How to Encrypt Your Time Machine Backups

How to Encrypt Your Time Machine Backups

As a Mac user, you probably use Time Machine to back up your data. You may want to know “Are Time Machine backups encrypted”? The default on Mac is to store backups in an unencrypted state. However, you can set encryption options for your backups. Encryption is a way to protect your sensitive, confidential data. Maintaining the privacy and security of your MacOS backups ensures they don’t fall into the hands of unauthorized users.

Making regular backups

Regular backups are essential if you have valuable digital assets. On your Mac, you will choose System Settings to access the Time Machine. From there you can select. Add Backup Disk. You may already have one or more disks set up. If so, you will select one from the list. After you set up and choose a disk, Time Machine will immediately begin to use it to make backups. It automatically makes hourly, daily, and weekly backups. The oldest ones are deleted once a disk is full. 

When using Time Machine for backups it is important to know how to back up MacBook not only to an external drive but to iCloud or other storage. With automatic MacOS backup no file will be lost due to electricity shutdowns, accidental file overwrites, hard drive malfunctions, or other reasons. Apart from using Time Machine to automate backups, there are also third-party apps you can use to sync, back up, and protect your files from malware. You can set up a schedule that works for you and recover your files to any Mac if you no longer have the originals. 

Connecting a storage device to your Mac

You can connect an external storage device, such as a USB drive to your Mac. This storage device should have more storage capacity than your Mac. You will choose System Settings and select Time Machine on the right-hand side. Now you can select Add Backup Disk. You will select your connected storage device, choose Set Up Disk, and follow the instructions. 

Time Machine encryption for a new backup disk

To set up encryption for a new backup disk you will:

  • Go to System Settings 
  • Select Time Machine 
  • Select Backup Disk from the drop-down menu. 
  • Check the Encrypt Backups box at the bottom of the drop-down menu. 
  • Click on Use Disk
  • Enter a password and a password recovery hint. 
  • Select Encrypt Disk. 

Your Mac will start encrypting the disk you selected which can take some time depending on its size. 

Time Machine encryption for a new backup disk

Set encryption for a backup drive you are already using

Perhaps you have already been creating backups using Time Machine without using encryption. If you want to set encryption for a drive you are already using, you will need to remove it from the list of disks available for backups. You will go to Time Machine preferences, click Select Disk, and Remove Disk.

Now you need to go through the setup process again using the instructions in the previous section. In other words, you will select a disk, check the Encrypt Backups box, and choose Use Disk. You will enter a password and then click on Encrypt Disk. 

Tips for when you encrypt backup drive

  • Only use your Time Machine backup disk for storing Time Machine Backups. Time Machine won’t back up other files and they reduce the space available for Time Machine backups. 
  • It can be a problem if you forget or lose your Time Machine password. It is always best to store it in a Password Manager to prevent this.  
  • You can use multiple disks but you will have to go through the same process on how to encrypt Time Machine disks for each one. 
  • You can choose Back Up Now from the Time Machine menu. Check progress, stop, or skip a backup from the same menu. You can see at the top of the menu how much of the current backup is completed. 
  • The encryption process can take quite some time but if it seems endless there could be an issue. You can try force quitting System Preferences and restarting the encryption process. 
  • macOs may have issues preventing you from encrypting a backup disk. You can restart your Mac to refresh the system and then try encrypting the disk again.
  • It is easy to check whether your disks are encrypted. Go to Time Machine preferences, Select Disk, and check whether it has an encryption label under the Backup Disks section.


When you have Time Machine backups, you can use them to restore your files to any Mac. If you encrypt them, you ensure that your private, sensitive information stays safe and secure and doesn’t get into the hands of unscrupulous individuals.

Read More: How to Identify and Remove the Virus


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