How do you guys secure/protect your Time Machine backup drive? Even though it's an external drive, it's still susceptible to physical theft though. What do you guys do for precautions?


5 Answers 5


With OS X 10.7 Lion you now have the option of encrypted Time Machine backups.


You can have backup to an encrypted sparse bundle (the format that time machine backsup to). You can have the sparse bundle automatically mounted on any computer that has the encryption key stored in the keychain.

The basic procedure to enable encrypted backups is:

  1. Disable TimeMachine.

  2. Create an encrypted sparsebundle with the same name as what TimeMachine is already looking for.

  3. Copy the contents of your old sparse bundle into the new one.
  4. Replace the old one with the new one.
  5. Re-enable TimeMachine.

Here is a guide that goes more in depth: http://earthlingsoft.net/ssp/blog/2010/05/encrypted_time_machine_backups


Using FileVault will encrypt your data while it sits on the Time Machine disk and protect it in the event you have a physical theft. If you choose a good password that you don't use elsewhere it's likely even a motivated thief won't be able to guess that password if they only have your backup drive.

For me the downsides of FileVault mean I choose not to have my user data encrypted on the backup drive, but that's the "offical" and easy way to secure that data.

I store my sensitive information inside encrypted DMG on my mac itself which covers that data wherever it's backed up. I store my passwords and "secret information" in 1Password. I hide my backup disk inside my Time Capsule which itself isn't readily visible in hopes a smash and grab will overlook it for all the other goodies with a higher resale value.

I figure I don't need to build fort knox to keep my drive itself secure - but I do have offsite backups of the things I'll need if my house burns to the ground or is burglarized. If the worst happens, I'll change my bank and email passwords and watch for signs of identity theft or unauthorized access.


If someone is breaking into my house, I have bigger problems than them accessing my Time Machine drive.

If you carry your Time Machine hard drive with you, I'd seriously recommend investing in a second, dedicated drive. If you're carrying both your computer and your drive in your bag and the strap breaks and both drives malfunction through massive paranoia-inspired hyperbole, you have no extra copy, whereas if you have a dedicated drive you just need a new machine (yeah, "just") and you can restore.


Encryption only works on Time Capsules directly connected to your Mac. It is not possible to encrypt Time Machine backups over your network (e.g. NAS with Time Machine support). This option is then greyed out.

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