There are more ways to backup your Mac’s important files than ever before. The Mac360 guide covers everything from easy to difficult, cheap to expensive.
Do it right and save your files. Do it wrong and suffer. Don’t do it at all and suffer more.
Over the years we’ve all probably lost some files, some data on our computers. Perhaps we simply misplaced a file, couldn’t find it, and moved on.
Worse, some users have hard drives that go wonky and everything gets lost. That’s catastrophic for some Mac users.
Do you have a backup plan? What’s your backup plan? Extra hard drive? CDs? DVDs? Network drive? .Mac?
There are now more ways to backup your Mac’s important files than ever in the history of the Mac; Classic or OS X.
Regardless, if you don’t backup files regularly then you’re courting trouble. Hard drives die, sometimes without notice. Mac’s, as good as we like to think they are, occasionally fry themselves (or get fried) and need major repair, often with loss of important data.
Here’s how to tell if you need a backup plan. First, think of all that’s on your Mac that’s important to you. You’ve got 1,200 songs in iTunes. You’ve got 3,569 photos in iPhoto.
You’re working on two digital movies from the last birthday party and a friend’s wedding.
There’s that folder of Microsoft Word and Excel documents that you’ve had for nine years. It’s priceless. Add dozens of PowerPoint presentations from the past two jobs.
Are those files important to you?
How about email and addresses? Do you keep those in Mail and AddressBook? What happens to your day when you come in, turn on your Mac and nothing happens. Hard drive is dead. Mac is dead. You’re dead.
What’s your backup plan? Could you rebuild all your data in an hour?
No, I don’t want to sound alarmist but I’ve had my share of data losses and know how valuable all my files really are and how I’d feel if they all disappeared.
Short of having a winter home in the South and keeping two Macs fully synchronized and half a continent apart, there are plenty of ways to keep your Mac backed up and ready to run again when it decides to stop running.
Experience has taught me that there are two basic ways to backup your Mac (your mileage may vary, there may be other ways, but these are basics).
A full backup, or clone, of the Mac’s hard drive has become popular because it’s easy and often gets your Mac up and running quickly if there’s a main hard drive failure.
Also popular and perhaps equally important is a backup of important files; all iTunes music, all iPhoto files, all word processor documents, all Mail and addresses, and so on.
You’re in good shape if all your important files are backed up somewhere else. You can always get a new Mac if the house burns down. You can’t always replace your files.
The best backup procedures will include both methods. The first method gets you up and running quickly because it’s essentially a clone of your Mac’s hard drive. If it’s an external drive, you could always plug it in to a neighbor’s Mac.
The second method helps against catastrophic loss; your live near the airport and a jetliner decided to land on your house. It’s hurrican season and the 27th hurricane is heading your way.
Fortunately, there are plenty of Mac applications that will allow you to get up and running quickly, and save important data from catastrophic loss.
Here’s what I do to protect my Mac’s files.
By far, this is the easiest method to backup important files on your Mac. Get an extra hard drive, external Firewire or USB is preferred, launch the appropriate Mac application, and an hour later it’s cloned; a perfect copy.
Backing up again the next day takes only minutes as only the changed files need to get copied to the cloned hard drive.
It’s simple, easy, works well, and costs from nothing to not much.
For cloning Mac volumes, the following applications meet our seal (arf arf) of approval.
SuperDuper!. The free version clones well. Otherwise, the paid versions offers more options. It’s only lacking an automated scheduler.
Synchronize Pro has worked well for us and doubles as a file backup system between Macs and network hard drives. The company has a backup companion called Backup Simplicity that also clones a hard drive and has a scheduler. Neither product is inexpensive.
Also popular and effective at cloning and backing up select files is DejaVu. It installs as a System Preference and has a scheduler.
Among the free cloning applications is iBackup, now at version 4, though we’ve had trouble with preferences when using it.
There are plenty of Mac hard drive cloning applications: CopyCatX, Carbon Copy Cloner, and others.
The cloning applications simply make a full clone, or mirror of a second Mac hard drive. The good ones do it without a hitch and on a schedule, as needed. Then, should your original hard drive croak, die, stop, or get data pimples where there shouldn’t be any, you can simply startup your Mac from the other hard drive.
Backing up files is different. Let’s move to Page 2 for a list of these Mac applications…
Continued from Page 1…
Backing up files is not the same as cloning a Mac hard drive. When backing up files, you have more options, and potentially, more security because the files can be on a different Mac in a different location, stored on a hard drive away from your Mac.
My favorite Mac file backup application is by far ChronoSync by EconTech.
Not only does ChronoSync have a superb scheduler that’s easy to set, it will synchronize files between two Macs, a Mac and a hard drive, or between two hard drives.
ChronoSync doesn’t clone two hard drives. It synchronizes files between Macs and Macs, Macs and hard drives, even hard drives on a network far away.
Valuable files now won’t get lost during a catastrophic event. ChronoSync is simple to setup, but has plenty of features for complex backup routines, including email notification of errors, notification of success.
So far, we’ve never had a failure.
Dantz Retrospect is also popular among those backing up files between Macs and on network hard drives. Retrospect is more expensive but is a good choice, particularly in a business environment.
Another popular application for synchonized, scheduled backups is You Software’s You Synchronize. It’s feature laden and requires some setup, but works well on multiple Macs and a network environment.
As much as I hate to admit it, Synchronize Pro also does a good job of network backups; synchronizing data between a Mac and another Mac or hard drive on the network.
It’s expensive, feature laden (heavily so), and phones home.
Versions 1 and 2 of Apple’s .Mac utility Backup were not very stable. Backup 3 for .Mac is totally spongeworthy and has worked for me every time, even on nightly scheduled backups to my .Mac account.
Backup is available only for .Mac users but it has a built in scheduler, is very simple to set up, and can automatically sync Mail (everything), your Mac’s keychain of LoginIDs and Passwords, and nearly anything else.
I use Backup because it’s incremental, works every time (so far…) and is another way of storing important documents off site and away from a catastrophic problem in my home office.
Is this a comprehensive list of backup options for your Mac? No. There are plenty of freeware, shareware, and commercialware applications, most of which will do a good job.
I tend to voice an opinion on those I’ve used and that work well for me. Your mileage may vary.
What do you use for backup? Do you clone a Mac’s hard drive, synchronize select files with another Mac or external hard drive or network drive? Do you use DVDs and keep backups away from the office or home?
What’s your strategy? Share the wealth and enter your anonymous Comments below…