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#937: Backup Options, Advanced Backup, Flash Drives

 
     
 

Hello Fellow Tech Enthusiasts,

Here in the Service Department at Small Dog, we often have to deliver bad news about what has gone wrong with your computer and how much it will cost to fix. Hopefully, all of you out there have purchased AppleCare as it is the best extended warranty out there and will pay for all hardware failures (unless they are caused by accidental damage). What AppleCare can’t do, however, is get your data back in the case of a hard drive failure. See my picture on the left. If I lost this and the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of other photos of my kids, I would be devastated.

With that in mind, Erich and Kevin bring us two articles this week about backing up your data, followed by an article from Nate about his favorite USB flash drives, which is one possible place to store your backups.

Mike
michaeld@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Backup 101: Backup Options  
   
 

We talk a lot about the importance of backup, but we don’t always go into detail about how we back up. I will make an effort of detailing most of what I do. I make the conditional statement of “most of” because I dabble and experiment a lot and frequently forget about that cloud service that I signed up for, or this thing I did on some hard drive I tucked away a while back.

I’ve got a few core philosophies in relation to backup, the most influential being a fascination that keeps me trying new things and willing to spend a lot of time with some frustrating thing that I don’t really understand, and if I don’t learn anything and don’t make any progress, I’ve got a humbling story that helps keep me on even terms with all my non-obsessive/techie friends.

Another philosophy is one that I learned the hard way, many times, and have also learned again and again the way of the wise man – through the misfortune/loss of others – is that you can’t get it back when it’s too late. Backups are important. Backups are as important as your stuff is. If you can’t afford to lose your stuff, you can’t afford to not do a backup.
How much time and money and effort are worth investing into your backup? How much is your stuff worth? How much money did you spend on all your music, software, having some computer professional help you get it all set up? I know that days or weeks is probably a very conservative guess, and a few hundred bucks is probably well below the value of all your data if you’ve been using a computer for a few years. I probably spend a couple hours a month just sorting through all my files, trying to get them organized; a good backup preserves that organization and effort that I really don’t want to do again. My point is, spending some money and a fews hours learning how to backup and make it work for you is time well spent.

Another thing I can’t be clear enough on, is that nothing is 100% reliable. Everything fails, everything breaks, everything is subject to disaster. Having your data in a well diversified set of mediums that are all over the place geographically helps reduce risk. Computers fail and backups fail too. Put your important data somewhere else that you know you can get. Doesn’t matter how high tech it is or how good others say it is if you can’t understand it. What’s important with any backup is that you can get back to what you care about. If this means printing out your favorite digital pictures so you have a copy of them if your computer crashes, you still have that photo and can hold onto the memory. Same goes for a piece of writing. I’m not suggesting you print off tens of thousands of pages of every email you’ve ever gotten, but it might not be a bad idea if it’s some really important document that you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into for ages.

Now that I’ve made an effort to justify the following madness, I’ll get on with the actual methods…

The easiest and most recommended and cheapest backup method is to copy everything to a thumb drive / flash key / USB stick, USB drive (whatever you call it); one of those things you plug in to your computer and put stuff onto. CDs and DVDs are options, but they’re generally permanent, and are kinda slow compared to the USB drives, there’s also a more formal process where you need to finalize the contents before the disc starts to burn. If you’re moving the most critical stuff (generally some documents, maybe a few spreadsheets, and some photos and other digital keep sakes) it’s probably only a few gigabytes (GB) and might easily fit on these mediums. If you’ve got a lot digital photos they might not all fit into a USB drive with only a few GB, you can try this with many different USB drives, but it’s going to take a while, I’ve done it and there are easier ways. Putting the same stuff onto more than one USB drive isn’t a bad idea though.

The next easiest method is use an external HDD in the same way you would with a USB drive. Just click and drag and your files will be on this secondary storage device you’ve got plugged into your machine. You can keep everything organized with folders, just like on your Mac.

You can use also use an external HDD for a Time Machine backup. Time Machine is a program written by Apple that’s included in every version of Mac OS X from 10.5 Leopard, released in 2007. Time Machine copies every file on your computer to an external HDD, and makes different snapshots. It only copies the changes. Because of the redundancy of files, we recommend that a drive being used for a Time Machine backup is twice the capacity of the drive it’s backing up. If your Mac has a 1TB drive we recommend a 2TB HDD. It’s not a requirement, but it’ll give you that much longer before the drive fills up and starts deleting old backups to make space for the new.

Apple makes a device called the Time Capsule for use with their Time Machine backup software. The device is a wireless base station / router, the AirPort Extreme, with a hard drive built into it. If you already have a router that’s working perfectly, this might be a great, but expensive solution. I personally really like the Time Capsule, because it automatically backs up my MacBook if I’m using the wireless at home. Because that’s pretty much a given, I know I have an up to date backup.

There is even more that I do for my personal data, but I’ve set up both of my sisters with all of the above and regularly check to make sure they’re up to date, and I’m confident that this is a solid backup strategy for them.

 
   
     
  Backup 102: Formatting Your Drive for Time Machine  
   
 

If data loss is a concern of yours (and it should be) backing up your Mac to hard drive (HDD) is one of the most important things you can do. Although any HDD can fail at anytime, having a clone of your internal HDD to an external HDD lowers the chances by half. The more copies you have on separate devices, the less likely your data will be at risk.

The next step to backing up your mac after you’ve decided it is a good idea is to purchase an external hard drive (EHD). Most EHDs we sell come formatted for a PC, which will not work for your Mac. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sold and EHD to someone who comes into the store the next day stating the backup won’t work. In the next paragraph I will explain how to reformat your EHD so it can work with your mac and more specifically Time Machine.

Turn your Mac on and boot to the desktop. Plug in your EHD and open Disk Utility (in your Applications > Utilities folder). On the left hand side of Disk Utility select your new EHD and then click the Partition tab on the right hand side. Select 1 partition (or more if you desire), then name it in the name field, and select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for the format. Then click on the Options tab on the bottom and make sure GUID is selected. Once all those settings are complete, click apply. The EHD is now being partitioned and reformatted so that your Mac can read it. After the loading bar in the bottom right is done and the formatting is complete, a Time Machine window may pop up (depending on what OS you have) asking if you would like to use this EHD for a backup device. If this window does not pop up, you would just need to open Time Machine (in System Preferences) and back up manually.

It is important to note that most all new EHDs come preloaded with software for backing up. When you repartition it, Disk Utility will ask you if you want to erase all content on the EHD. Say yes as it is brand new and we don’t need it since your Mac already has Time Machine software built into the OS.

That’s it! Your new EHD is now ready to be used with your Mac.

 
   
     
  My Favorite Flash Drives  
   
 

One of the most handy tools for anyone in the IT field is the USB flash drive. My absolute favorite USB drives to use are the MIMOBOTS (pronounced MEE-mo-bots).

Launched in 2005 by Mimoco, MIMOBOTS are designer “toy” USB Flash Drives designed to look like famous people, cartoons and movie characters. The company provides a wide range of characters and capacties from 2GB to 64GB. Along with the flash drives they also produce portable power packs for charging your iPad or iPhone (known as MIMOPOWER) as well as other cool devices like a battery charger that looks like a mini light saber or a giant crayon.

Fun for all ages!

See our selection of MIMOBOTS here

 
   
     
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