Sunday, January 11, 2009

How to Backup and Restore your Mac

For many people, having a hard disk failure on their Mac is tantamount to Armageddon; indeed, should such a tragedy occur without the protection of backup it would truly be the End of Days!

I have spoken in the past about routine backups and you should, at minimum, back up your data monthly regardless of whether your own a Mac or PC.

If you are looking for a good backup solution for your Mac, I strongly recommend the LaCie Rugged drives. The LaCie drives are small, portable, external drives, which, as their name implies, can withstand some wear and tear and moving around. The LaCie drives are Time Machine compatible and support multiple interfaces (USB 2.0, FireWire) as well as speeds up to 500GB.

While I would recommend using Time Machine for your backups, I will make mention that the software that comes with the LaCie drives, SilverKeeper, works pretty well. Of course, for those looking for alternatives to Time Machine and who may want a more robust backup solution than SilverKeeper, you can't go wrong with SuperDuper!

I know Time Capsule is a popular option for many; however, it would not easily fit into my current environment so I have not had the opportunity to test it out and provide any feedback. Of course, I would like to do so at some point. (Apple, are you listening?)

My best recommendation to you is to do your monthly (at least) backups with an external drive (such as the LaCie) using Time Machine (again, since I have not used Time Capsule I can't comment one way or the other about it). But, before you even do your first backup, the FIRST thing you need to do is make your external drive BOOTABLE by installing the Mac OS X installation DVD onto the drive.

When you are setting up the drive in Disk Utility, you need to make sure that you format the drive as "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" Make sure you choose the option with "Journaled." Also, you need to make sure you go into "Options" and choose GUID Partition scheme.

Once the drive is formatted and partitioned, you can verify the drive is bootable by restarting your Mac and then holding down the Option key as it boots. What this will do is present you with two (2) boot options, one being your current hard disk and the other being your external disk. Choose the external disk for your test.

You should now be prompted to choose a language, as this is the Mac OS X installation DVD. From here, you can now restore from a previous backup, such as a Time Machine backup stored on your external drive.

Depending on how often you do your backups, the amount of data you lose will be minimized proportionally. Of course, you may be that lucky person who does monthly backups and has their Mac crash the day after having done a backup, thus losing not even a day's worth of data. Or, you could be the one who does weekly backups and has their Mac crash the day before their next backup, thus losing 6 days of data! From what I have read about Time Capsule it does appear to be the "perfect" solution - after one really long, monstrous backup, your Mac is incrementally backed up every time it is on, wirelessly, seamlessly - without thinking about it! In practice, however, Time Capsule is not just a backup device it is a full-fledged wireless router and needs to be the PRIMARY wireless device in your environment for backups to work effectively. Further, while it does have 10/100/1000 ports to connect your LAN devices, it only has 3. You need to have 4 ports. If I get the chance to try Time Capsule I will write more.

Good luck with your backups!


At 9/22/2009 12:13:00 PM, Blogger Brad said...

I had to use a different method but it works out great to both backup and restore your mac quickly.


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