Your Mac isn’t invincible. Backup!

09Apr07

A Mac is an investment. Desktop and portable Macs cost a little more than the equivalent desktop PC clone or a laptop made in China or Taiwan (then again, what laptop isn’t made in China or Taiwan?). As Mac users, the added cost that we pay for our machines mean that we expect a quality product that runs right out of the box. In most cases our Macs run and does it job well. That does not mean things won’t go wrong though. Sitte happens, as they say, and you better be prepared for it.

Anybody who takes his or her data seriously should backup. Backing up is making a copy or copies of the data which you deem as very important. Financial records, documents, and photos are few examples. There are several options to backing up. Most computers sold these days have a CD writer. CD-R or CD-RWs are cheap but the disadvantage is they are limited to 650 to 700MB. You can opt to get a DVD writer and save to up to 4 GB worth of data. Dual-layer drives can save up to 8GB. You also have flash drives. Much faster but more prone to damage especially the cheap ones. For files that are not so large like documents or spreadsheets, you can get a Google Mail account and save your files online. I find this a convenient way to easily access some of my files. All I need is a computer and an internet connection. I don’t need to bother with CDs and flash drives. Of course, this is susceptible to power outages and internet interruptions like the one that happened last December.

The above methods are good if you have data with sizes from a few kilobytes to up to 8GB. But what if you want to save larger files sizes or more files? The best option would be for you to get an external hard drive. What you need is a hard drive enclosure with USB 2.0 or Firewire connection and a hard disk drive (HDD). You can choose between the 2.5 inch HDD used in laptops or the 3.5-inch HDD used in desktops. 3.5-inch are cheaper but the 2.5-inch is more portable. Hard drive enclosures are not so expensive these days. You can get one for less than 1,500 pesos. These are the ones with USB 2.0 connection. Those with Firewire can be more expensive. There’s a big debate on which one is faster: USB 2.0 or Firewire. I won’t go into that. I’ll just say that USB 2.0 works well enough for me.

You can get hard disk drives at various sizes: 100, 160, 250, or even up to 750 gigabytes. I really depends on your usage but in the meantime 160 or 250GB will be enough.

Backing up your computer’s data can be as easy as attaching the external hard drive and copying from the PC to the backup drive. That can be slow and tedious especially if you have a lot of files. The solution to that is to get a software that can do the job for you.

Before we go into that I’d like to mention that, generally, there are two ways to backup your data. Either you backup incrementally or make a copy of your entire hard drive.

Incremental backup means you make copies of files as you change them which in effect allows you to go back to previous versions of the files you were working on. Copying your entire HDD, also called cloning, will create an exact copy of your HDD. This exact copy can be used to restore your computer’s hard drive in case some happens to the HDD or the computer itself. Disadvantage to cloning is that it may require more space and you will only one copy of your files. You can’t go back to previous versions of your documents or the graphics you were editing.

Most software comes at a cost. This is to pay for the developers who worked on that product. But that is not to say there are free softwares or freeware that can do the job. It doesn’t have the fancy design and may lack certain features. More often than not though, the software has the basic functionalities that makes it worth your while.

Lifehacker.com features options in backing up your Mac with completely free backup software. You can choose between incremental backup or cloning your entire drive. I personally use Carbon Copy Cloner and my first attempt was successful. I have yet to back my drive again. Which reminds me, I have to do another backup tonight. I have 100GB of data on my iMac and I usually let Carbon Copy Cloner do its job while I’m asleep.

Some may find buying the external case and HDD pointless, an added expense. For me, the cost of getting a backup solution is worth it if it gives me peace of mind.

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