How to Back Up Your Mac to a NAS - The Mac Security Blog (2023)

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Posted onAugust 11th, 2020 byKirk McElhearnHow to Back Up Your Mac to a NAS - The Mac Security Blog (1)

How to Back Up Your Mac to a NAS - The Mac Security Blog (2)

We all know how important it is to back up your Mac. It’s easy to connect an external hard drive to your Mac to back it up, but if you use a laptop, you might forget to do this regularly. You can use an online backup service if you have the bandwidth, but a practical way to back up your Mac locally is to use a NAS: a network-attached storage device. Here’s why it can be convenient and practical to use a NAS for backups, and as a personal cloud.

What’s a NAS?

A network-attached storage device is a computer with one or more drives designed to store files. It can be as small as a single hard drive in an enclosure, or it can be a rack-mounted device with a couple dozen drives or more. What sets a NAS apart from a small computer such as a Mac mini is the fact that it doesn’t need a display; in fact, NAS devices don’t have video cards, so you can’t connect a display to it.

(Video) Synology Integration with macOS and iOS | Synology Webinar

To set up and manage a NAS, you connect to it over a network. Your NAS could connect to your Mac via an Ethernet cable, and could be in the same room as your computer; or it could be in any location as long as it can access your network. Some NAS devices have wifi, and some allow the use of wifi if you connect a dongle to a USB port on the device. You could put a NAS in an out-of-the-way location such as a closet, for example, as long as it can connect to your local network.

It’s useful to think of a NAS as a hard drive with an operating system, which allows you to create user accounts copy and manage files, and more. It uses little power, and is always on, so you can access it at any time.

Many NAS devices are used to stream video, with software such as Plex, and have processors that can convert video on the fly. Others can be used as media repositories, with the ability to stream music and photos; for example, you could store your iTunes or Music app library on a NAS. And some are just used for file sharing and storage.

Setting up a NAS for backups

While you can use a NAS for many tasks, I’m just going to talk here about backups. If you buy a NAS that holds two or more drives (for the most part, NAS devices use hard drives, but you can use SSDs as well, though they are much more expensive), you can set it up in a RAID configuration. This allows extra data protection, and for backups, it’s a good idea to consider using a NAS with RAID. See this article to understand the different types of RAID.

(Video) How do I backup my entire Mac to an External Hard Drive using Time Machine

NAS devices today are relatively user friendly. They either offer their own apps for configuration or you set them up in a web browser. I have a Synology NAS, and here’s what I see in my browser:

How to Back Up Your Mac to a NAS - The Mac Security Blog (3)

When you set up your NAS, you create a user account, just like on your Mac. To set it up for backups, you should encrypt that folder, to make sure your backups are protected. This process is different on different devices, but there’s a gotcha on Synology’s operating system: filenames have a maximum of 143 characters in encrypted folders, compared to 255 characters in normal folders.

Your Mac can use two networking protocols: SMB and AFP. AFP, or Apple Filing Protocol, has been deprecated, meaning that it still works, but that Apple doesn’t recommend using it. I’d recommend turning off AFP on your NAS, if it supports this protocol, and using only SMB; it’s more reliable.

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Mounting your NAS

To access your NAS, you mount its volume in the Finder. Choose Go > Connect to Server, then click Browse to find your NAS. Or click Network in the Finder sidebar. Double-click the NAS, then enter your user name and password. You’ll see any folders that you have set up, and that are accessible to your user account, along with folders the NAS’s software created. Double-click a folder to mount it and access its files.

Preparing your backup

When you have mounted a folder on your NAS, the Finder treats it like any other folder. So you can select that folder as a target for backups. For example, if you use Intego Personal Backup, which is part of Intego Mac Premium Bundle X9, select the folder you’ve set up on the NAS for backups, and Personal Backup will automatically back up your files at the frequency you choose to the NAS. If the folder on the NAS isn’t mounted, Personal Backup will mount it and run the backup.

How to Back Up Your Mac to a NAS - The Mac Security Blog (4)

As with all backups, your first backup will take some time, depending on what you’re backing up, and subsequent backups will only write files that are new or have been changed, so if you are backing up a lot of files, it’s best to run this first backup overnight.

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Using a NAS with Time Machine

Apple’s Time Machine, built into macOS, is another useful backup tool, and many NAS devices can use Time Machine. The advantage of using Time Machine is that it can automatically back up your Mac every hour, but if the backup target is not available, your Mac stores snapshots of all your files each hour (if you have enough free space on your computer). When you then have network access, Time Machine backs up all those versions to its target.

The disadvantage of using Time Machine on a network device – whether it’s a NAS or a hard drive connected to another computer on your network – is that the software creates a disk image, rather than copying the individual files directly. This disk image is practical, because it creates a self-contained volume for the backups, but it is not uncommon to find that networked Time Machine disk images become corrupted, and need to be replaced. The main advantage of Time Machine backups is that you can keep them for a long time, if you have a large enough drive – I have Time Machine backups of my main Mac going back to 2017 – but you lose old backups if your disk image becomes corrupted.

Access files remotely

You can also use your NAS to access your files remotely. If you back up your Mac to a NAS, you can then connect to the NAS from anywhere and copy files. Different companies use different methods for this – either via apps or web browsers – and you can use your NAS the same way you would use a cloud storage service, such as iCloud Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive. You’ll be able to store more files on the NAS, if you choose large drives, and they won’t be stored on someone else’s computer.

However, your NAS has to always be on, and your home or office, where the NAS is located, has to have internet access; if you lose power, or if your internet access goes down, you will no longer be able to access files on the device.

(Video) Synology NAS tip - How to auto-mount your network shares at login from an Apple Mac computer

A NAS is a great adjunct to a home or small office computer system. It’s a great way to ensure that your Macs are backed up, it can serve media files to your home devices, and you can use it as cloud storage when you’re away. You might find that a NAS is the computer that you didn’t realize you need.

How can I learn more?

Each week on the Intego Mac Podcast, Intego’s Mac security experts discuss the latest Apple news, security and privacy stories, and offer practical advice on getting the most out of your Apple devices. Be sure to follow the podcast to make sure you don’t miss any episodes.

You can also subscribe to our e-mail newsletter and keep an eye here on Mac Security Blog for the latest Apple security and privacy news. And don’t forget to follow Intego on your favorite social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

How to Back Up Your Mac to a NAS - The Mac Security Blog (6)

About Kirk McElhearn

Kirk McElhearn writes about Apple products and more on his blog Kirkville.He is co-host of the Intego Mac Podcast, as well as several other podcasts, and is a regular contributor to The Mac Security Blog, TidBITS, and several other websites and publications.Kirk has written more than two dozen books, including Take Control books about Apple's media apps, Scrivener, and LaunchBar.Follow him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. View all posts by Kirk McElhearn →


How do I backup my Mac to a NAS? ›

Perform Time Machine Backup to your Synology NAS
  1. On your Mac, open System Preferences from the Dock, and click Time Machine.
  2. Click Select Backup Disk.
  3. Choose the shared folder that you created (i.e., Time Machine Folder on "Server name of your Synology NAS. ...
  4. The system will prompt you to provide your account credentials.
1 Nov 2022

How do I backup my entire Mac to an external hard drive without Time Machine? ›

How do I backup my Mac without a Time Machine?
  1. Launch Disk Drill on your Mac.
  2. Select “Byte-to-byte Backup” from the left panel.
  3. Choose the drive or partition you want to back up.
  4. Click the “Create backup” button and select a target location where the data will be stored.
  5. Allow the process to complete.
25 Mar 2022

What is the best way to backup my Mac? ›

Option 1: Use Time Machine

Apple includes its own backup software, Time Machine as part of the macOS. It's an exceptionally easy to use solution. All you need to do is plug in an external storage device, hard drive or SSD, and start backing up with Time Machine.

Is a NAS good for backups? ›

NAS cannot be your only backup solution━NAS devices are intended as storage devices, but some businesses mistakenly use them as backup solutions. NAS devices should never be the only backup a business relies on. This is because they are vulnerable to threats including flood, fire, device failure, and physical damage.

Can I connect NAS directly to Mac? ›

NAS means network attached storage and is being connected to a network. Once added as a network drive, the new drive will appear in your drive list on your PC or Mac. If you want to connect your NAS directly, you can do it. Set up manual IP on your PC and NAS with a one in the same IP range.

How do I transfer everything from my Mac to an external hard drive? ›

Click the Finder icon in the Dock to open a Finder window, then do one of the following to move your files. Move files to the storage device: Select one or more files on the desktop or in a folder, then drag them to the storage device, listed below Locations in the Finder sidebar.

How do I backup everything on my Mac? ›

Open System Settings, click General > Time Machine, then click Add Backup Disk. Select the drive you want to use for backup, and you're all set. Back up with iCloud. Files in iCloud Drive and photos in iCloud Photos are automatically stored in iCloud and don't need to be part of your Time Machine backup.

Will Time Machine backup everything on my Mac? ›

With Time Machine, you can back up files on your Mac that weren't part of the macOS installation, such as apps, music, photos, and documents. When Time Machine is turned on, it automatically backs up your Mac and performs hourly, daily, and weekly backups of your files.

Is it better to back up to Mac or iCloud? ›

Two Backups Are Better Than One

So which is better: backing up to iCloud or to your Mac? Actually, it's best to use both. Having a local backup is much more efficient; if you have to restore your device, you'll save a lot of time restoring it from your local backup.

How many GB do I need to backup my Mac? ›

Use Time Machine to back up your Mac

Once the backup drive is full, it will make room by deleting the oldest backups. As far as how big of a drive to get, the rule of thumb is 1.5 to 2 times the size of your Mac's hard drive. For example, if your Mac has 512GB of storage, you'll want a 1TB drive.

Is Time Machine the best backup for Mac? ›

It's Not as Safe as Cloud Storage

By default, Time Machine doesn't encrypt your backups, and anyone with access to the drive can view your backed up files and folders. You could also easily lose all your data if the drive gets damaged or stolen.

What are the disadvantages of NAS? ›

Disadvantages of NAS:
  • Performance depends on the protocol.
  • Slow down for video application or multiple large files.
  • It is file oriented.
  • Increased LAN traffic.
  • The file transfer speed is not as fast as DAS.
  • Limited scalability.
  • Additional Input-output processing.
  • System available features depend upon the NAS chip and firmware.

What is better than NAS? ›

SANs are the higher performers for environments that need high-speed traffic such as high transaction databases and ecommerce websites. NAS generally has lower throughput and higher latency because of its slower file system layer, but high-speed networks can make up for performance losses within NAS.

Should I keep my NAS on all the time? ›

Your files are stored on the NAS server and can be synchronized, or automatically kept up-to-date, on all of your devices. This service needs to always be online so the NAS should always be on. If you are using your NAS for web hosting like I am, you need to keep it online 24/7.

Is it OK to use NAS drive in desktop? ›

The answer is YES. You can use it as a regular desktop drive, as long as the interface is in accordance. But there is a problem you should pay attention to: NAS HDDs have TLER technology.

How do I connect my computer to a NAS? ›

  1. Directly connect your NAS and computer using an Ethernet cable.
  2. Configure a Static IP address on your computer. ...
  3. Download and install Qfinder Pro.
  4. Run Qfinder Pro and open your NAS in File Explorer/Finder.
  5. Check your file transfer speed by copying a file to/from your computer and NAS.
30 Mar 2022

Does Apple Photos work on a NAS? ›

Nas is not a compatible storage location for a photos library. Only directly connected exernal drives are suitable: It must be formatted APFS or MacOS extended (journaled) (preferred for spinning drives) and not case sensitive.

Which backup method is used in NAS backup? ›

NDMP Backup

The Network Data Management Protocol, or NDMP, is a protocol designed specifically for managing NAS device backups. It enables NAS devices to directly send data across the network to tape devices or backup servers without requiring any intervention from the backup client.

Are SSD or HDD better for NAS? ›

Even though most NASes have an HDD, SSD is also a good option. This Solid State Drive is up to 30 times faster than a traditional HDD. Aside from that, an SSD is more energy-efficient and silent, so you save energy and aren't bothered by noise as much.

Is NAS better than HDD? ›

Users can not expand the capacity of the external hard drive and get more capacity unless they buy a new one. NAS provides bays and allows users to attach extra hard drives to the network, so a NAS can provide more capacity than an external hard drive.

Why can't I copy files from my Mac to an external hard drive? ›

If you can't move or copy a file or folder, you might need to change its permissions settings. You might also need to change permissions settings for the disk, server, or folder where you want to move the item. On your Mac, select the item, then choose File > Get Info, or press Command-I.

How do I transfer everything from my computer to an external hard drive? ›

To copy multiple files, hold CTRL as you select additional files or folders. Once you have files and folders highlighted, make sure you're in the Home tab, then select Organize > Copy to, and select your external storage device name from the list of options.

How do I know if everything on my Mac is backed up? ›

View and manage iCloud backups on your Mac
  1. On your Mac, do one of the following: macOS Ventura: Choose Apple menu > System Settings, click [your name] at the top of the sidebar, then click iCloud on the right. ...
  2. Click Manage, then click Backups on the left. ...
  3. To delete a backup, select a device, then click Delete.

How do I backup my Mac before getting a new one? ›

Connect your Time Machine backup drive to the new Mac. Select the Migration Assistant option when it is offered during the setup process. Select the 'From a Mac, Time Machine backup or startup disk' option. Wait for the Mac to recognize your Time Machine drive.

Where is everything stored on a Mac? ›

The Finder is the home base for your Mac. The Finder icon looks like a blue smiling face; click the icon in the Dock to open a Finder window. You use Finder windows to organize and access almost everything on your Mac.

Is Mac Time Machine obsolete? ›

Even though Apple discontinued the Time Capsule in 2018, the product is still in use by many Mac users, and a flaw in the Seagate drive inside could put data at risk.

Does Apple Time Machine delete old backups? ›

Generally, Time Machine automatically deletes old backups. Once your storage device is running low on space, macOS deletes anything unnecessary, such as your oldest Time Machine backups. However, if you need to delete your backup manually, here's what to do.

Does Time Machine backup when Mac closed? ›

The important thing is to remember that while Time Machine backs up regularly, it will only do so if your Mac is connected to the device you are backing up to. This could be an external storage device that needs to be plugged into your Mac, so don't forget to plug it in!

Is there anything better than iCloud? ›

Google Drive

Google Drive currently offers the most storage space for free. So if you're looking for a lot of cloud storage and don't have Amazon Prime or Microsoft OneDrive, you can still use Google Drive. Google Drive has a great iPhone app that makes it easy to back up your content.

Is iCloud a reliable backup? ›

Make Backups

It's fine to keep your files in iCloud Drive (I do) or iCloud Photos. But it's not a backup. iCloud syncs your data between your Apple devices. If you delete a file in iCloud on one device, it gets deleted on all your other devices.

Does everything save to the iCloud on a Mac? ›

With Desktop & Documents Folders iCloud Drive syncing enabled in macOS Monterey, every photo, file, and folder you save to your desktop will automatically keep in iCloud. You can access it from your best iPhone, iPad, another Mac, and even a Windows-based PC via iCloud Drive, the Files app, or

Is 1TB on Mac Enough? ›

The bottom line is, it depends on your use case and storage habits. If you're a professional video editor or animator, 1TB is the way to go. On the other hand, if you're a general user and do data cleanups often, 512GB will do just fine.

Is it better to have more memory or storage Mac? ›

Having more memory allows a Mac to multitask more effectively, enhances the resale value of the system, and overall will better futureproof the computer. Storage, while convenient to have a lot of in one place, can be augmented by adding external drives such as hard drives or solid-state drives.

How often should I back up my Mac? ›

Everybody should backup all files on their Mac's hard drive every day. Why? Because you never knows when disaster will strike and you'll need to rely on a recent backup to retrieve one or many files.

Should I encrypt my Mac Time Machine backup? ›

The best way to keep your backups secure is to encrypt your backup disk. When you switch a Time Capsule or network backup disk from unencrypted to encrypted, your existing backups are erased and new encrypted backup sets are created.

What is the lifespan of a NAS? ›

Even if you don't outstrip the size, I'd say something like five years is a good guess for useful life. If you are running one older than that and have issues with it, then you are are likely to find that buying something new will offer you "bigger, better, faster, more, ...and cheaper".

Is a NAS a security risk? ›

Unfortunately, NAS drives also have the potential to pose a security risk. By connecting your hard drives to a network, you could be providing access to hackers. Attacks against NAS are common in business settings, and while attacks against private individuals are less profitable, they still happen.

Which NAS drives are most reliable? ›

  • Seagate IronWolf. The best overall hard drive designed for NAS. Specifications. ...
  • Western Digital Red Plus. A close runner-up NAS. Specifications. ...
  • Seagate Exos. Best for serious storage. Specifications. ...
  • Seagate IronWolf Pro. Best for pros who need a more powerful NAS. ...
  • Western Digital Red Pro. Another quality NAS option for pros.
4 Oct 2022

Does internet speed affect NAS? ›

The internal network speeds are not affected by the internet connection in any way. Uploading something on the NAS from a device outside of your network would depend on your internet's DOWNLOAD speed as well as the other device's internet UPLOAD speed. The slowest of all would be your speed limit.

Should you turn off NAS at night? ›

Anyway, there's no need to turn off the NAS at night from a hard drive lifespan perspective..

Do you need to defrag a NAS? ›

Why is defragmentation important for my Synology NAS? Every NAS suffers from a constant growth of fragmentation. If you don't clean up, your NAS performance is ultimately impacted. Defragging helps speed up your Hard Disk on your Synology NAS.

How do I backup my drive to NAS? ›

How to Backup NAS to Cloud Backup
  1. Map a Network Drive. First, you'll need to make the NAS remotely accessible through your desktop as a file server. ...
  2. Connect to the NAS. ...
  3. Go Into IDrive Settings. ...
  4. Allow Mapped Drives. ...
  5. Add the Drive to Your Backup. ...
  6. Set Up Your Backup Schedule.
26 Apr 2022

Does Time Machine backup everything on your Mac? ›

With Time Machine, you can back up files on your Mac that weren't part of the macOS installation, such as apps, music, photos, and documents. When Time Machine is turned on, it automatically backs up your Mac and performs hourly, daily, and weekly backups of your files.

Can you use a NAS as a hard drive? ›

The answer is YES. You can use it as a regular desktop drive, as long as the interface is in accordance. But there is a problem you should pay attention to: NAS HDDs have TLER technology.

How do I backup my computer to my Synology NAS? ›

Start your backup task
  1. Run the Synology Drive Client on your computer. ...
  2. Connect to your Synology NAS running Synology Drive Server using either its domain name, QuickConnect ID, or IP address (IPv6 supported). ...
  3. Enter the username and password. ...
  4. Select Backup Task. ...
  5. Select your backup source and destination.
30 May 2022

Why is NAS not a backup? ›

While NAS devices are often used to hold backups for company data, they should never be the only backup a business relies on. This is because, as physical storage devices, they are vulnerable to a myriad of threats. These threats include flood, fire, device failure, and more.

How do I do a full Time Machine backup on my Mac? ›

How to Back Up a Mac with Time Machine
  1. Connect an external hard drive to your Mac.
  2. Then click the Apple icon in menu bar. ...
  3. Next, select System Preferences.
  4. Then click Time Machine.
  5. Next, click Select Backup Disk.
  6. Then select a drive and click Use Disk.
  7. Finally, check the box next to Back Up Automatically.
24 Dec 2021

How long does NAS HDD last? ›

The simplest answer is that they can run smoothly for three to five years. This means any HDD, whether it's external or inside of a system.

Are NAS drives worth it for home use? ›

It protects your data and syncs your data from your devices so you have a copy. NAS devices often have redundancy and allows for a second copy of your data to be made in case a hard disk fails – something that does not happen with single drive external hard drives. A disaster-proof NAS is even better.

Is a NAS faster than a USB drive? ›

In the best-case scenario, 130MBps is the fastest data connection you can get from a NAS server, but most servers are slower. Basically, a NAS server's speed varies between the speed of USB 2.0 and the speed of USB 3.0, and is much slower than the speed of Thunderbolt, which gets up to about 700MBps.

Can you use Synology as a backup? ›

Synology Drive Client allows you to create scheduled backup tasks to back up files on your computer to a Synology Drive server, as well as create versions of these files that can be restored or downloaded when needed.

Is Synology backup free? ›

Unlimited backups, license-free

Active Backup for Microsoft 365 is a free add-on for Synology NAS servers. Back up unlimited accounts, so long as your storage allows it.

Does Synology NAS come with backup software? ›

Synology NAS is a storage device that comes with various backup functions. Download and install from Package Center in the operating system DSM (DiskStation Manager). Whether you are a business or personal user, you can build up a safe and secure backup environment quickly and easily.


(Michael Wood)
2. How to Access Files on Your Synology NAS via Windows File Explorer or Mac Finder
3. How To Backup An External Hard Drive To Another External Hard Drive (On Your Mac)
4. How To Format an External Hard Drive for Mac - Everything You Need To Know
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5. TobyMac, Blessing Offor - The Goodness
6. How to Backup one Synology NAS to Another Synology for an Offsite backup using HyperBackup
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