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How to optimise Mac Time Machine backups [Tech Support]

Encrypt and schedule multi-disk OS X backups with these advanced Time Machine tips


Despite constant encouragement these days to push our valuable data into ‘the cloud’, there is still a genuine need for offline backups. Apple continues to support this with OS X’s brilliant Time Machine facility, making file backup and retrieval as intuitive as it gets. Within Mavericks, Mac users can still enjoy encryption and backup disk rotation options, but also improved notification support.

Time Machine gives you a host of preferences and methods of benefit to those who want to streamline performance and optimise storage. In this guide we will highlight issues such as selective backups and scheduling. To make the most of it, you will require a basic awareness of Time Machine and, of course, access to an external storage drive.

This tutorial is part of our Tech Support section; every week we hold Tech Support Tuesday on @iCreateMagazine‘s Twitter feed, but if you have any Mac problems that you need solved, post in the comments below and we’ll get back to you ASAP with some solutions.


step11 Time Machine Preferences

The Preferences panel provides access to key options for turning Time Machine on, as well as selecting backup disks, adding encryption and making file exemptions. Click Select Disk.

step22 Select disks

Here we see the currently selected Backup Disk, in this case My Book, with additional Available Disks listed below. Highlight the drive you wish Time Machine to use and click Use Disk.

step33 Encrypt backups

As you select a disk you can also tick the Encrypt backups box. You will be prompted to enter a password that will be required to restore files. Enter the desired text and click Encrypt Disk.

step44 Additional disks

With other drives available, you may rotate backups to multiple drives. Highlight the desired drive from the list and click Use Disk. You may also choose to set up a Time Capsule device.

step55 Rotating backups

Time Machine will then ask you whether you wish to replace the current drive or add to it. By clicking the Use Both button, your backups will be rotated automatically.

step66 Scheduling backups

Backups run every hour and there are no built-in options to change this. You can, however, run them manually by turning Time Machine on and picking Back Up Now from the menu bar.

step77 App options

Time Machine functions best on the hourly schedule, but there are apps available such as Time Machine Backup Scheduler that automate the previous step with Time Machine off.

step88 Excluding items

From the app’s Preferences, click Options. Here you will get a prompt listing currently selected items to exclude from backups. You may add and remove by clicking the ‘+’ and ‘-’ buttons.

step99 Making exceptions

Time Machine does omit certain work files, caches and logs by default, so be sure to only exclude those you are convinced are superfluous for reducing backup sizes.

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