Backup solutions for MacOSX?
February 23, 2006 2:10 AM   Subscribe

I've had my Powerbook G4 for just a touch under 3 years and i've aquired a healthy amount of personal files, photos, music, and work documents. Last night i had a scare with the drive, it failed to boot for the first time since i've had it. Feeling a tad twitchy about the reliability of my drive i ask: Is there a automated backup solution thats flexable enough for me...

After a check last night my User directory is 15.1gb, consisting mostly of my vast personal music collection, photos, and work documents. While the music is disposable (i could always re-rip it from CD) the photos and work documents are invaluable.

I've seen backup solutions like .Mac which can sync to a off-network server, write to CD, or another backup device. I would like to burn my current backup to DVD (a full backup, music included) then do a smallish backup to a off-site server (just work docs, maybe photos). The bandwidth requirements for doing a off-site backup would be huge, and with my broadband speed would take a week to backup 10gb. Incremental backups would be a god-send.

Help me store my data, before its too late...
posted by Nik_Doof to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Unless you're really intent on the 'off-site' part of off-site backup... you could just buy an external USB 2.0 or Firewire hard drive. Copy all your data over. Disconnect the drive and leave it on your desk until your next weekly backup. Make sure you unplug it when you're not using it...very little wear, and being unplugged is excellent protection against power surges. :-)

If you want to do it nightly, you could look into one of the little cheapie network-attached-storage units, like the Linksys NSLU2. It's just a tiny little $100 box that runs Linux and shares USB drives you plug in. On the network, it looks like a Windows server. Both your Mac and the NSLU2 run the same software(Samba) to talk to Windows, so they will be perfectly happy talking with one another.

I haven't looked into backup software on the Mac, but if all else fails, you could always write yourself a 10-line batch file to copy all your data once a night. That's ugly and slow, and it'll take a lot of space if you keep multiple backup runs, but it's very cheap. :)

You could also, of course, do both.... sync everything to a secondary drive and/or local network share, and then do a .MAC backup of the really _critical_ stuff. It's more hassle getting it set up, and you have the ongoing fee for storage, but it's a second layer of safety net in case something really bad happens.

As a general rule, as soon as you think you're having drive trouble, stop using the system until you can take a backup. Drives will often give you some warning before dying, so taking an immediate backup can save your butt.
posted by Malor at 3:21 AM on February 23, 2006

Oh, also... if you haven't kept your OS up to date.... the older versions of the Unix system utilities, like "tar", don't understand about resource forks. So backups you take with the standard Unixy system tools will fail dismally.

If you have the most recent version of OSX, you're fine, they updated all the utilities to speak resource-fork by default.

Even better, of course, would be if someone more knowledgeable chimes in with a good software recommendation. :)
posted by Malor at 3:26 AM on February 23, 2006

Best answer: One of the many reasons why I switched from using a Creative Labs Zen Xtra mp3 player over to a 60 GB, 5G iPod is the way OSX seamlessly mounts the iPod as an external drive. I use it in conjunction with ChronoSync, which is hands down the best and easiest backup software for the Mac that I've used (including Retrospect, DejaVu, iBackup, Apple's .Mac Backup util, rsync etc. For the average-to-semi-experienced user, ChronoSync absolutely wipes the floor with all of those packages).

It will automatically backup files/folders of your choice whenever you mount an external or network drive. It's a brilliant backup setup for a Powerbook if you're an avid iPod user, since you usually jack your iPod into your PB at least once a day for music syncing and/or charging, you can also be transparantly backing up your critical files (in my case, my Mail folder, iCal calendars and iBiz preferences and data files) without even thinking about it.

Since one of the biggest failure points in a laptop backup regimen is actually *remembering* to do the backup, i've found that a setup like ChronoSync's totally rocks for a lazy guy like me. Plus, it's really cheap consdering how powerful and useful it is.
posted by melorama at 4:25 AM on February 23, 2006

If you'd checked the very tags you used yourself, you'd find that questions very similar to yours have been asked and answered before.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:43 AM on February 23, 2006

There are, of course, many many ways to approach this. Here's one option:

Burn a DVD/s of all your ripped music (so you don't need to re-rip). Create a smart playlist of music ripped after this date so you can do an incremental backup just of your music.

Do the same with your photos. You don't say whether you use iTunes or not, but you can achieve this in the Finder as well with smart folders. You can take these DVDs and store them offsite, if you have a place for that. You'll need to remember to burn additional DVDs periodically, of course.

After that, you've just got your work folder, which may fit onto a thumb drive or whatever. Do nightly backups of that using any of the various backup utilities out there.
posted by adamrice at 7:11 AM on February 23, 2006

An iPod backup is certainly better than nothing, but I'm not sure it should be a primary choice for that application. The drives in iPods are nowhere near as robust as 'real' hard drives. They're designed for a limited duty cycle, and are exposed to shocks and stresses that desktop drives never see.

I think you'd be better off with an external drive... perhaps both a drive AND an iPod if you don't think you'll remember to do the backups as often as you should. A backup on a poor-quality drive is a lot better than a backup you forgot to do.
posted by Malor at 10:30 AM on February 23, 2006

I had a similar scare, and the folks at the Apple Store recommended I get an external drive and download the free CarbonCopyCloner software.

Get one that's twice the size of your G4's entire HD. Partition it in half. Use one half, and CCC, to make a (important) BOOTABLE clone of your entire hard drive. Everything.

If your computer breaks, connect that clone to any other Mac (or your present Mac if you're at home and you're afraid that the G4's HD is going to fail); Select it as the startup disk, and you're essentially back on your own system again, using a total copy of your HD.

If you use any backup software, choose the external as the drive to back up to - you're refreshing the clone with changes you've made since you made it. I had a dot-Mac account a while back, and I kept my copy of the Backup software CD that came with it, which does this. Maybe someone you know did too.

If you have no backup software, or your G4's HD does fail and you get it replaced with an updated system (old G4 was 10.2.8, new HD comes with 10.4 installed) and you're not sure you want to make the move yet, here's where the "get one twice the size" comes in.

No backup software that will copy just the updated files to your clone and leave the rest? Just clone once into external partition A, then next time you back up, clone to partition B. Next-next time, overwrite the older clone on A; next-next-next time overwrite B, lather, rinse, repeat. Cloning everything can take a while, but it can be worth it. But then again, so can getting some backup software that will just refresh the clone.

Worked great for me. And I use a big heavy desktop, so I like knowing that in case of fire, or cats with thumbs invading from outer space, I could just grab this book-sized thing and run free with a clone of my whole HD with all my settings, etc., not just some of my files on CDs.
posted by bartleby at 4:56 PM on February 23, 2006

I would recommend what other have - CCC and an external hard drive. Then change your internal hard drive. But if you don't have backups, don't put it off! They're not that expensive. I'm about to swap out my 26 month old AlBook hard drive, as soon as they start selling 160GB laptop drives in Australia.

If it's a Titanium Powerbook, you'll find it's pleasantly easy to change the hard drive - the instructions are in the back of the user manual. I once did it in 95% humidity on the floor of a youth hostel in Tokyo, but that's another story.

If it's an aluminium Powerbook, it's less fun. has instructions if you feel like it.
posted by theducks at 12:50 AM on February 24, 2006

SuperDuper is a program that is both easier to use & more powerful than CarbonCopyCloner.
posted by ManicExpressive at 5:57 AM on February 27, 2006

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