WD Elements Time Machine, Turn ON Your Backup

By Simon Irons / September 6, 2019
WD Elements Time Machine Title Image

You’ve got a Western Digital Elements external hard drive. Or you’re thinking of getting one.

Because of all that stuff you have on your Mac. The music you love. Those photo’s of the kids with grandma. The spreadsheets you run your business with.

And it would be the end if you lost it all. Or if anything happened to your Mac.

And that’s where your WD Elements drive comes in.

It’s a reasonable priced bit of kit and now you want to set it up for a Time Machine backup.


Before you Use Your WD Elements for Time Machine

The first thing you need to do after hooking it up to your iMac, MacBook Pro or Air is to format it.

When delivered your WD Elements portable drive is in something called NTFS format.

Your Mac can read the documents on an NTFS drive but can’t use it for a Time Machine backup. Not without formatting first.

When you format WD elements for Time Machine be sure to format it as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.  And with a partition map as GUID.

If you’ve not done that yet go over to my document “Format WD Elements for Mac. How? In 7 Quick Steps” – to learn how.

Got your WD Elements portable formatted?

Great now we can start.

Using WD Elements for Time Machine Overview

Here is a top level view of what you’re going to do.

1. From your System Preferences menu on your Mac you start up Time Machine.

2. If the big button for Time Machine is off turn it to On.

3. Select your WD Elements drive as your Time Machine backup drive.

4. And then any time when you plug in your WD Elements drive into your Mac, Time Machine will do a back up.

How to Use WD Elements for Backup on Your Mac

1. Log into your iMac, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

And connect up your formatted WD Elements drive.

Make sure it’s already formatted to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system. (see what I said above).

2. Have a fully charged Mac or one plugged into external power. 

Plug in your WD Elements drive.

3. Start up System Preferences.

Has your Mac asked about using your WD Elements drive for Time Machine?  If it has, say yes and jump down to step 4.

If it hasn’t. You can either find system preferences in your Mac’s Dock. Or through a spotlight search.

Spotlight Search Symbol
Spotlight Search Symbol

Click on spotlight search and type in ‘System Preferences’. Double click to start system preferences up.

Spotlight Search System Preferences
Spotlight Search System Preferences

Double click on Time Machine in your System Preferences.

Time Machine in System Preferences
Time Machine in System Preferences

4. Setup Time Machine.

WD Elements Time Machine Set Up Window
WD Elements Time Machine Set Up Window

The first time you setup Time Machine on your WD Elements drive you’ll need to turn the slider button from OFF to ON.

This turns on Time Machine.

Click the check box for Time Machine to backup automatically.

This way whenever you plug in your WD Elements drive, your Mac will start a Time Machine backup.

And also check the box to show Time Machine in the menu bar at the top of your Mac’s Desktop screen.

This makes life so much easier later when you want to check the progress of your Time Machine backup.

Then click on ‘Select Disk’.

The yellow arrows in the above picture show you where to click.

5. Select Disk.

The next pop up window you’ll see allows you to choose your WD Elements drive as your Time Machine target.

WD Elements Time Machine Choose Drive
WD Elements Time Machine Choose Drive

You’ll see the name you gave your WD Elements drive when you formatted it. It’ll be there on the list. Click on it.

Next you click on ‘Use Disk’

The yellow arrows in the picture show you where.

And you’re done.  You have just set up your WD Elements for a Time Machine backup.

YouTube Video Western Digital Time Machine Backup

Here is a 1 minute 37 second YouTube video for you by Western Digital. It shows you the linking up of a Western Digital drive to Time Machine.

How to Backup Your Mac With WD Storage and Time Machine

Video Credit: WD

To Start a Time Machine Backup Yourself on your WD Elements Portable Drive

Want to start a backup right now? 

To backup now to your WD Elements drive.

Look at the top of your Mac’s Desktop. And then look for the Time Machine Icon.

Time Machine At Top of Desktop
Time Machine At Top of Desktop

It looks a bit like a clock with an anti clockwise arrow on it.

When you click on it you’ll see a menu.

Time Machine Backup Now
Time Machine Backup Now

Pick backup now from the menu.

And away Time Machine will go creating your backup.

Your first WD Elements Time Machine Backup

Your first backup may take a little while in preparation and in backing up.

Depending on how much you have to backup this could all take a couple of hours or more.

Time Machine prepares by working out what needs backing up in this backup.

The first backup is of everything.

And this could take a while. But it all happens in the background and you can carry on using your Mac while the backup happens.

Or you could leave it overnight.

Just leave your Mac plugged into power and your WD Elements drive connected up.

And by the morning it’ll be done.

All following backups to your WD Elements drive are of the things that changed since your last backup. And so backups after that you’ll find are much quicker.

WD Elements Flat

What will your WD Elements Portable Backup on Your Mac?

Everything. Your operating system, your programs, your music, photos, movies. Time Machine will backup anything that is on your Mac to your WD Elements drive.

Unless you go into Time Machine and say there are certain folders you want excluded.

And when you backup your iPhone, iPod or iPad to iTunes then they’ll be backed up by Time Machine too.

How do I know when my Mac’s WD Elements Time Machine Backup is finished?

Click on the Time Machine symbol at the top of your desktop.

I said checking this option would be useful for later.

It’ll tell you the progress of your backup. When it’s complete. And the date of the last backup you made.

You can also check on your desktop. The icon for your WD Elements drive will turn green when your backup is complete (depending on your Mac’s operation system version).

Remember to Eject your WD Element Drive After Your Time Machine Backup

Just remember, as you would if you were using a USB stick that you need to eject your WD Elements drive from your Mac.

Right Click to Eject
Right Click to Eject

Do this when your Time Machine backup is finished. You don’t want to risk corrupting your backup…

What are Your Options When you Use Your WD Elements with Time Machine?

Either you use your whole WD Elements portable drive for a Time Machine backup of your Mac.

Or if you have partitioned your larger 1TB, 2TB, 3TB or 4TB WD Elements drive into sections. You can use a Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system partition for your Time Machine Backup.

To do that you simply choose the partition name you want to use. You do that on the Time Machine pop up window where you choose your backup target.

How Much Space Do I need on my WD Elements for a Time Machine backup?

Ideally twice the amount you’re backing up.

If you have 400GB of files, documents etc, you’re using on your Mac’s internal drive. Then you’re going to need at least 800GB of space to backup to. Twice the amount of space you’re using. 

This is so that you can grow into your WD backup drive over time.

Formatting the Western Digital portable takes up space on the drive.

This means that your 1TB WD Elements is going to have less than 1TB of space for you to use.

But for your backup of your Mac’s 400GB of used space a 1TB WD Elements drive would be fine.

Can I Encrypt My Time Machine Backup on My WD Elements Drive?

Yes, you can encrypt your Time Machine backup with Time Machine.

On the screen where you pick your WD Elements backup drive. You’ll see a check box to encrypt. Once you select it Time Machine will encrypt your WD Elements back up. 

Last Words

And now you’ve learnt how to make a Time Machine backup with your WD Elements drive.  With a backup you’ll have taken a copy of your files, keeping them safe.

Best practice says you should have two backup’s just in case one fails.

So do consider buying another Elements drive to backup to.

And while you’re here you can have a look at my other articles all about your WD Elements drive.

WD Elements Review – What the Smart Mac Would Choose

WD Elements VS My Passport Which is Best for Your Mac?

Format WD Elements for Mac. How? In 7 Quick Steps

WD Elements Partition Mac, 6 Steps to Partition Fast

Format WD Elements for Mac and PC, Have your Drive for Both

WD Elements for Mac, Use on Mac, Lose the Issues

Other Resources:

Apple Support: Backup your Mac with Time Machine