edited September 2012 in The Toolbox
There are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost files to a hard drive failure, and those who will lose files to a hard drive failure.  I'm the first kind.  Here's what I currently do to protect myself:

I have Time Machine on my Mac configured to back up everything on it to an external hard drive.  (I'm not 100% sure, but I believe you can set it up to backup external drives too, but of course this requires two external drives, and the second one needs to be bigger than the other two combined.)

I use DropBox for whatever I'm working on right now.  I do this mostly for the convenience of being able to use my Mac or my TabletPC or my desktop at my day job, and always have the current version of the files, but it also provides backup copies.  Importantly (to me) if Dropbox went out of business tomorrow, I'd still have (multiple) copies of all my files, because they're mirrored on each machine.  And Time Machine gets those too.

For off-site backup, in case the house burns down, a couple times a year I take my Time Machine drive to my day job and swap it with another drive just like it, and lock it in my desk.  This won't protect me if the whole city gets nuked, and it won't get me files from three months ago if my house burns down, but... it's good enough.


  • In the past I've burned everything to DVD-R disks. My fiancé gave me her Iomega eGo external hard drive since she wasn't using it. It's an OLD external device, but so is my 2006 computer, so they were made for each other.

    I thought.

    I reformatted it and all was well, I only put comic files on it because I just don't trust external hard drives. Sure enough after a month it failed. It had internal errors all over it and Disk Utilty's only option was to reformat it again -- which meant erasing everything on it. It's my fault, of course. I'm still using this horse & buggy computer and even my iPhone (which I'm pecking this out on now) is ancient. 3GS.

    My fiancé has threatened more than once that she will buy me a new one, and I have said the same that I will buy a new one. I think this week that will happen. Plus, I need the tax write off.
  • Time Machine backs up hourly to a 2TB drive, Carbon Copy Cloner creates a bootable clone of the whole internal drive to a portable drive every morning. I assume two years life on any drive having been caught (badly) by thinking the damn things will go forever. At two years, I buy a new drive and relegate the old one to backing up the back ups for an extra layer of redundancy.
  • I do the same as Quest, minus the second external drive — Time Machine backups to an on-site drive, and Dropbox backups of all my work files to the cloud. When I have the money, I need to invest in a second external drive to back up to at my studio.
  • I back everything up on an external portable drive. I back family photos up on that and another computer and DVDs.

    I also print out every script and keep the current projects in my messenger bag so that, god forbid, I can grab it in an emergency,
  • I have a go-drive. I need to do a back up I guess. la-la-la.
  • I'm currently running a software data recovery program on the failed drive. It looks like I might be able to get stuff back. It's a HUGE data dump so running the program is taking a LONG time.
  • Fuck it, I just got the latest iMac and I'll work from there. I'll get a new external hard drive and also use Time Machine and burn DVDs. I'll set it up next week. It can sit in the box until I get all my files and data ready to transfer.

    Lessons learned.

    Maybe I can use the G5 iMac as a back up slave, too. There's not enough room on my desk for both, but I can network to it in another room.
  • Definitely hang onto the G5 until you're sure that all your software works on that newfangled Core processor and Mountain Lion OS.  (I have an ancient copy of Fontographer that will only run on my old G4, with a half-finished font based on my hand lettering.)
  • Okay, I really need to get off my ass.  Now that Five Weapons is put to bed I need to do the right thing and set up my archival / storage.  I purchased a Seagate 1 TB /BO so now I need to get off my good intentions and hook it up.

    And I guess... Time Machine, etc.
  • Jimmie, if you backup with Time Machine, all you have to do is select the drive and plug it in on a regular basis. That's it. Time Machine does everything else for you. There's basically no set-up required, and no effort on your part.

    Hook the damn thing up.
  • Hahah!  Will do.

    It has been sitting here for almost 2 weeks.
  • Hmm... I'm beginning to pick up a theme here.
  • edited June 2013
    Don't "plug it in on a regular basis" -- plug it in and LEAVE IT PLUGGED IN. Time Machine will then back up hourly -- the first time is a biggie because it has to do everything. After that, it's basically invisible, because the back-ups are incremental. TM will delete the oldest back-ups when it runs out of space, so the biggest damn drive you can find is the way to go. TM routinely rescues me from accidentally deleted/overwritten files.

    One thing you can't do with a TM back-up, though, is boot from it. I have a second drive, the same size as my internal drive, set to automatically back up once a day using (the free) CarbonCopyCloner. The second drive is portable and bus-powered -- I have the machine auto-boot before I get up in the morning; the scheduled back-up runs a few minutes later and the whole thing is done by the time I sit down at my desk.
  • Apologies. I'd forgotten that CarbonCopyCloner is no longer free and costs $40. The popular alternative SuperDuper costs $27.95, but I've never used that. Nonetheless, redundancy in back-ups is never a bad thing and a bootable back-up gives you the piece of mind that should be able to coax your machine back into some sort of life in most scenarios and, should your TM drive fail, you'll only ever lose 24hrs work.
  • I've been using ZipCloud, a service that backs everything up to a remote, cloud-based server. You can get unlimited capacity for under $10 a month, but you have to commit for an extended time. That way no matter what happens to your computer and hard drives (fire, theft, etc.) you have a complete backup. Of course this is in addition to the Time Machine backup. 
  • I'm looking into an off-site solution like CrashPlan at the moment, because fire/burglary is the one eventuality I'm still vulnerable to…
  • You're welcome! Thank you for not pointing out my idiotic piece/peace of mind typo! :-)
  • Don't "plug it in on a regular basis" -- plug it in and LEAVE IT PLUGGED IN.
    Jim's right — I was thinking you had a laptop, not a desktop!
  • After my computer crashed and burned, I only *wished* that I'd turned on Time Machine. All of my comics were safe (because they were first priority for back up) I had everything backed up except for one folder (which didn't back up properly) pictures folder. Which was a folder of all of my reference pictures and family pictures.
    Lesson learned.
    I now have a Mini-Mac server which has 2 internal drives and I also have an external drive, with near future plans on getting a second external drive.
    I use Drop Box for work that I am actively using so that I can spread it between my desktop and my laptop.
    But I really need to look into cloud storage.
  • edited June 2013
    Don't "plug it in on a regular basis" -- plug it in and LEAVE IT PLUGGED IN.
    Jim's right — I was thinking you had a laptop, not a desktop!
    If you have a MacBook, look into getting a Time Capsule.  It's a wireless access point (so you can use it in place of Linksys, Netgear, or whatever wifi box in your house) with a big hard drive built in which you can use with Time Machine.  So there's no need to "plug it in", and it can be shared by multiple Macs.  If you need to add space, you can plug in a larger external drive via USB.  The main down-side is that they're pricey, starting at $300 for 2TB.  There are also cheaper third-party devices that can be used the same way, but they're aren't supported by Apple, so they can take a little poking to make work.
  • One thing you can't do with a TM back-up, though, is boot from it.
    True, but if you have a Mac with a DVD drive and an OS X installation disc (how quaint) you can boot from that and restore from a Time Machine backup. I'm not sure how this works with the current crop of DVD-less Macs, but I assume there's a way of booting them and restoring from Time Machine too. Not as quick to get back in operation as having a complete bootable mirror of your hard drive (and it never hurts to have a second backup), but it serves the same function of a full system recovery.
  • Some post-DVD drive Macs come with a bootable flash drive. The newest ones, though, just have a bootable "Repair" partition you can boot from. Dunno how it works with restoring from Time Machine.

    Good tip on the Time Capsule! I'll think about getting one. The price tag's the only sticking point for me right now.
  • If they have bootable recovery partitions, that's all you should need: "restore from Time Machine" would be one of the options on it.

    I've had good luck buying refurb merchandise (mostly returned open-box units that can't be sold as new) from Apple's web site.
  • Most of my laptops from Apple have been refurbished — because they're a couple hundred bucks cheaper, and you can still buy the full AppleCare warranty.
  • The last time I had a serious issue with my Mac, it announced that there was no recovery partition and Internet Restore didn't work because the machine could see every wifi network on the street except my own. It's easy enough to make a bootable thumb drive copy of the OSX installer before you run it, which is what I now do!

    The bootable second back-up is less about it being bootable and more insurance against drive failure on the TM drive (which I've been caught by). CarbonCopyCloner gives the option to make the back-up bootable, so it seemed daft not to.
  • My Macbook is refurbished and I love it as if it were new. Of course, now I will be actively saving for a new refurbished MacBook as this one is coming up on being 7 years young.  :D
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