Backup ba­sics

A hand­ful of ex­ter­nal hard drives makes a great ba­sic back-up sys­tem for home users

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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.

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