In our internet and computer driven lives our entire livelihood could exists as a string of 1’s and 0’s on a computer’s hard drive. As much as I trust my mac to the full extent (which is more than I can say for the paperweight windows box next to it) I understand the importance of routine backups.
Our advice for customers before they leave a computer with us is to “back up your data” however we haven’t really discussed the methods on how to actually back up and restore your data. So, by popular demand here is a selection of the methods for backing up your data. There are several ways so forgive me if I miss some.
1. Hard Drive, DVD, or iDisk
In order to back up your data, you need something to copy it onto. My personal preference is an external firewire hard drive as you can make a copy of the entire drive without resorting to DVD’s. If you have a .mac account you can store your backup with the idisk which is an offsite storage solution hosted by apple. This I would suggest for routine backup as in case of emergency it is easier to get it off the firewire drive than a network drive.
2. Disk Utility
When you first load on all the software you want on your computer it is a good idea to make a backup from which to restore off of. There are two locations you can find the disk utility. One is in your Utilities folder (Shift-Apple-U) and the other is on your restore/install disc (insert disc, hold c until installer launches and it is under Utilities on the top bar). By clicking on the icon for your hard drive (in the left pane of disk utility) and hitting New Image you can save a backup of your entire drive onto your external disk. If in trouble you can open up disk utility, click on your hard drive and hit restore. It will ask for a source and a destination. The source is the disk image you originally made of the system and the destination is your hard drive.
3. Backup 3 / .Mac
If you have a .Mac account you can get Backup 3 which is included on your iDisk (~/Software/Apple Software/Backup for Mac OS X 10.3.9 or 10.4.2 or later). Backup 3 allows you to backup your home folder, personal data (like address book and iCal calendars), your iLife data, and even purchased music and video to an external device or disc. You can synchronize your bookmarks, mail, and contacts with .mac from your .mac preferences in system preferences.
If your purpose is to back up mail and calendar information one easy way is to sync the data onto a PDA or your iPod. Use the iSync utility in your applications folder to sync with an external device. Refer to http://www.apple.com/support/isync/ for compatible devices and troubleshooting.
5. Raid 1
One method used by businesses is creating a set of mirrored drives in a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). In Disk Utility you can select RAID and drag the disks you want part of it into the RAID set and by clicking mirrored RAID set you can have it so that every bit of data that is written on your hard drive is also written on the external drive. NOTE: this only prevents against loss of data from a hardware failure. If you accidentally delete your presentation for work it would be removed from the backup as well.
6. Third Party Backup Utilities
There are many freeware and commercial programs available for backup purposes but I have selected a couple to highlight. The main bonus for most of these programs is most have features that will automate backup depending on an user defined schedule.
-SuperDuper (Shirt Pocket Software: http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/)
This creates bootable clones of the system while providing more customization than CCC. Scheduled backups and enhanced restore functions make this attractive. Shareware.
-Carbon Copy Cloner (Bombich Software: http://www.bombich.com/software/ccc.html)
CCC is used to generate bootable copies of the system and includes things like automated synchronization between the source and the clone system. Some people have reported mixed reactions to it but it is still something to try. Test to see if you can boot off the cloned system before you rely on it. Shareware.
7. Terminal cmd Backup
Now, you may be a programmer or savvy enough with your mac to astound your friends. In light of that you should be aware that you can do all the work of the utilities listed above straight from your terminal. You can clone your system using the “ditto” command in the terminal. Far be it for me to go into depth here as it would ruin the surprise. Refer to this http://www.bombich.com/mactips/image.html for some info on the ditto command.
When in doubt, drag and drop.
This little saying I give to the person at the end of their rope. If the applications and methods listed above are not working yet you can either burn a CD/DVD or mount an external drive, drag and drop. Create a burn folder with documents, preferences, and essential personal information and burn it. Drag the folders to your external drive and do it that way. Some locations for important files:
Mail: ~/Library/Mail/ (this are the messages)
~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.mail.plist is the settings
Address book: ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.AddressBook.plist (you can use the address book backup in the program itself)
NOTE: If you are backing up the hard way… do NOT move the files, as that will interfere with normal operation of the system. Rather option-click and drag to generate a copy.
General article: http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=301239
Restoring your data:
Depending on how you backed up your data will tell you how to restore it as well. Disk Utility has a restore function, you can sync your local data from .mac, you can copy and paste the information or you can use programs like Superduper and CCC to restore it. My suggestion is to use the method that you did and then go from there.