How to Back Up Data and Migrate to a New Mac Device

By  //  March 25, 2020

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Only those who buy at least a second computer from Apple can fully feel and understand the simplicity of migrating from one Mac device to another.

Only those who buy at least a second computer from Apple can fully feel and understand the simplicity of migrating from one Mac device to another.

All you need is an external hard drive or network storage with more free space than is available on your current Mac system drive.

macOS has a built-in Time Machine utility, which offers several usage models at once: regular automatic backups, periodic backups on demand, and a data recovery mechanism based on the above two processes, both a full copy of the system and individual files and programs.

What is needed to make backups?

Backups can be done using a regular external hard drive connected via USB port, or a network storage device that supports Time Machine.

An external HDD is the most inexpensive and time-saving implementation of Time Machine, but it is suitable only for periodic manual backups or for very organized people who will regularly insert the device into a USB port and do not forget to check before disconnecting if a backup copy is created automatically.

I am not a very organized person, so I bought a simple NAS WD My Cloud, which (right out of the box) can act as back-up storage for Apple computers.

I do not need to worry about connecting any external devices as my computer automatically sees the storage on the local network when I am at home and starts the backup process in the background.

If you already have a NAS, but it does not work with Mac backups by default, you can probably add this feature. To do this, I recommend asking the search engines, indicating the model of your NAS and the search phrase: “Time Machine.”

Besides, Apple used to sell its own device called Time Capsule, which worked as a router and network storage. Recently, they stopped producing and selling their entire line of routers. You can still find such gadgets on eBay if buying used equipment is not bad for you.

Let’s summarize: for the built-in backup mechanism in macOS, you need either an external HDD, or network storage with Time Machine support, or the Apple Time Capsule router storage.

Backup and recovery

The Time Machine application is as simple as possible and does not have a lot of settings. At the first start, it will offer you to select the drive where the backup will be saved, and then immediately begin creating the first backup.

This process may take several hours. After creating the first backup, the process will become incremental, that is, the algorithm will evaluate how much information has changed on the computer, after which it will save only the changed parts.

You can use the saved backup in order to restore the full image of the system. It is useful when migrating to a new computer or recovering data after replacing a disk or other repair cases like malware removal that may require cleaning the contents of the Mac.

Important note: the backup itself does not store operating system files. So, it will be necessary for the recovery utility to install it, and then a backup copy with files, software, and settings will be added. It is advisable to restore a full backup to the version of the OS on which it was made.

Partial recovery

In addition to full recovery, you can restore any file selectively. To do this, open the folder in which the desired file was located, click on the Time Machine icon in the status bar and select “Enter Time Machine.”

You will see a beautiful animation, your folder will be in the center of the screen, and on the right side, there will be a timeline where you need to choose the moment that you need.

That is, when you create backups, you have a history of changing the contents of all folders, which you can access at any time. In an ideal world, when a backup disk is always available, backups are created every hour.

The depth of storage depends on the size of the disk onto which these copies are saved. When space comes to an end, the algorithm will delete older backups in order to free up space for new ones.


The main advantage of Time Machine is that after the backup is restored, you get a completely identical computer with all its contents: settings, files, programs. It doesn’t matter what type of Mac you had before or what model you have now, the main thing is that the OS version on two devices should be the same or as close to each other as possible.

I recently purchased a new generation MacBook Air to replace the old 2016 model. Having previously made a backup, during the activation of the new one, I selected the restore item from Time Machine.

The new computer noticed that it was not the most up-to-date version of the OS, and offered to update it first, after which it restored all the data.

After the first power-up, I had to enter passwords several times to provide system access; however, all this took about an hour without taking into account the creation of a backup on the old computer.

There was no fuss with drivers, installing programs or anything else that is associated with migrating from one Windows computer to another, and it is very convenient.