How to Back Up Your Mac Without an External Drive Using Time Machine

Backing up with Time Machine is one of the best ways to safeguard your most important data. However, constantly connecting an external drive to a portable MacBook every time you want to back up can be tedious.

If you don’t want to use Apple’s recommended backup process, you can instead use Time Machine to make backups on an internal partition. This method won’t protect your data if something happens to your Mac. But it does allow you to easily retrieve deleted files, which can be extremely useful.

Let’s discuss how to use Time Machine to back up your Mac to its own internal hard drive.

How to Partition a Mac’s Internal Drive for Time Machine

Before initiating your first backup, you must create a new partition on your Mac’s internal drive. When partitioning, you should allocate enough space to accommodate the entire contents of your device and then some. If you’re running low on storage, you can exclude some items from the backup to help.

Backing up to an internal partition will not protect your data if something, such as hardware failure or theft, happens to your Mac.

Here’s how to create an internal partition for Time Machine in macOS:

  1. Launch Disk Utility from the Utilities folder in your Applications.
  2. Select the volume that contains macOS, usually named Macintosh HD.
  3. Click Partition.
  4. Click the plus (+) button and choose Add partition when prompted.
  5. Complete the partition information fields, selecting APFS as the format and allocating enough space for all your Mac’s contents. Then click Apply.
  6. Click Partition when prompted and then Continue to begin the process.

Partitioning your internal drive can take a long time, so you shouldn’t panic if the process appears to be slow. Once the Operation successful statement appears, you can click Done and prepare to start your first backup.

How to Back Up to an Internal Partition

The process for initiating an internal backup is the same as when you direct Time Machine to an external drive. In both cases, all you really need to do is ensure that you select the correct disk.

Here’s how to use Time Machine to back up to your Mac’s internal hard drive:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Time Machine.
  2. Click Select Backup Disk.
  3. Select the new internal partition you created and click Use Disk.

After you add the disk, a countdown to the first backup begins. If you don’t want to wait, you can click the Time Machine icon in your Mac’s menu bar and select Back Up Now. If the icon is missing, you’ll need to tick Show Time Machine in menu bar in your Time Machine preferences.

As we already mentioned, you may need to exclude certain items from the backup if your new partition is too small. To do this, you can click Options in Time Machine preferences and use the plus (+) button to add files and folder to the exclusion list.

How to Restore Deleted Files From an Internal Time Machine Backup

If you accidentally delete a file or regret removing an important item, your internal Time Machine backup can help with retrieval. Here’s how to restore a deleted item using Time Machine:

  1. Open Finder and navigate to the file you deleted or the location where it used to be.
  2. Either click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar or open the backup drive in Finder and select Enter Time Machine. Luckily, you don’t need to connect an external drive for this since you backed up to an internal partition.
  3. Locate the item you want to retrieve and click Restore.

When you enter Time Machine, you can navigate through previous backups using the menu on the right side of the screen. Selecting a particular date shows the contents of Finder as they appeared at that exact point in time.

An Internal Time Machine Backup Is Better Than Nothing

Ideally, you should back up any important data to an external drive. If connecting a hard drive to your Mac is too inconvenient, you could always opt for a cloud-based solution. Even something as simple as dropping your most precious files into iCloud Drive will save you a lot of future pain in the case of hardware failure or theft.

But when you simply need to retrieve deleted files, an internal Time Machine backup definitely comes in handy.

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