Format External SSD For Mac Time Machine Title Image

You have your SSD in hand. You’re gonna do a Time Machine backup of your Mac.

But don’t you recall that you have to format your SSD external drive first?

Let me tell you what I do, so you can format your external SSD for Time Machine.

Format External SSD For Mac Time Machine Summary

Since Mac OS Ventura, as part of your Time Machine set up, your SSD is formatted ready for Time Machine. To do:

1. Connect your SSD.

2. Open System Settings. General > Time Machine.

3. Click Button ‘Add Backup Disk’.

4. Pick SSD Drive. Then Click ‘Setup Disk.

Time machine then formats your SSD and sets your SSD as your time machine drive.

Now you have a Summary. Here’s some more info

How To Format External SSD For Time Machine Monterey And Later

From Mac OS X Monterey Apple makes things even easier for a Mac user. 

When you’re using your whole SSD (Solid State Drive) to backup your Mac computer. There is no need to separately format your external SSD. Before that you’d use your Mac’s disk management software Disk Utility first.

Your Mac does the formatting of your SSD at the same time your Mac sets up your external SSD for Time Machine.

Here are the steps I use.

1. Connect your SSD.

Once you’re logged into your Mac. Plug in your SSD into a USB C port on your Mac.

In a few moments your SSD drive’s icon will show up on your Mac’s desktop.

Drive Icon Samsung T7

If you don’t see your SSD drive’s icon then you’ll need to check your Finder Settings.

Finder Settings

Click on the General tab. Then be sure that the ‘External Disks’ box is checked.

Finder Settings Show External Disks

This setting tells your Mac to show your drive icon on your desktop.

2. Open System Settings. General > Time Machine.

From the operating system Mac OS x Ventura. You go straight into your System Settings.  You can find your System Settings from your Apple Menu. Top left on your Mac’s desktop.

System Settings From Apple Menu

Scroll down to General. Click there.

Then scroll down to Time Machine and click that option.

System Settings General Time Machine

3. Click Button ‘Add Backup Disk’.

System Settings Time Machine Add Backup Disk

Click the on the Button ‘Add Backup Disk’.

4. Pick SSD Drive. Then Click ‘Setup Disk’

Then click on your SSD drive.

Remember that your Mac will format your whole SSD for Mac Time Machine.  If you have any files on your external drive you want. Cancel and copy that data off somewhere safe first.

Next click Setup Disk

System Settings Time Machine Samsung T7 Setup Disk

Your Mac will then format your SSD as a Time Machine backup drive. And set your drive up as APFS (Apple File System) for Time Machine.

Tell Your Mac To Show Time Machine Icon In The Menu Bar

It’s best to set up your Mac so that it shows the Time Machine icon in your Mac’s menu bar. You’ll find this useful for checking on your backups. And manually kicking off a backup.

Still in System Settings. Click on Control Centre. Then scroll down to Time Machine. Then click the option ‘Show In Menu Bar’.

System Settings Time Machine In Menu Bar

How To format SSD for Time Machine Monterey And Earlier

In the operating systems Mac OS x Monterey. And earlier Mac OS’s the way you format your SSD external drive for Time Machine is different.

You use Disk Utility. It is disk management software on your Mac. It’s free as it comes as a standard part of your Mac’s operating system.

Remember formatting. Or reformatting your external SSD means. Any files already on your drive will be erased.

If your SSD has important files on it.  Copy those important files off first.

1. Connect Your SSD External Drive.

Log in to your Mac. Then plug in your SSD in your Mac’s USB port.

In a few moments your SSD external drive icon should show up on your desktop.

It’ll look something like this.

Drive Icon Samsung T7

No drive icon?

Try this.

Open up a Finder window. Select Finder Preferences.

Finder Preferences
Finder Preferences

Go to the General Tab and put a check in the box against External Disks.

Finder Preferences Show External Disks

2. Start Up Disk Utility.

Start Disk Utility from a Finder Window.

Click on your Applications folder. Then click on Utilities inside your Applications folder.

Finder Applications Folder Utilities

Inside the Utilities folder you’ll find the Disk Utility software.

Finder Disk Utility

Double click to start Disk Utility.

3. Click On Your SSD Drive. Click Erase.

Look to the left hand side of your Disk Utility pop up window.

There, you’ll see a list of all the drives attached to your Mac computer.

Your internal drive is at the top under the heading ‘Internal’.

And the SSD drive you want to format for Time Machine you’ll find under the ‘External” heading.

Samsung T7 One Level Showing
Samsung T7 One Level Showing

First check you can see at least 2 levels for your SSD Drive.

If you can only see one level. Click on the arrow to the left of your SSD external drive.

If you still can’t see more than one level. Then at the top of your Mac’s screen. Pick the Disk Utility ‘View’ option. And from that menu pick the option to ‘Show All Devices’.

Samsung T7 Show All Devices
Samsung T7 Show All Devices

Then click your drive at the top level.

Pick Samsung T7 At 1st Level
Pick Samsung T7 At 1st Level

Picking your SSD drive at a lower level will give you all sorts of problems. Including your drive not formatting. And errors when you format your SSD drive.

Now you’ve clicked your drive at the top level look across the top of the Disk Utility pop up window.

From there click on Erase.

Select Erase

Don’t worry. You’re not erasing anything yet. There are a few things to set up for your formatting first.

In the next window you type in the settings for the formatting of your SSD storage device.

4. Type in a Name For Your Drive.

Samsung T7 PIck Format Scheme

You’ll need to type in a name. Pick something that makes it easy for you to know this is your Time Machine backup drive.

5. Pick To APFS Format Or Mac OS Extended File System.

In the Format field you can pick APFS (Apple File System). Or Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

And which you pick depends on the current format of your SSD drive. The age of your Mac and the operating system your Mac is running.

When your SSD drive is a Microsoft NTFS formatted drive. Or an ExFAT formatted drive. You’ll need to pick Mac OS Extended (Journaled) the first time you format.

Because your Mac needs to change the Windows PC compatible formatting to a Mac file format first.

Your Mac running Mac OS Big Sur or Monterey?

Then pick APFS (Apple File System). APFS disk support for Time Machine was available for those operating systems.

Your Mac running a Mac OS version that’s Catalina or earlier?

You’ll have to pick Mac OS Extended format. Because those older Mac OS X versions can’t use an APFS formatted SSD external drive for a Time Machine backup.

Use the up down arrows at the end of the Format field to pick what you want.

6. Set Scheme As GUID Partition Map.

Pick GUID Partition Map for the scheme.

This is important. No matter whether you pick. Mac OS Extended or APFS.

Your Mac needs the GUID Partition Map scheme. Or you’ll have all sorts of odd problems using your drive later on your Mac.

Don’t pick Apple Partition Map. It’s only used for much older PowerPC based Mac computers.

Use the up down arrows at the end of the Scheme field to pick GUID Partition Map.

7. Click On Erase.

Then click the Erase button.

Samsung T7 Click Erase Button

Your Mac will take a few moments to format your SSD drive.  You’ll get a message telling you your Time Machine backup drive is formatted. And ready for you to attach to Time Machine.

You can then Exit your Mac Disk Utility window.

Your newly formatted SSD drive’s icon will show up on your Mac’s desktop.

You then use System Preferences to connect your backup drive to Time Machine.

Head over to this article on the site to learn how. Time Machine Backup External Drive.

When you’re done with your drive and you’re ready to pack your drive away be sure to Eject your drive first.

Samsung T7 Eject Drive
Samsung T7 Eject Drive

In Closing

Thank you for reading to the end of my article.

And you’ll now have your ‘How to format external SSD for Time Machine’ question answered.

Use your SSD on your M1 Mac, MacBook Pro or Air.

While you’re here please check out our other recommended posts on solid state drives.

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