How To Transfer All Files From Mac To External Hard Drive Title Image

When you’re thinking of getting an external hard drive. Or you’ve just got yourself one.

And you’re Googling the answer to the question: ‘How to transfer all files from MacBook Pro to external hard drive’. Or ‘How to transfer all files from MacBook air to external hard drive’.

Read on below for the answer you need.

How To Transfer All Files From Mac To External Hard Drive

On a Mac, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air you’ve a few ways of transferring all your files onto an external hard drive.

And which is the best for you. Depends on what you need achieve by transferring.  Or copying your files off your Mac computer.

You can hear about the different ways further on down this article. After these steps showing you simplest way to transfer.

1. Connect An External Hard Drive To Your Mac’s USB

Plug in your external hard drive into your Mac’s USB port using it’s USB cable.

Wait for your hard drive’s icon to show on your Mac’s desktop.

WD My Passport Drive Icon

If no drive icon appears then check your finder preferences.

Finder Preferences
Finder Preferences

Click on the General tab. And check mark the option to show ‘External Disks’.

Finder Preferences Show External Disks

2. Double Click On Your External Hard Drive’s Disk Icon.

When you double click you open up a Finder window on your external hard drive. Ready to receive your transferred files.

New Drive Empty Finder Window

You can create folders in this Finder window if you want. And use those folders to organize your transferred files.

3. Open Another Finder Window And Browse To the Files To Transfer. Then Select Them.

You can pick one file, a folder. Just your large files. Or click on your Macintosh HD device and click to highlight every folder there.

Finder Window Machintosh HD

That will highlight all the files on your Mac’s internal drive.

Click on the first file you want to transfer. Hold down the shift key and click to add more files to your transfer selection.

4.  From Your Finder Window Menu Click Edit Then Copy.

From the Finder window menu at the top of your desktop. Click on Edit. And from the menu that comes up pick Copy.

Finder Window Copy Files

5. Move Your Cursor To The Finder Window On Your External Hard Drive.

Then from the top of your desktop. Pick Finder > Edit. Then Paste from the menu that comes up.

Finder Window Paste Files

When your file transfer is too large to do instantly. You’ll see a progress bar showing you the progress of your transfer. The progress bar will disappear when your transfer is complete.

How To Move All Files From Mac To External Hard Drive

Much like the steps above.

1. Connect Up Your External Hard Drive To Your Mac’s USB.

2. Double Click On Your External Hard Disk Icon.

3. Open A Finder Window And Browse To the Files To Move.

4. Highlight To Select Them.

5. From Your Finder Window Menu Click Edit Then Copy.

Instead of using the Finder window menu. You can right click on your highlighted files. Pick copy from the menu that comes up.

WD Elements Mac Highlighted Files

6. Move Your Cursor To The Finder Window On Your External Hard Disk.

And in the middle of the window. Right Click and pick paste from the menu.

WD Elements Right Click Paste

7. Delete Your Files From Your Mac’s Internal Disk.

You’re now free to delete your files from your Mac’s internal disk. As your files are now transferred to your external hard drive.

But do have another drive to copy your files onto. It’s never a good idea to have your important files only on one drive.

How To Copy All Files From Mac To External Hard Drive

A backup with Time Machine takes a backup of all your files. Except your Mac OS. These days with Mac OS Big Sur, Monterey. Your OS is restored using MacOS Recovery mode.

A backup with Time Machine will take a copy of everything else on your Mac to an external hard drive. Including, the special files that live in your Home folder. Like your iTunes library, your Photos library and your Applications.

If you backup iPhone or your iPad to your Mac. Then your iOS backups will be in that backup to.

To Do:

1. Connect Your External Drive.

Plug in your drive into your Mac’s USB port using its USB cable.

2. Start Up Time Machine In System Preferences.

Time Machine in System Preferences

3. Click Select Disk.

Backup External Drive Time Machine 1st Window

And in the next window.

4. Click Your External Drive.

Samsung T7 Time Machine Choose Drive

5. Click on ‘Use Disk’.

When you return back to the first Time Machine window. You can now put a check mark in the box to ‘Back Up Automatically’.

And your Mac, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air will backup. Transferring a copy of your files to your external hard drive backup disk in a backup.

You can take a look at this article here to learn more. How To Backup MacBook Pro To External Hard Drive.

Before You Can Transfer Everything From Mac To An External Hard Drive

You’ll need an external hard drive your Mac can read and write to.

That may seem an obvious thing to say. But many hard drives are made for the Windows PC market. They are the best priced drives. As a ‘For Mac’ external hard drive is often sold at a premium. You pay for the convenience.

But a PC NTFS external hard drive is only that way because it has a Windows PC file system on it. Making it an NTFS drive.

You can change any USB drive to a Mac format within minutes. You use software already part of your Mac OS called Disk Utility. Fire up Disk Utility and change any NTFS drive into a for Mac drive.

And you can find out how to use Disk Utility to do this at this post here. Format Your External Hard Drive For Mac.

Best Way Of Transferring Files Depending On Your Reason

What you want to do in the end will push your toward one way rather than the other. When it comes to transferring your files from your Mac to an external hard drive.

Let’s go through the reasons why you’d want to transfer. And the best way. To get to your target aim.

Need To Transfer All Your Files From Your Old Mac To Your New Spanking Mac

Then use Time Machine to backup your Mac computer.

This will back up all your Mac user files, Applications. Mac settings and user profile information.

But not your Mac operating system.

Not since Mac OS x before Catalina. And that’s makes perfect sense if you think about it.

Your new Mac will come ready for you to use Setup Assistant. And that installs the latest Mac OS x your virgin Mac will run.

You can then use Migration Assistant. Point it at your Time Machine backup of your old computer. And all your files. Minus the operating system will install on your latest Mac. Job done.

Need To Free Up Space On Your Mac

And use those files on your external hard drive. Then you can drag and drop your file(s) to your hard drive.

Or copy and paste any file, folder or groups of files to your external drive. Then delete them off your Mac.

But watch out that when the only copy of your file. Or files are only on the external hard drive. Because drives do fail over time. Always have a backup up copy of that data on another drive.

Want To Create A Boot Drive For Your Mac

Then you’ll want a clone copy of your Mac’s internal boot drive. You’ll see it on your Mac called Macintosh HD.

You’ll need an external drive suitable to use as a boot drive. As not all external hard drives support this. Especially now modern Mac’s come with internal SSD’s (solid state drives). Clone your boot drive and transfer (copy) your startup files from your Mac’s internal drive. To an external drive.

You Want A Backup Of Everything On Your Mac

And it’s an excellent idea to have a backup. Just in case anything happens to your Mac. You have a copy of any important file you need. And can bring back any accidentally deleted file. Or can recover data to your entire Mac.

You’d use a Time Machine backup to transfer your files. – Take a backup copy to your external hard drive.

And if you needed to recover data to your entire Mac. Including Mac OS x you’d use MacOS Recovery Mode to bring back your operating system. Then Migration Assistant to bring back all your files.

In Closing

And now you have the answer to the question. ‘How to transfer everything from MacBook to external hard drive’.

And you’re happily moving your files so you can free up space on your Mac. Or simply have a copy of the files on your Mac.

And it’s a good just in case idea. Because if anything happened to your Mac you could get every file back.

With no need for any data recovery services.

While you’re here on the site. Don’t forget to take a look at our other external hard drive articles.

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