How to Back Up Your Mac Before Installing Big Sur

How to Back Up Your Mac Before Installing Big Sur

Apple has now brought macOS 11 Big Sur out of beta and made it available to the general public. But before you rush to download it, you should seriously consider backing up your Mac first.

While the point of developer and public betas is to work out issues, bugs often filter through to general releases. We certainly see this with Windows 10 updates.

We generally recommend waiting a few days to see if there are any major bug issues that arise with Big Sur. But we also know that some of you want it now now now.

In that case, please at least back your Mac up beforehand so you have no reason to curse Tim Cook later.

How to back up your Mac with Time Machine

The easiest way to back up your Mac is with Time Machine, which is already built into your computer. By default it will back up all of your files.

It allows you to back up to an external storage device. These include:

  • USB, Thunderbolt or FireWire drive
  • External drive connected to an AirPort Extreme Base Station
  • AirPort time capsule
  • NAS device that supports Time machine over SMB

If this is your first time plugging in external device you should get a pop up asking if you want to use it for Time Machine back ups. Follow up the steps to set it up.

Automatic Time Machine back up

You can also go into your system preferences and then Time Machine to select a back up disc. Select the drive you want from the drop down menu, hit the ‘use disc’ button and check ‘Back Up Automatically’ if that is your jam.

Once this is set up, Time Machine machine will scan your Mac every hour to make back ups. It will keep hourly back ups for 24 hours, daily back ups for the past month and weekly back ups for all previous months.

When you disk is full it will delete the oldest back ups to make room for the new ones.

Manual Time Machine back up

If you’d rather back up manually check ‘Show time machine in menu bar’ instead of ‘back up automatically’ in your Time Machine preferences. This will add the back up icon to your menu bar, ready for you to click whenever you please.

If you’re a manual person, do this before installing Big Sur.

What if I don’t want to save everything?

If you don’t want absolutely everything on your Mac backed up, you can choose selective back ups instead.

Go into the Time Machine system preferences and click the ‘options’ button. Click the ‘+’ button and select the folders or files you want excluded from future back ups.

Once they’re selected click the ‘exclude’ button and then ‘save’.

How to restore Time Machine back up

So let’s say the worst happens and a macOS update is causing problems. You can absolutely restore an earlier back up, including the older macOS version you were using at the time.

Here’s how you do it.

  • Boot up your Mac and immediately hold down Command + R.
  • When the utility window pops up, select ‘Restore from Time Machine Back up
  • Click ‘continue’
  • Choose the back up from before you started experiencing issues
  • Click ‘continue’
  • This should now restore the your back up, just give it a little time

Just remember, anything that was saved on your Mac after the backup point will be lost.

Big Sur compatible Macs

Not sure if your Apple device is compatible? Here’s a list of all the Macs that can run mac OS 11:

  • MacBook  — 2015 and later
  • MacBook Air — 2013 and later
  • MacBook Pro — 2013 and later
  • Mac mini — 2014 and later
  • iMac — 2014 and later
  • iMac Pro — all models
  • Mac Pro — 2013 and later

Disclosure: the author owns 12 shares in Apple.