Apr 27 2009
Mac Backup, Beyond .Mac Backup
Weâ€™ve all heard it over and over: you have to backup your data. You really do. Hard drives to not last forever and you have to prepare for the inevitable day when your drive fails. According to Scott Forstall, Appleâ€™s Vice President of Platform Experience, at last yearâ€™s WWDC, 74% of users do not backup their files and he admitted that he is among their number. Thatâ€™s pretty odd considering Apple makes a Backup utility calledâ€¦wellâ€¦Backup. Why is he not using the Backup solution offered by his own company?
Many people have beefs with Appleâ€™s Backup utility. The main beef being that itâ€™s only available to .Mac users which puts it $99 further out of reach for many people. The second problem is that the method it uses is confusing and offers you no assurance that you have really protected your dataâ€”the files youâ€™ve backed up arenâ€™t files anymore. Apple Backup says youâ€™re protected, but youâ€™re never really sure. And for $99 you should be sure.
Whatâ€™s the best backup solution? Well, the Sunday School answer is â€œthe one you actually doâ€? because even using Apple Backup is going to be more helpful in a data disaster than having no backup at all. So, if you decide not to follow the advice Iâ€™m about to give, at least implement some kind of backup regime. Seriously, itâ€™s important.
The backup solution that I recommend is one by Dave Nanian at Shirt Pocket Software called SuperDuper!
What Dave has done with this application is take a lot of the intimidation out of backup. All backup utilities offer you choices about how you would like to backup: do you want to backup the whole drive? or just you user folder? do you want to erase your backup each time and start over or do you want to merely adjust the last backup with the files that have been added, changed or deleted? Huh? Which is it!? What do you want to do!?! SuperDuper offers those options but explains every step of the way â€œWhatâ€™s going to happenâ€? Just read the messages on screen and the program will let you know what to expect.
I asked Dave about what his thinking was behind SuperDuper and he told me, â€œrather than engineer a solution for the minority, weâ€™re designing for the vast majority who want a program that makes a full, complete backup that they can understand and feel confident about. They donâ€™t need to do a lot of selecting: they just want to click a button and be reassured that their precious files have been taken care of, and that they can recover with a minimum of hassle and inconvenience.â€? I love that philosophy. Most people donâ€™t want to have to think too much about backup; itâ€™s a chore. Make it easy, or I wonâ€™t do it.
SuperDuper! is highly skilled at making bootable accessible backups of your entire drive. Itâ€™s just a matter of selecting the drive you want to backup, the drive you want to use to store the backed up files, the backup method you want to use and then you just click â€œCopy Now.â€?
The program comes with presets for backing up your whole hard drive or just backing up your user account. I recommend backing up your entire hard drive and creating a full bootable backup. In the event that your computerâ€™s hard drive dies and wonâ€™t allow you to even boot the machine to get at your email, much less your data, a bootable backup will give you a drive that you can boot your computer from and carry on with your life while you leisurely comparison shop for a replacement internal drive.
You may wonder how long a full backup of your entire system will take. Well, the first time, it could take well over an hour. But, using SuperDuper!â€™s Smart Update option, all future backups will only take is long as it requires for the program to determine which files have been created, changed or deleted since the last update and make them match on your backup drive. Smart is right!
There is also an option for making a â€œsandboxâ€? backup of your system. This feature is probably a bit advanced for some users but comes in handy if you want to be able to restore your system to the state it was in before you installed a flakey bit of shareware or a system update that you were better off without.
Start up SuperDuper! and you will be faced with a screen that starts with the word â€œCopyâ€¦â€? From the pulldown menu to the right, choose your boot drive if it isnâ€™t already selected.
So, now the screen reads â€œCopy your boot drive toâ€¦â€? Now, select your backup drive from the pulldown menu to the right of â€œto.â€? Simple. Itâ€™s like filling in the blanks.
Now the screen reads â€œCopy your boot drive to your back driveâ€? and on the next line â€œusingâ€¦â€? Now choose from the four Standard Scripts the method by which youâ€™d like to backup your drive. For our purposes, youâ€™ll want to stick to the ones that begin with â€œBackup – â€œ the â€œSandbox – â€œ scripts are a bit more advanced and you can read SuperDuper!â€™s User Manual for more information on those. For now select â€œBackup – all files.â€?
At this point you could just click â€œCopy Nowâ€? in the lower right corner, but instead click â€œOptionsâ€¦â€? and check the box beside â€œRepair permissions on your boot driveâ€?. This ensures that when you make the backup, your files are preserved with the correct permissions. Youâ€™ll also want to select â€œSmart Update your backup drive from your boot driveâ€? from under â€œDuring copyâ€?. This saves you time when backing up after that initial big backup has run.
Now click â€œScheduleâ€¦â€? and this will bring up SuperDuper!â€™s Scheduled Copies window and a sheet that will allow you to program SuperDuper! to automatically backup your boot disk everyday, any day, any time you like. Read the â€œWhatâ€™s going to happen?â€? at the bottom of this screen to make sure SuperDuper! is setup the way you want. Click â€œOKâ€? and close the Scheduled Copies window.
If youâ€™re ready to go, you can click â€œCopy Now.â€?
Then comes the question of how often you should back up. The answer to that question really depends on how drastically your system changes from day to day. If you donâ€™t do a lot with your computer, you could probably get away with backing up once a week.
Personally, I live on my computer. I have two regular backups I have scheduled to automatically occur during the night while Iâ€™m sleeping: one that runs every night and backs up the whole system and another that backs up the whole system every week. This gives me a few days to discover that I have lost a file before the next scheduled backup takes it away for good. It also gives me that extra level of protection in having multiple backups. (At work, I even have a third â€œjust in caseâ€? monthly backup.)
My official recommendation, start a daily backup routine. Go download and purchase SuperDuper! and every night make sure your computer is on and connected to your backup drive. Setup SuperDuper! to self-activate while youâ€™re asleep and backup your whole hard drive to that second drive. And, make sure itâ€™s a second driveâ€”if you only backup to a partition of your boot drive and it fails, you will have lost your data twice. Backup this way every night and be ready for data disasters when they come.