your copy

An extra precaution you can take is to test your backup to see if it will act as your startup disk. Once the backup on your Mac is complete, you’ll need to restart your computer and see if it can boot from the backup. You can do that using your Mac’s Startup Manager.

  1. Turn off all applications.
  2. Click the Apple menu and select Restart.
  3. When your screen goes black, press and hold Right to buy until your screen turns gray and you see the icons of the bootable hard drive.
  4. Select the backup you just created.

Your Mac will now boot from the backup you just created. To get back to the startup disk, you need to restart your computer again.

If you don’t want to lose your data, backing up your Mac should become a habit for you. If you can’t remember the last time you made a copy of your files, it’s safe to say it’s time to do it again.

There are different ways to back up your iOS and macOS devices. You can choose the method that best suits your needs, or even better – use different methods for different types of data. In addition to Disk Utility, try using iCloud to back up your photos and Time Machine to make copies of larger files.

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