Thoughts on productivity,
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Backing up on the Mac

August 10, 2012  

Hard drives can and do break. As Katie Floyd said in episode number 8 of the podcast Mac Power Users: “every single hard drive will die, it’s just a matter of time”.

A hard drive is not an eternal, indestructible device. And because of that it will break someday. Therefore, it is important to back up the data. If your data is properly backed up, then hard drive failure goes from being a catastrophe to being a mere inconvenience.

I know, backing up is not a super exciting activity. I have never heard anyone say that they love to back up their stuff. It is boring and it can actually be quite hard if bad tools and techniques are used.

The good news is that backing up does not have to be hard. If you use the right tool(s) for the job, you can get it done with very little effort.

Automatic and regular backups

Backups should be created automatically. In other words, the data should be backed up even if you don’t remember that you need to back it up.

Backups should also be done regularly. If one waits too long between backups, a lot of data may be just one hard drive failure away from being lost.

I use a backup application called Time Machine, which has been included on the Mac since version Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Time Machine copies the operating system, the files and the apps to an external hard drive.

The beauty is that Time Machine backs up automatically and regularly. I use it with Time Capsule, which is a combined router and hard drive from Apple. Also convenient is that Time Machine can back up over Wi-Fi, so it is not necessary to connect the computer to the Time Capsule by using a wire.

You can find more information about Time Machine, including backup instructions for Time Capsule, on Apple’s web site:

Beyond the first backup

Since even a backup drive can break, it’s also a good idea to have more than one backup. One way to achieve this is to create a clone of the hard drive regularly by using an app such as SuperDuper.

In addition, it can be a good idea to have even another backup drive that is stored at a different place than your primary backup(s). That could for example be done by using a physical disk that is stored at a secure location or by using a remote backup service such as Mozy or Backblaze.

By having a backup that is stored on a different place, the data is better protected from hardware theft, fire and natural disasters.

Thanks to David Sparks and Katie Floyd, who host the podcast Mac Power Users, for educating me about backup (and a lot of other things) through the Mac Power Users podcast and for getting me to think more about this stuff. Without you, this post may not have been written. David Sparks, by the way, also has a good section about backup in his electronic book Paperless, which can be found in the iBookstore.