Last night I noticed a new blue light peaking out from the top of my husband’s MacPro. It wasn’t the the blue light from the external hard drive I bought him just a few weeks ago.
This one came from a little pancake hard drive box with umpteen extra USB and FireWire ports. “Yet another Mac backup scheme for the geeky,” I thought. I was right. How many ways can Mac users find to back up Macs?
It’s an appropriate question. If you value the files stored on your Mac you need a good back up plan. Your hard drive will fail. Usually. Eventually. They must fail regularly because my husband seems to have a new hard drive every few months.
As it turns out, his newest toy (newer than the toy I gave him recently) is the NewerTech miniStack with a 1.5 terabyte hard drive inside. That’s 1,500 gigabytes.
“Honey, do you really need that much extra storage and back up for a MacPro? At last count your Mac already had three hard drives inside, plus the one I gave you.”
Apparently, this external drive is to be used to plug into my Mac in case something goes wrong with his Mac. You gotta like that about Macs and hard drives. Plug ‘em in here or there and they still work.
During my last visit to the big Apple Store here in San Francisco I noticed a few of the Apple associates recommending extra hard drives to newbie Mac customers. The store had half a dozen different brands and sizes of external hard drives available.
How much trouble you go to back up your Mac’s files depends on their value and how quickly you need to be up and running once your Mac’s hard drive decides to kick the bucket, buy the farm, exit ungraciously stage right.
The Apple Store associates were recommending a big hard drive and OS X’s Time Machine. That’s a start. We have an additional recommendation. Yes, it involves yet another external hard drive.
Clone your Mac. Time Machine, when it’s working well, is pretty much set it and forget it. Lose a file somewhere, check Time Machine, and it should be there, or, at least a recent iteration of said file.
That’s fine for finding lost files but not so fine when your Mac’s hard drive finally falls victim to the Mean Time Between Failure number assigned by the maker (hard drive maker, not God). My husband’s new hard drive has a 750,000 hour MTBF number.
Right. Uh huh. Sure. That’s 86 years. Half is 44 years. If the math escapes you, there is another way. Send in the Mac clones because Time Machine takes awhile to get your Mac up and running again.
So, get yet another external hard drive and clone your Mac’s hard drive with either SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner. Why? When your Mac’s drive dies in a few dozen years, you’ll be able to run your Mac’s files on another Mac just by plugging in the cloned hard drive.
Yes, there are a few other issues. Older Macs using PowerPC chips won’t run a hard drive cloned by an Intel Mac and vice versa.
Still, what you get is an extra layer of protection for not much money, time, or effort. My husband’s most recent hard drive cost a mere $150 for 1.5 terabytes. Lesser sizes cost much less. That’s cheap insurance.
That’s my basic recommendation for backing up your Mac’s files. Keep it simple, add some redundancy and flexibility. The only additional expense is for the hard drive.
You can make a back up procedure a lot more complex, and you may need to if your Mac’s files are really valuable to you. For example, business files may need to get backed up off site. That’s an extra layer of complexity for an extra layer of protection.
For most of us, a couple of hard drives, Time Machine and clone, will do the job. For paranoid geeky husband’s like mine, well, let me say I’m glad the MacPro doesn’t have 12 hard drive slots.