Backing Up Your Data

Although keeping a secure and updated operating system is important, that's not as important as maintaining an archive of your important data.

Even if you keep close tabs on your data, don't get overconfident about the safety of your files. One thing is certain (other than death and taxes, of course)your Mac will crash on occasion, just as any personal computer. When a program or computer crashes, it's possible one or more files on your computer's drive can be affected ( especially if you're working on a file when the computer locks up). Even though Mac OS X offers strong resistance to system ills, the world is unpredictable, and the potential for events ranging from simple human error to theft, make backups an important consideration.

Backup Strategies

Computers drive our daily lives. Nearly every business has a computer system of some sort , whether a personal computer or a large mainframe with huge boxes of electronics and disk drives . The systems aren't perfect, no matter how well you prepare for problems.

I don't want to be an alarmist, but it's very true that nothing is foolproof. If you want to create documents on your computer that you need to keep safe (from a newsletter to your personal financial information), you should take steps to make sure that you'll always be protected in case of trouble.

You can follow different types of backup techniques, depending on the kind of documents you're creating and how many of them there are. Here's a brief look at the sort of things you can do without having to buy extra software:

  • Back up only document files You already have copies of your programs on a CD. A complete packet of CDs came with your computer, containing all the software Apple installed on your computer. In addition, any new software you buy will also come on an installation disk of some sort. So the fastest backup method is just to concentrate on the documents you make with those programs.

  • Back up everything Even though you already have a separate copy of the software, it can be very time-consuming to restore all your software and redo special program settings. If you back up everything, however, it's easier to restore a program with your settings intact without fuss or bother. In addition, having a complete backup of your computer's drive is extra protection in case something happens to both the computer and software disks.

  • Incremental backups This technique requires special software (such as Retrospect or FWB's BackUp ToolKit, both of which are described later), but it is designed to make a backup strictly of the files that have changed since your last backup. A thorough backup plan might include a full backup at regular intervals, say once a week, and then a daily incremental backup. This method also takes a lot less time, and you won't need as much disk space to store it all.

Data Storage Options

Another part of your backup plan is deciding where and how to store the data you will be copying from your hard drive. The best method is to get a separate drive with media (disks) that you can remove. That way you can store the backups in a separate location for the ultimate in safekeeping. That's the method the big companies use.

Here are some storage options you should consider:


It's just not a good idea to back up your files to the same drive they were made on (such as your Mac's hard drive). If something should happen to that drive, or the entire computer, your backup would be gone.

  • Data CDs Many Macs come equipped with an optical drive that can make CDs. You can use this drive to copy your files to a CD/R or CD/RW disc (the latter is the one that's rewritable). This is a convenient and inexpensive way to copy your valuable data on a medium that will last for years . If you don't have a built-in CD burner on your Mac, no problem. There are plenty of low-cost external drives that can work from your computer's FireWire or USB ports (but of course the first will run much faster).


    Does your Mac have Apple's SuperDrive? If so, you can also burn data DVDs in the same way you make a CD. The advantage is that you can store much more data on the DVD4.7GB compared to 650MB or 700MB for a CD. Though DVDs are more expensive than CDs, if you have a well- populated hard drive this might be a good option.

  • External backup drive Iomega Jaz, Peerless, or Zip drives are convenient, and the drives and disks aren't too expensive (well, the Jaz and Peerless media aren't exactly cheap). There are also several varieties of tape drives that will work with backup software as a fairly stable backup medium.

  • Networked disks If your computer is on a network, a drive on another Mac (or actually even a Windows-based PC that's set up to handle Mac files) can be used for your regular backups. Before you set up a networked drive for this purpose, you'll want to set up a strategy with the folks who run the network. Some companies plan on having all files backed up to one drive or drives, and then they do their own special backup routine on those files.


    Notice, I'm not saying anything about floppy disks here. Unless you only make a few small files, floppy disks aren't practical, even though such drives are readily available at low cost. You'd need dozens of them at the minimum, and they just aren't as robust as the larger disk techniques. I cannot begin to tell you how many of my floppies have gone bad over time. No wonder Apple doesn't include standard floppy drives on its computers any more.

  • Internet backups If you have a good Internet connection and you don't want to back up a large number of files, you can use backup via the Internet. An easy way to get storage space is to sign up with Apple's .Mac program. As part of the package, you get 100MB of iDisk storage space at Apple's Web servers and you can buy extra space if you need it. Visit to sign up. However, unless you have really fast Internet access, the process of copying files to your iDisk can get mighty slow.


After you've set up a .Mac account, you can access your iDisk. Simply click the iDisk icon on the Finder's toolbar to connect to your disk. If you aren't connected to the Internet, the service will be dialed up first.

Here are some additional considerations related to storing backups of your data:

  • Careful labeling Make sure that your backup disks are carefully labeled according to date and content. If the label isn't large enough, you might want to prepare a short listing of contents in your word processor and then pack it with the disk. Often something such as "Backup for February 28, 2002" is sufficient.


    CDs and DVD media are write-once media, which means that when you burn one of these discs that's it unless, of course, you opt for CD/RW media, where you can rewrite data up to 1,000 times.

  • Reuse of media If you need to keep an older version of a file, you'll want to keep the backup in a safe place. When you no longer need a disk, however, there's no problem in putting it back into service for newer backups. Otherwise , you'll end up with a huge number of disks.

  • Rotation of media Although Jaz and Zip media are pretty solid, you'll want to reduce wear and tear by having several disks around. And, in case one backup file goes bad, having another recent one never hurts.

  • Making multiple backups If your files contain important data on them (financial or otherwise), make a second backup and store it in a secure location (such as a bank vault). In the unlikely event something happens to your home or office, you'll be protected.

There's one more important element in a backup plansetting a consistent schedule. It's a good idea to set aside a time to do your backup at regular intervalsperhaps at the end of your work day before leaving your office (or shutting down your computer if you're at home). Remember, it does no good to intend to backup your files if you never actually do it, so try to work out a system and a schedule that you can maintain over time.

Making Backup CDs


Mac OS X Finder makes writing a CD very similar to moving files to any other storage device. To make the process as simple as possible, Mac OS X stores applications, files, and folders in a special folder until you tell the system to burn the CD. Files are actually transferred to the CD media only after the burn starts.


To burn a CD using an external burner, you must have your CD writer connected and powered on. Check Apple's Web site for supported writers.

Of all the methods mentioned above for storing backup copies of your data, the simplest is burning a data CD. Here's how:


To choose Burn Disc from the File menu, the active Finder window must be the CD's window. If the CD is not the active window, the menu item will be disabled.

These are the steps to write your own data CD using the Finder:

  1. Insert a blank CD into the CD writer. The Mac OS X Finder prompts you to prepare the CD. This doesn't actually write anything to the CD yet, but it tells the computer what your intentions are for the disc in order to ensure that you use the appropriate kind of CD.

  2. Choose the Open Finder option from the Action pop-up menu. (We talked about burning from iTunes in Chapter 11, and we will look at burning CDs from a utility called Disk Copy later in this chapter.)

  3. Enter a name for the CD you're writing. The disc appears with this name on the desktop.

  4. Click the OK button to start using the CD on your system. An icon representing the CD appears on your desktop. At this point, you can interact with this virtual volume as you would any other under Mac OS X. You can copy files to it, delete files, and so on.

  5. When you create the CD layout you like, you can start the burn process by choosing Burn Disc from the File menu or by clicking the Burn toolbar shortcut. In addition, dragging the CD to the Trash also prompts burning to begin. This process takes a few minutes, and is tracked by the Finder much like a normal Copy operation.


    If you decide against writing the CD, you can click the Eject button in the CD burning dialog box to remove the media and erase the CD layout you created. If you want to insert a CD in the drive but don't want to prepare it (for use in another CD-burning application, such as iTunes), click Ignore rather than OK in the window that appears when you first insert a CD.

  6. Eject the backup media when you're done and put the disks in a safe place.

When the disc is done, eject it from the drive and put it a safe place. It's not a good idea to subject backup media to hot sunlight, high humidity, moisture, or extreme cold. If you live or work in a climate with temperature extremes, try to locate a cool, dark place (such as a metal closet) to put the backup disks.

Sams Teach Yourself Mac OS X Digital Media. All In One
Sams Teach Yourself Mac OS X Digital Media All In One
ISBN: 0672325322
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 349 © 2008-2017.
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