How to check that your Time Machine backup is running

Updated June 8th, 2019.

If you’re using Time Machine as your backup chances are you did a “set it and forget it” and haven’t looked at it since. It would be good to look at it. All you have to do is click on the Time Machine menu and see when the last backup was. It ought to be within the last hour, because Time Machine backs up every hour. The Time Machine menu is in the menu bar, near the clock at top right of your Mac’s screen. It’s an analog clock with an arrow running around it, counter-clockwise.

Time Machine menu
The Time Machine menu.

Haven’t set up your Time Machine backup yet? Here’s how.

Wondering whether your Time Machine backup is actually working? Click here.

If you don’t see a Time Machine menu in the menu bar, go to System Preferences, then Time Machine, and you will see everything you need to see right there. If you check the box to “Show Time Machine in menu bar” you’ll be all set for next time.

Time Machine preference pane in System Preferences.
Time Machine preference pane in System Preferences

If your Time Machine menu doesn’t show that the latest backup was really recent, maybe you have a bad backup disk (or maybe it’s unplugged). Maybe you never set it up. If you need a new disk, Amazon has a bunch of them that run off of USB power and they are pretty inexpensive. Here’s a link:

USB powered hard drives at Amazon

You will be very, very happy that you have a recent backup if your Mac’s hard drive goes bad (Wayne, Paige, Randy, me). You can restore your stuff to a new drive, or a new Mac, very gracefully if you have a fresh backup. So be sure you have one.

Here are my step-by-step instructions on how to set up a Time Machine backup, in case you need it.

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