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Let OS X’s built-in back-up tools take the strain for pain-free, ef­fec­tive file se­cu­rity

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The built-in back-up tools in OS X – Ver­sions and Time Ma­chine – ab­solve you of all re­spon­si­bil­ity for se­cur­ing your files, be­cause once they’ve been set up they’ll keep run­ning in the back­ground when­ever your Mac is on.

Ver­sions saves in­cre­men­tal snapshots of any file you’re work­ing on in a Ver­sion­ssavvy ap­pli­ca­tion. Most bet­ter-sup­ported pro­duc­tiv­ity ap­pli­ca­tions on the App Store do this, and you’ll know if yours does by look­ing for Revert to... on the File menu. The fly-out linked from this en­try shows a se­ries of au­to­mat­i­cally gen­er­ated ver­sions for the doc­u­ment you’re work­ing on.

Rolling back

If you take your ed­its one step too far, you can roll them back to a pre­vi­ous state by se­lect­ing the last-known good po­si­tion from the menu or pick­ing Browse All Ver­sions... that lines up the cur­rent state along­side a se­ries of pre­vi­ous edi­tions, al­low­ing you to roll back and revert as nec­es­sary.

How­ever, even though Ver­sions is use­ful, it still isn’t an ad­e­quate re­place­ment for a ded­i­cated back-up rou­tine, as each ver­sion is saved on your Mac, along with the mas­ter, so a hard­ware prob­lem could wipe you out en­tirely.

Time Ma­chine, on the other hand, cre­ates ex­ter­nal back­ups of your data on an at­tached drive or a Net­work At­tached Stor­age (NAS) drive, keep­ing the fail­safes out­side of the drive on which the masters were cre­ated. It re­quires a Mac- (not Win­dows-) for­mat­ted drive. Connect the drive to your ma­chine, use Disk Util­ity to for­mat it as Mac OS Ex­tended (Jour­naled), if it isn’t al­ready, then open Sys­tem Pref­er­ences. Here, click Time Ma­chine, click the switch to en­able it and se­lect your drive as the backup des­ti­na­tion. If you want to work with a net­work drive (NAS), check the pack­ag­ing for com­pat­i­bil­ity as man­u­fac­tur­ers rou­tinely use this as a sell­ing point. Time Ma­chine will now run per­ma­nently in the back­ground, ini­tially copy­ing your sys­tem drive in its en­tirety and then cre­at­ing hourly back­ups of any file that has changed in the pre­vi­ous 60 min­utes.

App backup

Time Ma­chine also works na­tively with many OS X ap­pli­ca­tions, such as iPhoto/ Pho­tos for OS X and Con­tacts, al­low­ing you to re­in­state in­di­vid­ual records within their li­braries with­out rolling back the whole data­base. Just make sure the ap­pli­ca­tion is run­ning and has fo­cus be­fore step­ping into the Time Ma­chine ar­chive.

Du­pli­cat­ing data with Car­bon Copy Cloner is an easy first step into the world of back­ing up.

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