Official Backup FAQ or Start Backing Up Now!

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Why you should backup

Hard drives die. Computers are lost or stolen. Water damage. Accidental deletion a file or program. Power surge fries your electronics. Natural disasters. System restores and clean installs.

Those are just a few reasons why backups are important and should not be considered optional. If you own a computer, you should be backing up. Just think about all the important memories and files you have stored on your machine. If they suddenly disappeared how would you feel?

Spending a little money and an even smaller amount of time creating a backup regiment will save you headache and offer peace of mind and security.

There are three types of backups for that most Mac users consider. You can use any one of them and be better off than nothing, and you can also use all three for the best protection.

External Drive Solutions

The first two solutions require the use of an external hard drive. You can find a good selection and compare prices and reviews at Amazon.com.

Rule of thumb for size is that you want your drive or partition to be 2X the size of your drive for Time Machine and for a clone backup, the drive or partition can be of equal size to your hard drive. Use that to help determine the overall size of the drive once you decide on a backup approach.

New with Lion: We highly recommend using encrypted external drives for your backups to increase the security of your data in case the drive is ever lost or stolen. Read how to do this now. (Note, the drive must be formatted with a GUID Partition Table or GPT)

Time Machine

Beginning with Leopard (OS X 10.5) Apple included a built-in backup utility called Time Machine. Time Machine is an incremental backup solution, this means that at specified times OS X will backup any file changes to your Time Machine drive. This saves space and keeps multiple versions of the file snapshot available to you.

This is the easiest backup solution and should be one of the first things you do when you get a Mac.

More information on Time Machine, setting it up, and how it works can be found here:

Clone or System Imaging

Clone or system imaging backups are point-in-time backups that are exact mirrors of your system at the moment the backup is done.

While it's not as flexible nor does it have the multiple versions like Time Machine, the one main advantage of this type of backup is that the drive is bootable. This means you could boot your Mac off this drive if your internal drive won't boot.

Many of our members use this as a secondary backup to their Time Machine. How often you choose to take this image is up to you and depends on the rest of your backup setup and risk tolerance.

There are two great pieces of software to accomplish a clone backup:

Cloud or Remote Backup Solutions

An often overlooked type of backup are remote or cloud backup solutions. While external drives are the first line of defense, what happens if there's a disaster that destroys both your computer and external drive, what if they're both stolen, what if you somehow lose both? Are you prepared to lose all your important files and memories?

There are cloud services available for a small monthly fee that allow you to backup the contents of your computer to a cloud-based storage solution, often for less than the cost of one Starbucks latte a month.

The backups are encrypted, sent to the cloud, and stored encrypted on their servers. It's a very secure process.

We highly recommend BackBlaze which allows unlimited cloud storage for as little as $3.96 per month and it is also very Mac friendly.

Last edited: 07.29.2011
Original thread: http://www.mac-forums.com/forums/switcher-hangout/196606-backups-backups-backups.html
 

RavingMac

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Excellent post!
Thanks Scweb.

EDIT: Just noticed this is post number 2001 for me, and I guess in a way backups can be a Space Odyssey . . . ;)
 
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Excellent post!
Thanks Scweb.

Thanks, but I also owe some gratitude for mcbie for the original thread which we used as the basis for this update!
 
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Thanks a bunch for that, Schweb. As a new Mac user, it is valuble info.

I've been using TM writing to an external HD and Carbonite, but think I'll add clone image capability with "Super Duper" or "Carbon Copy Cloner".
 
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Schweb,

Can the external drive containing Time Machine backups also be encrypted using the procedure described in the link you provide. If so, are there any precautions or caveats? Will you be prompted for a password every time Time Machine kicks in if you are backing up to a Time Capsule wirelessly?

Thanks.

Mark
 
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Schweb,

Can the external drive containing Time Machine backups also be encrypted using the procedure described in the link you provide. If so, are there any precautions or caveats? Will you be prompted for a password every time Time Machine kicks in if you are backing up to a Time Capsule wirelessly?

Thanks.

Mark

You can encrypt the TM backup disk the same way, there's actually a preference for it when you select your drive in the TM setup preferences (as long as the drive was partitioned using a GUID Partition Table).

The password you create is stored in the keychain so you won't need to enter it each time unless you choose not to store it.

The only caveat is if for some reason you ever lose or forget your password, getting to your data will be next to impossible. Also, to encrypt an existing TM drive would mean formatting the drive first so you'll lose your previous TM backups.
 
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You can encrypt the TM backup disk the same way, there's actually a preference for it when you select your drive in the TM setup preferences (as long as the drive was partitioned using a GUID Partition Table).

The password you create is stored in the keychain so you won't need to enter it each time unless you choose not to store it.

The only caveat is if for some reason you ever lose or forget your password, getting to your data will be next to impossible. Also, to encrypt an existing TM drive would mean formatting the drive first so you'll lose your previous TM backups.

Thanks, most helpful.

Mark
 
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Thanks, most helpful.

Mark

No problem. I actually store backup copies of my encrypted drive passwords in 1Password just in case or you could also create a secure note in Keychain Access as a backup also just to be safe.
 
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I actually store backup copies of my encrypted drive passwords in 1Password just in case or you could also create a secure note in Keychain Access as a backup also just to be safe.

Good point. I already use 1Password so will go that route.

Mark
 

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Excellent job.

Just for interest Disk Utility can also clone your hard drive. Unlike SuperDuper or carbon Copy Cloner do incremental cloning. It runs the full process each time.

Edit: No matter which cloning program you use I suggest booting from the clone at least once when it's complete just to make sure everything is working and you can log in. Had a clone fail once. I didn't know that till I needed the clone and could not log in to any of the accounts.
 

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Excellent Schweb. If I can think of anything to add, will let you know, but you covered it all from what I can see.
 
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I agree, excellent job schweb!!

Edit: No matter which cloning program you use I suggest booting from the clone at least once when it's complete just to make sure everything is working and you can log in. Had a clone fail once. I didn't know that till I needed the clone and could not log in to any of the accounts.

I would add that, in addition to DR (disaster recovery) testing your clones, you may want to occasionally test a simple file restore from your time machine backup. I do this, occasionally, with a small text file.

BTW, as an aside... my TM backup from 10.6 became corrupted after my move to 10.7. When I moved back, since it was deleted during the subsequent backup, I could not restore from TM. I could, however, restore almost everything I actually NEEDED manually since you can mount the sparsebundle as a disk image. Yay for backups!
 
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Backing up with external drive.

Just bought a GoFlex external HD by Seagate.
Plugged it in and can't seem to get the copied iTunes Library to Paste onto the drive.
I have a MacBook, OS 10.5.8.
Any suggestions would be great!
Thanks!
sdamato
 

RavingMac

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Just bought a GoFlex external HD by Seagate.
Plugged it in and can't seem to get the copied iTunes Library to Paste onto the drive.
I have a MacBook, OS 10.5.8.
Any suggestions would be great!
Thanks!
sdamato

Need a little more info.
First of all did you format the HD first in Disk Utility to Mac OS Extended Journaled? If it is pre formatted to NTFS (windows) you won't be able to write to the drive.
 
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Hi I've tried to upgrade my Macbook Pro's internal hard drive which is 160GB (Hitachi) to 750GB (Western Digital). I'm having issues cloning the existing drive as I've tried using Super Duper and Carbon Copy Cloner.
Both appear to work perfectly and allow me to boot using an Iomax USB 2.0 adapter (to see if it works). However once I replace the hard drive it will not work at all and the question mark folder appears.
I've checked the connection and the old hard drive works fine so it's doesn't seem to be a connection issue.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong so any help would be greatly appreciated.
 
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Do I need a clone image?

Hi,

Thanks for the fine essay on backing up a Mac.

I have a MacBook Pro running Leopard. I use time machine, and I have a bootable disk that came with my MacBook. Is there any reason for me to make a clone image? I'm not worried about the trouble of doing it; when I've used Windows it's been regular maintenance. I'm just wondering if there's any advantage.

Good luck, Dan S
 
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Having a bootable clone on an external disk can be a life saver.
You can restore your Mac much faster if your hard drive fails and you can boot from your clone and continue working whilst you wait for a new hard drive.

Cheers ... McBie
 

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Nice find as usual. Tried to give a rep bump but apparently you were the last pErson I gave rep to.
 
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My Mac has a lot of expensive professional apps installed by the previous owner that I do not have the discs for. Is it possible for me to copy the apps to my external hard drive or to a disc image before I do a clean install?

I would like to do a clean install because some of the settings (including his email that's still synched to the App Store and I don't have his password to update the apps) are still present on the computer and I would like to remove that.

If moving the apps to a disc or hard drive isn't possible, does anyone know of another way? Thanks.
 
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