When you use Time Machine to create a backup of your data, you ideally need an external hard drive where you can store all your data. 

But what if something happens to your external device? Ideally, you should also consider having more than one backup solution, but if you don’t want to pay for cloud storage, multiple hard drives will do the trick. 

First, let’s answer some basic questions:

How does Time Machine work?

Time Machine is more than just a way for you to store data. It takes a snapshot of your information, allowing you to revert to a previous version if something goes wrong. It takes a backup on a regular basis – every hour, every week, and every month. 

What kind of storage devices does Mac’s Time Machine support?

Hard Drive

A hard drive that has memory equal to your storage space on your Mac is required. You may need to format it for Mac, but that is easy to do if you follow the instructions on-screen. 

Can you use Time Machine with other Macs?

Yes, you can use the same Time Machine with different Macs. The external hard drive can be compartmentalized to hold data from different devices. 

Can you use your Mac with many hard drives?

Yes, it is possible to do this using the concept of disk rotation. Disk rotation essentially means you backup your data to multiple drives instead of one. Hard drives fail all the time, so if you have to erase your Mac due to malware or if it is stolen and your hard drive gets corrupted, you will have no way to retrieve your data. 

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You can use a different hard drive and sync it with Time Machine. Your primary hard drive will have a copy of your data, and so will your secondary device. 

Steps to add a new hard drive

Step 1: Plug in your hard drive

Step 2: Go to Time Machine and then ‘Preferences’

Step 3: Hit ‘Select Disk’

Step 4: Choose the drive you want to use for disk rotation and hit ‘Use Disk’

Step 5: To use both drives to back up your data, hit ‘Use Both’

That’s it. You’re done. 

You can repeat this process for a third or even a fourth drive. 

How to access Time Machine backups

To see your backup, go to Time Machine and click on ‘Browse Other Backup Disks’ to view your saved data. 


Tips to back up your data on Time Machine

The first time you back up your data, it will take a very long time to do given the size of your data. If you want to speed up the process, it is recommended you perform a hard drive cleanup and get rid of all the files you don’t use, need, or don’t have to back up. 

This will significantly speed up the process of your data backup. 

You can also remove items that you don’t want to be saved in Preferences. If you want to make sure your data is not corrupt, use the ‘Verify Backups’ option. 

Using other methods to backup your data

Hard drives are great if you work offline on your system, but if the bulk of your work happens online, you may also need to invest in cloud storage. iCloud is a great option since it syncs seamlessly across all Apple devices, but it can be expensive paying for a subscription since the free plan only offers 5 gigabytes which isn’t a lot. 

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Google Drive is a slightly better option since you have 15 gigabytes of free storage space, and that works well for average usage, and you can always schedule cleanups to make sure you don’t exceed the limit. You can always create a new Gmail account and backup your data that way. 

Other cloud storage options are Microsoft’s One Note and Dropbox, which are reasonably priced. 

If you want cloud storage, but you don’t want to create multiple free accounts or delete data when you exceed the limit, you can look at data backup software to do this for you. Most of these have an app that you install, and it backs up your data for you regularly. 

Cloud storage has an advantage over external drives in that you can access it from anywhere, and you don’t have a fear of losing it. The problem with external drives is that you can always misplace or lose them. 

On the other hand, external drives are more secure because they cannot be hacked, but data breaches can expose your information online if you use a cloud storage service. 

All in all

It is fairly simple to connect many external drives to your Time Machine and take backups of your device. Having an external drive has privacy and security benefits that cloud storage may lack, and you don’t have recurring costs since hard drives are a one-time purchase. 

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