I have been using time machine to back up to a wireless external drive since I got my mac. Today I used filevault to encrypt my hard drive.

  • Will this affect how Time Machine backs up my files?
  • Will the new backups be encrypted on the external drive?

I am running Lion on the mac.

I found this on an apple support page - http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?path=Mac/10.6/en/21241.html

'If you must back up to a network or external disk that’s not under your control, you can turn on FileVault to encrypt data stored in your home directory. This data will also be encrypted in the backup. However, Time Machine will perform backups only when you are logged out of your user account.'

How can I check to see if the Time Machine backups are actually encrypted?

  • 1
    Note that the Apple document you linked applies to version 10.6. FileVault has been completely changed in 10.7, so its descriptions no longer apply. Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 14:52

2 Answers 2


No, the backups will not be encrypted automatically, but it's very easy to enable for directly attached disks. Just check "Encrypt Backup Disk" in the Time Machine disk selection settings.

enter image description here

If you're backing up to another Mac, you can use Disk Utility on that Mac to erase non-boot drives and put an encrypted partition on them:

enter image description here

  • Is this only possible for direct-attached disk? I have remote TM backups to another Mac happening and that option is greyed out, un-selectable.
    – Ian C.
    Commented Mar 30, 2012 at 17:59
  • @IanC. That would be my guess. If you are backing up to another Mac, you can always encrypt the disk manually with Disk Utility Commented Mar 30, 2012 at 18:00


Time Machine backups are not encrypted by default. You have to opt-in. The configuration is easy if the backup drive is connected via USB/Firewire. If the backup drive is connected by Ethernet/Wi-Fi, the process of setting up Time Machine is more complicated.

Connected via USB/Firewire

Select the option in System Preferences → Time Machine → Select Disk

Connected via Ethernet/Wi-Fi

Basically, you need to manually create an encrypted sparse bundle on the external drive to which you will back up.

  1. Figure out the name of your computer (and make sure it doesn’t contain spaces) in System Preferences → Sharing
  2. Figure out the address of your main ethernet card. Type in the Terminal.app located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app

    ifconfig en1 | grep ether

    MacbookAir: en0 is Wi-Fi
    Other Macs: en0 is Ethernet and en1 is Wi-Fi

    Write down the address for later use.

  3. Open Disk Utility.app and create a new image:

    enter image description here

    a) Save As: ComputerName_EthernetAddress (without ":")

    b) Name: ComputerName

    c) Size: Choose a custom size.

    d) Format: Mac OSX Extended (Journaled)

    e) Encryption: Choose what you prefer. 128-bit is faster

    f) Partitions: Single Partition, Apple Partition Map

    g) Image Format: sparse bundle disk image

  4. Open Keychain Access.app and move the password from your personal keychain (login) to the system keychain.

  5. Start to backup!

[source: Mac OSX Lion Secure Backup to Time Capsule with size limit]

I've used this solution for wireless encrypted backups in Lion myself for a while. However, it's quite slow.

Therefore, you should backup less often and allow it enough time to finish. You can use a free tool such as the TimeMachineEditor to perform backups at custom time intervals or calendar events.

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