A handful of external hard drives makes a great basic back-up system for home users
The first rule of building a back-up routine is to make sure your original data and backups are not stored in the same place. Picture a scenario in which your house is flooded. How would you recover your photos if your Lightroom library and your backup were both on the same drive? You couldn’t.
Even the simplest setup needs to ensure two sets of data are kept far apart – at least in different parts of your house, but if you can, preferably in different buildings. You should also make a point of building back-up points into your weekly routine. Ideally you should back up every day, but this isn’t always practical and it’s easy to forget. Add an event to the OS X Calendar or Reminders apps to pop up an alert at least once a week, prompting you to back things up manually. You don’t need any specific software to create a backup. You can simply connect an external drive or use the SD slot in the iMac or MacBook Pro to attach a removable storage device and drag across the folders you want to secure, using Finder.
Make sure the pointer icon bears a ‘+’ in a green arrow before dropping the copied files onto the destination media to ensure they are duplicated rather than moved. (If this doesn’t appear, hold å while dragging.) If you have space, copy across your whole User folder. But if not then at least copy your Documents, Desktop and media folders.
It’s good practice to have more than one destination media and to rotate between them. So, if you can afford two or three inexpensive external drives label them so you can tell them apart and use them in sequence so you aren’t ever wiping out your only backup each week when you create a new one. You will also have incremental backups, by working this way, allowing you to reinstate files from different points in time. It’s a really cheap solution too. At the time of writing, scan.co.uk is selling 2TB Samsung 2.5-inch drives for £71 and Amazon is selling them for £64 with free delivery for Prime members).
Time Machine takes the pain out of backing up by running in the background.