Here’s what happens. Turn on your Mac. Nothing happens. Your hard drive died. What do you do?
How do you get back your digital photos, your iTunes Store music and TV shows, your email, your Quicken files, or any of the documents on your Mac?
The hard drive is dead and those files are gone. Studies have shown that most computer users, Mac or Windows, don’t back up their files.
From our early years online, back in the day when Mac360 was a simple Tera Jean Patricks opinion blog, we’ve preached the benefits of backing up your Mac’s files.
All that’s required is to think about what you’ll do when your Mac won’t start up. Reinstalling Mac OS X, a bunch of applications, even on a new hard drive, isn’t a huge challenge. A pain, yes. A challenge, no.
But what about those thousands of photos in iPhoto? How about the music in iTunes? If it’s CDs, just re-install. If they’re MP3s appropriated from, uh, well, elsewhere—then you’ll start over.
Even worse would be the loss of music, TV shows, or movies from the iTunes Store. Even worse than that is the loss of email messages and other documents.
To prevent that ugly sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach when your Mac’s hard drive starts pushing up digital daisies, you need a backup plan. The problem with back ups is there are so many from which to choose.
Most important is to have a plan and use it regularly; a plan which insures that you won’t lose any files in a hard drive crash and burn scenario.
Since there are so many backup plans you could choose, the costs can escalate rapidly. For example, are your files so valuable that you need off premise backups?
If so, now you have to figure how to copy files from your Mac to someplace else. Price and complexity can escalate. Look into Amazon for a dependable, affordable off site solution.
For the rest of us, all we’re worried about is what’s on the Mac right now, and having it duplicated on a different hard drive. If that’s the case for you, then the solution is simple, straightforward, inexpensive, and comes with a migration plan.
Migration plan? Yes, that’s a polite way of saying, “If you want to do more, this plan can do it, but it’ll cost you more.” It’s funny how much of that there is in life.
For the average Mac user there are a dozen backup applications available at no or little cost. Some are simple, some are complex, all will back up something, most of the time.
For the rest of us, and the Mac360 staff in particular, we keep it simple and dependable. SuperDuper! So far, this has been the most dependable, most accurate backup tool we’ve used and reviewed.
SuperDuper! also has the distinction of being able to compete with the more complex, feature-laden backup tools, and with those that are free. As the resident Value Vixen, I like free. I also like free that works.
Get an extra hard drive for your Mac (large enough to fully clone everything on your Mac’s current hard drive, then a little larger so you have room for more files). Hard drives are big and cheap these days.
Second, download SuperDuper! and use it to clone your Mac’s hard drive to the new external (or internal, if you’re using a tricked out, pimped up MacPro that costs $17,000). Except for the extra hard drive and the $17,000 Mac, SuperDuper! won’t cost you anything to clone a hard drive.
Finally, you have a plan and it works. What’s on your Mac’s hard drive is backed up to another hard drive. The backup is so good, that if your Mac’s internal drive dies, you should be able to start up your Mac using your newly cloned second hard drive. Try that on a Windows XP PC.
A backup of your files that’s fully bootable. How cool is that? Very cool, of course, because now you have a plan and it works, right? This is the 21st century and there’s always more of a plan than meets the eye.
SuperDuper! has a few other features besides simple and accurate cloning from one drive to another. As noted, backup plans can escalate in cost and complexity very fast. So, let’s give it a try. Cough up $27.95 for the full version of SuperDuper! Yes, it still clones perfectly, and if that’s all you need then save your money, but now SuperDuper! will do more than clone.
There are two additional options you will want and even Miss “I Only Use Free Software” Alexis paid just for these. Incremental backups, and Scheduled backups.
An incremental backup means that SuperDuper! doesn’t erase and then clone your Mac’s hard drive to the second hard drive. Incremental means it copies only those files which have changed and need to be backed up. That means faster backups. Much faster.
My Mac has one of those honker 500 gigabyte SATA drives inside, and a 500 gigabyte miniStack external hard drive from NewerTech, my favorite. You gotta love all those extra Firewire and USB ports.
It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to back up my Mac’s internal hard drive to the external drive.
It’s about five minutes if all I back up is the Home directory. Incremental backups are faster.
The second “must have” option is Scheduled backups in SuperDuper! Scheduling is as easy as clicking on the week of the month, the day of the week, and the time each day when you want the backup to start. Click the OK button and SuperDuper! takes it from there.
This whole process costs little and saves a lot, and may be the best value in backing up your Mac’s important files. There are other methods to employ, of course. Some are cheaper. Backing up on CDs or DVDs is easy, and they can be taken off premise for safe keeping.
Backing up some valuable files to a remote file storage system like Amazon S3 is a bit more expensive, but could save your files if your house or office burns down.
We’re not the only Mac oriented web site to tout the benefits of SuperDuper, though we may have been one of the first to point out just how good SD clones really are. Other sites, including our friends at LowEndMac, AppleMatters, MacZealots, Boing, Macworld, the AppleBlog, and many others love SD.
It’s time to share. What’s your Mac backup strategy and why? What tools do you use? Are you using a new Intel Mac with Parallels or BootCamp? How do you backup your Windows files? Share your experience in the Comments section below.