How do I backup my computer to an external SSD?

Backing up your computer to an external SSD is a great way to create a backup of your important files and protect yourself against data loss. An external SSD provides fast transfer speeds, durability, portability, and ample storage space for your backups.

In this article, we will go over everything you need to know to successfully backup your Windows or Mac computer to an external SSD. We will cover how to choose the right SSD, backup software options, how to perform both full and incremental backups, scheduling backups, and tips for maintaining your backup SSD.

Why Backup to an External SSD?

Here are some of the key benefits of using an external SSD for backups compared to other external drive types:

  • Speed – SSDs provide much faster data transfer speeds than external hard drives. This makes backing up large amounts of data quicker.
  • Portability – External SSDs are very compact, lightweight and easily portable.
  • Durability – Without any moving parts, external SSDs are less susceptible to damage if dropped or bumped while plugged in.
  • Capacity – External SSDs come in capacities up to 4TB. This provides ample space to back up your system.

The faster transfer speeds of SSDs make them especially beneficial for full backup images and large file backups. The compact size makes them easy to store and take your backups with you anywhere.

Choosing an External SSD

When selecting an external SSD for backups, you’ll want to consider:

  • Storage capacity – Choose an SSD that provides enough space to hold your full system backup image and any incremental changes between backups. For most users, a 1TB SSD is a good starting point.
  • Connection type – SSDs connect via USB, Thunderbolt or USB-C. Choose a connection compatible with your computer. USB 3.0 offers fast enough transfer speeds for backups.
  • Read/write speeds – Faster read/write times will provide quicker backups. SSDs with at least 500MB/s are recommended.
  • Encryption – An encrypted SSD will add an extra layer of data security to your backups.
  • Rugged design – If you plan to take the SSD on the go, choose one with a rugged, shock-proof design.

Reputable brands to consider include Samsung T5 or T7, SanDisk Extreme Portable, ADATA SE800, and Western Digital My Passport SSD.

Backup Software Options

The right backup software makes creating backups straightforward and will give you flexible options for how and when backups run. Here are some of the top backup software tools for an external SSD:

Windows Backup Software

  • EaseUS Todo Backup – Provides full system backup capabilities, incremental backups, scheduling, and encryption.
  • Macrium Reflect – Creates complete disk images for system recovery and offers incremental backups.
  • Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows – Backs up entire volumes and allows for scheduled incremental backups.
  • Acronis True Image – Features full system images, file/folder backup, mobile app for local/cloud backups.

These all offer intuitive interfaces, scheduling, incremental backups, compression, and cloning for easy restoration of your system.

Mac Backup Software

  • Time Machine – Apple’s built-in software can automatically backup to an external SSD in hourly, daily or weekly increments.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner – Clones entire boot drive for disaster recovery. Offers incremental updates.
  • Get Backup Pro – Backs up selected files, folders, or entire drives. Features scheduling and versioning.
  • SuperDuper – Full system backups and Smart Updates for intermittent changes. Bootable clones for restore.

Look for Mac backup tools with incremental backups, scheduling, encryption, and bootable system clones.

How to Perform a Full Backup

A full backup of your computer copies your entire drive for a complete system snapshot. Here are the steps to perform a full backup to your external SSD:

On Windows

  1. Connect your external SSD and open your backup software.
  2. Select your backup source. This can be your entire C drive, system partition, or specific folders you want backed up.
  3. Choose your external SSD as the backup destination.
  4. Configure backup settings – Enable compression and encryption if desired.
  5. Click “Start Backup”. Allow time for the initial full backup to complete.
  6. Once finished, eject and disconnect the external SSD safely.

The software will copy all selected files/folders or create a complete system image on your external SSD.

On Mac

  1. Connect your external SSD to your Mac.
  2. Open Time Machine or your preferred backup software.
  3. Click “Select Disk” and choose your external SSD as the backup disk.
  4. Enable any encryption or compression options.
  5. Click “Back Up Now.” Allow time for the full backup process.
  6. Once finished, eject the external SSD before disconnecting.

This will create a complete bootable backup of your Mac to the external SSD.

How to Schedule Backups

Scheduling regular automatic backups ensures your SSD backup stays up to date.

On Windows

  1. Open your backup software settings.
  2. Go to the Schedule tab or Preferences.
  3. Choose Daily, Weekly or Monthly backup frequency.
  4. Set the time you want scheduled backups to run.
  5. Choose Full or Incremental scheduled backup type.
  6. Click Save when done.

Scheduled backups will now run automatically at your chosen intervals.

On Mac

  1. Open System Preferences > Time Machine.
  2. Click “Select Disk” and choose your external SSD disk.
  3. Enable the switch for “Back Up Automatically”.
  4. Choose your desired backup interval: Hourly, Daily, Weekly.
  5. Click Save when done.

Time Machine will run automatic backups per your chosen schedule.

How to Run an Incremental Backup

Incremental backups only copy new/modified files since your last backup session. This makes them faster to run.

On Windows

  1. Connect your external SSD backup drive.
  2. Open your backup program.
  3. Browse your backup history and select your last backup.
  4. Click “Backup” or “Incremental Backup” to start a new incremental backup.
  5. The software will only copy changed files/folders since last backup.

Repeat this as often as needed to keep your backups updated.

On Mac

Time Machine automatically runs incremental hourly backups once you have a full backup on your drive. To manually run an incremental:

  1. Connect your external Time Machine SSD.
  2. Enter Time Machine via the menu bar icon or System Preferences.
  3. Navigate through your backups via the timeline to your last version.
  4. Click “Back Up Now” to run an incremental backup from that point.

Incrementals help keep backup times fast while ensuring your data stays up to date.

How to Restore From Your SSD Backup

If your computer crashes or won’t boot, you can fully restore from your external SSD backup with these steps:

On Windows

  1. Connect your external SSD backup drive to the computer.
  2. Boot into the Windows Recovery Environment.
  3. Choose “System Restore” or the restore option in your backup program.
  4. Select your backup file from the external SSD.
  5. Choose “Restore” to overwrite your computer’s drive with the backup.

Reboot once restoration is complete and your computer will be returned to the state saved on the SSD backup.

On Mac

  1. Shut down your Mac. Connect your backup SSD.
  2. Power on your Mac while holding the Option key.
  3. Select your backup drive from the boot menu.
  4. Click the arrow under your boot backup to start up from it.
  5. Choose “Restore” from startup disk to complete full restore.

Your Mac will be fully restored to match the backup state on your external SSD.

Tips for Maintaining Your SSD Backup

Follow these tips for keeping your external SSD backups in good working order:

  • Check backup software logs after each backup to confirm backups ran successfully.
  • Periodically connect your SSD to check the integrity of backups files.
  • Replace your backup SSD every 3-5 years to avoid hardware failure.
  • Keep the backup SSD safely stored away from your computer when not in use.
  • Clone your existing backup to a new SSD periodically for an extra copy.
  • Back up your backup – use a cloud backup service to add redundancy.

Keeping multiple copies of backups protects you fully against data loss. Don’t store the only backup copy on just the external SSD.


Backing up your system to an external SSD provides a fast, portable, and secure way to prevent data loss. Follow this guide to choose the right SSD, select backup software, run both full and incremental backups, automate backups, restore when needed, and properly maintain your backup SSD.

With regular computer backups to a speedy and durable external SSD, you gain peace of mind knowing your important files are protected and readily accessible in case of emergency. An SSD serves as an excellent first line of defense against catastrophic data loss. Use it along with off-site backups for a full-proof backup strategy.