How to encrypt backups on your Mac

Encrypting backups is always a controversial subject among users. Some people think that it’s the only way to protect their data so that no one can get to it, while the others defeat the purpose of backup when it allows error or defect to render their data unrecoverable.

If you just want to save data rather than secure your financial data, you can skip encryption. However, if you worry about someone else accessing your data, by all means, you should encrypt away. In this post, we’ll show you how to do so on your Mac.

How to encrypt a Time Machine backup

Time Machine is Apple’s inbuilt tool in MacOS devices to back up the system. You just enable it and it’ll then make a backup of your Mac and then keep it up to date over days, and weeks. Although it’s not encrypted by default, you can enable encryption when setting up your Mac.

In case you are attaching a new drive, Time Machine will detect it and ask you to use it. In this case, here is what to do:

  • First, check the Encrypt backups box at the bottom left of your Mac screen.
  • Click on Use as Backup Disk

If it isn’t detected or you just want to use a connected drive, follow these steps below:

  1. Click on Apple icon from the Menu bar.
  2. Choose System Preferences.
  3. Click Time Machine at the bottom.
  4. Select “Select Disk….” option
  5. Choose the Disk you wish to use for your backup.
  6. Check Backup Automatically box so that you don’t need to do it manually.
  7. Tick on the Encrypt backups box at the bottom.
  8. Enter a password to start encrypting the disk.

If you have a non-encrypted Time Machine backup, you will have to delete the disk first and then add it again as an encrypted volume. Remember to copy off the old files you need beforehand since the process will delete them when the drive is reset for the encryption. You can also get a new drive, but your old drive will be unencrypted and vulnerable.

Also see: How to Find Battery Cycle Count in MacBook Air or MacBook Pro

Steps to encrypt a clone backup

If you are using a clone backup like Carbon Copy instead of Time Machine backup, you can then encrypt the drive that you’re cloning to. While it’s a process with two steps to set up, once you’ve got it running, it’s as easy to maintain as other cloning systems. To do so:

  1. Boot up your clone backup drive.
  2. Re-install macOS Sierra (or whatever version) on your Mac to create a recovery volume.
  3. Go to System Preferences and enable FileVault

If you don’t have a recovery volume, you cannot boot reliably from the clone and enable FileVault. After it’s done, you can boot to your primary drive again when FileVault starts without waiting for it. Once the clone backup is already encrypted, you can then resume your iterative backup process.

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