How to back up your Mac photos and videos

Given your Mac’s large internal drive, you may be tempted to store all your photos and videos locally on it. But keeping your meaningful memories in just one place is never the ideal solution, as you may lose them due to drive failure, theft, or unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, it is highly recommended you back up your most precious pictures and videos to at least two different places, and in this tutorial, we’ll help you with that.

Back up photos on Mac

Must read: 7 simple ways to safely back up your iPhone photos and videos

Back up to cloud storage

Online cloud storage services let you access your media from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. When it comes to backing up your photos and videos online on Mac, you have the flexibility to use Apple’s iCloud Photos, or third-party options such as Google Photos. Let’s get you acquainted with both.

iCloud Photos

Apple lets you keep your photos and videos safe in iCloud Photos. But you only get 5 GB on the free tier, which is also shared with other iCloud services. Your files most likely exceed this limit, and in that case, you will have to upgrade to a paid iCloud+ plan, which can expand your iCloud online storage up to 2 TB (4 TB with Apple One and Family Sharing). You can use your same iCloud account (i.e., your Apple ID) on all your iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Windows PC to upload and store your pictures and videos.

Follow these steps to set up and back up your Mac’s images and videos to iCloud Photos:

  1. Open the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Click Photos > Preferences from the top menu bar.
  3. Go to the iCloud tab.
  4. Check the box for iCloud Photos.
  5. If your Mac has limited free space, check the box for Optimize Mac Storage, which will replace full-resolution images and videos with small, device-size optimized versions and keep the full-quality versions of those files in iCloud, from where you can download them anytime over Wi-Fi.
  6. Alternatively, if your Mac has ample free local space, you can choose Download Originals to this Mac, which will keep photos and videos in full quality on this computer (as well as iCloud), and you can view them offline.
Enable iCloud Photos on Mac

You have successfully set up iCloud Photos on your Mac. Now, it will automatically upload everything that’s inside the Photos app to iCloud. These images will also appear inside the Photos app on your iPhone & iPad and vice versa.

Related: How to access photos on iCloud using iPhone, iPad, Mac, and a web browser

Use iCloud on the web

iCloud Photos only uploads and stores photos that are inside your device’s Photos app. But what about the images you have in Finder folders that you want to keep in iCloud Photos but don’t want to add to your Mac’s Photos app? Enter iCloud Photos on the web. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Visit and sign in with your Apple ID.
  2. Choose Photos.
  3. Drag & drop the images and video to the iCloud Photos browser tab. You can also click the upward arrow icon, choose the pictures, and hit Upload.
Use iCloud Photos on web to upload pictures and videos from Finder folders on Mac

Third-party services

Instead of or in addition to Apple’s offering, you can explore excellent third-party cloud storage options like Google Photos, Google Drive, Dropbox, One Drive, Box, Mega, and Backblaze to back up essential files.

The basics of uploading to any third-party cloud storage like Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, Google Photos, Box, etc., are the same:

  1. Start by visiting the cloud storage website in a browser.
  2. Create a folder or album for better organization.
  3. Drag & drop the photos and videos from your Mac’s Finder to this browser window or use the upload button.
Drag and drop to Google Photos on Mac

Several services like Dropbox and Google Drive also offer Mac apps for easy sync. Plus, you can even configure your Mac to automatically upload your pictures and videos to services like Google Photos.

Back up to local storage

Local physical solutions have some advantages over cloud solutions. The first is that they work offline and don’t require an internet connection to upload or download images. You can simply plug them into another computer, Smart TV, and similar devices to view your memories.

Besides, a huge-capacity hard drive or SSD can be cheaper in the long run than a cloud solution. This is because you only need to purchase a drive once and can keep using it for as long as it lasts. In contrast, all cloud services have a subscription model that has to be renewed every month or year, and the costs, especially on a higher-tier plan, can add up significantly.

Here are some of the best offline solutions to back up your photos and videos on Mac.

Use Time Machine

Just like you can back up your entire iPhone and iPad to iCloud or a computer, you can back up your Mac to Time Machine.

Time Machine is a simple-to-use tool by Apple that ensures your Mac’s data is safely backed up on an external drive and can be restored whenever needed.

So, in addition to having your photos and videos on your Mac’s internal drive, get a massive 2 TB, 4 TB, or 8 TB hard disk and use that for Time Machine backup.

Check out 8 TB hard drives on Amazon

Hard disk, SSD, flash drive, etc.

External hard disks, SSDs, thumb drives, DVDs, and CDs are timeless methods to back up your media. Now, it may not be very convenient to connect an external drive every day and transfer photos and videos, but these tools have their importance when it comes to preserving precious memories.

For example, the total size of photos and videos of my wedding is around 300 GB. Storing them on iCloud or Google Photos would mean paying a significant amount per month. So, what I did was transfer the entire 300 GB of memories to an external hard disk that I keep safely in my house.

So, if you have a massive library of photos from special events like weddings, birthdays, Christmas, and such memorable occasions, consider transferring them all to an external drive. You can even put them on two drives, which you should store at different physical locations, such as separate rooms or one at your house and another in a bank safe. Doing so ensures that the other stays safe even if one copy is accidentally destroyed.

Check out external SSDs on Amazon

iPad, iPhone, or Android phone

Nowadays, high storage limits aren’t only available for your computer. You can buy smartphones and tablets with 512 GB, 1 TB, or even 2 TB of internal storage.

If you have an iPad or iPhone with lots of free space, you can AirDrop photos and videos from your Mac to their Photos app. That way, you have two copies of the media – one on your Mac and the other on your tablet or phone.

If you have an Android smartphone, download Google’s Android File Transfer Mac app to move photos and videos between your Mac and Android devices.

Read Next: