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 the important files you have on your Mac. The music you love. Those photos of the kids with Grandma. The spreadsheets you run your business with.

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

That’s where your WD Elements portable. Or WD Elements desktop drive comes in.

It’s a reasonable priced bit of kit. And you’ve heard you can backup your Mac with it.

So, you just need to know. How do I perform a backup with WD Elements on Time Machine?

And smoothly set it up for an Apple Time Machine backup.

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. Put a check in the Backup Up Automatically box for Time Machine.

3. Select Disk. Pick 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.


Can You Use Time Machine With WD Elements?

Yes, you can.

The first thing to do. After hooking your Elements hard disk up to your Mac, MacBook Pro or Air. Is use Disk Utility to format it as a Mac hard drive.

When delivered. Your WD Elements portable hard drive. Or WD Elements desktop drive is NTFS formatted for a Windows PC.

Your Mac computer can read the files on an NTFS drive. But can’t use it for a Time Machine drive. Not without you using Disk Utility to format first.

It only takes a few minutes and you’re done.

Before You Use Your WD Elements For Time Machine

When you format WD elements for Apple Time Machine. You format the Elements external drive as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.  And with a partition map as GUID.

But, since Mac OS Big Sur. You can also format an external drive as APFS (Apple File System). APFS was originally a file system made for a solid state drive.

But will now work on a hard disk drive. But only for a Mac running the operating system Big Sur or later. There’s no backwards compatibility.

If you’ve not yet used Disk Utility to format your Elements external drive. Go over to this article. “Format WD Elements for Mac. How? In 7 Quick Steps” – to learn how.

Got your Elements WD external hard drive formatted?

Great now we can start.

CLICK HERE: To Read A Review On WD Elements On Mac

WD Elements Mac How To Setup Time Machine

Your Mac’s operating system includes Time Machine. And it’s the usual backup software you use on a Mac to backup your files.

To use your Elements WD hard drive for a backup on your Mac:

1. Log Into Your Mac.

Plug in your formatted WD Elements drive into your iMac, MacBook Pro. Or MacBook Air’s USB port.

2. Your WD Elements Drive Will Show Up On Your Mac’s Desktop.

WD Elements Drive Icon

3. Start Up System Preferences.

Has your Mac asked you the question. ‘Use your WD Elements drive for Time Machine?’  If it has, say yes and jump down to step 4.

If it hasn’t.

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 1st Window

The first time you setup Time Machine for your WD Elements drive. Check the setting ‘Back Up Automatically’.

Click on the check box for Time Machine to backup automatically.

This way whenever you plug in your WD Elements drive. After a few minutes 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 Mac backup.

Then click on ‘Select Backup Disk’.

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

5. Pick Your WD Elements Disk As The Backup 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 Pick 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 arrows in the picture show you where.

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

WD Elements And Time Machine YouTube Video

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

How to Backup Your Mac With WD Storage and Time Machine

Video Credit: WD

WD Elements Backup Mac Now

Want to start a Mac backup right now? 

To backup now to your WD Elements drive.

Look at the top of your Mac’s desktop 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

Pick backup now from the menu.

And away Time Machine will go creating your backup right now.

Your First Backup: WD Elements With Time Machine

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

Depending on how many files you have to backup. This could all take a couple of hours or more.

Time Machine prepares by working out what needs backing up.

The first backup is of everything. All your files.

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 computer plugged into power. And your WD Elements drive connected up.

And by the morning it’ll be done.

All the 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 Backup On Your Mac?

Your programs, your music, photos, movies and files. Time Machine will backup everything except your Mac OS. Since the Mac OS x Catalina you use Mac Recovery mode to restore your OS.

Anything else including your OS settings is backed up to your WD Elements drive.

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

And when you backup your iPhone, iPod or iPad to your Mac. Then they get backed up by Time Machine too.

How Do I Know When My Files Backup To My WD Elements Is Done?

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.)

Eject Your WD Element Drive After Your Backup

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

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

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 hard 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 Storage Space Do I Need On My WD Elements For A 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 your Elements external drive takes space on your drive.

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

For your backup of a Mac with 400GB of used space a 1TB WD Elements drive would be fine.

Can I Encrypt My Mac Data In The Backup On My WD Elements Drive?

Yes, you can encrypt your backup. The Time Machine backup software let’s you set that option.

You can set this up on the screen where you pick your WD Elements backup disk. You’ll see a check box to encrypt. Once you select the box, you enter a password for your backup.

Then, Time Machine will encrypt your WD Elements back up. 

In Closing

And now you’ve learnt how to make a Time Machine backup with your WD Elements drive.  All Mac users should have a backup copy of their 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.

Related Articles

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

WD My Passport Time Machine (Set Up, How To Use And More)

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

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