Backups, Time Machine, LaCie, and more

Yes, nothing to do with MINIs; move along if you’re looking for GBMINI … unless you don’t have backups of all your computer data!

Ever since I accidentally deleted all my email a few years ago, and even more so since a hard drive failure on a PC I owned, I’ve been slightly paranoid about backups. Unjustified perhaps, since really nothing on my computer is life threatening to lose …

Music (40GB)
I guess it’s theoretically all “backed up” on my iPod (though attempting to move music from one computer to another from the iPod was very unsuccessful – worst, I could re-encode it all from the original CDs – but that would take weeks!

Photos (40GB)
Many of my photos, arguably the “more wanted” ones, exist here on GBMINI, or over on MargaretAndIan, but they aren’t full resolution – I’d prefer not to lose the originals!

Videos (45GB)
Mostly un-edited, so I could pull them back off the original DV tapes (so long as those tapes are not too degraded)

Documents (<<1GB)
Very little data space – but stuff that couldn’t be re-created. Although I’m not sure how important the source code for a college project from the mid 80s, written in BCPL, is now …

Mail (1GB)
Arguably, I don’t have a backup for this – Gmail has the originals; though Apple Mail has an IMAP copy of everything, I’m not sure how easy it would be to restore to Gmail if the originals vanished! I imagine if the files disappeared from Gmail, then Apple Mail would mirror those deletions …

I no longer trust hard drives, so while a Time Machine backup is very good, a drive failure in the Time Capsule would be bad – so I use Time Machine with a LaCie 2big Network RAID drive! This arguably gives me three copies of my data, the original on my Mac, and copies on each of the two drives in the LaCie – the LaCie lives in the basement …


UPDATE 2017: most of this original discussion is out of date now so I’ve deleted it! My backups these days primarily rely on (a) multiple computers, (b) Apple Cloud backup of my photos & videos (which are the most important data I have), and (c) Dropbox for important documents.


4 thoughts on “Backups, Time Machine, LaCie, and more

  1. Hey Ian, great call on CrashPlan. I’ve been installing that on my customers Windows XP PCs for a few months with great results.

    When time machine starts to get too annoying or stop working for whatever reason (I’ve found it to be less than reliable for the most part), might I recommend SuperDuper? Besides being a great backup, it can create a bootable backup (if you are using a FireWire external drive) as well as perform incremental backups.

    While not as cool as Time Machine with it’s backup-to-the-minute, I’ve been using it since I started using Macs and have been nothing but happy with it.

    Also a fan of DropBox. But I mostly use it as an internet-based thumb drive when I need to have access to files on more than one machine.

  2. Thanks, DB … what I like (in theory) about Time Machine is that a brand new Apple computer can recreate itself from a Time Machine, presumably to be an exact copy of an older Apple.
    I expect Super Duper can’t do that trick?

  3. SuperDuper wouldn’t be able to do that from the installer, but you could boot the new Mac from from its CD and run SuperDuper to restore the backup of the old machine to the new Mac. Not an integrated experience, to be sure, but certainly do-able. You can also do the first-boot process on the new Mac and tell it to transfer over data from that hard drive, but I don’t know the extent of the data it will carry over (like system-wide apps in /Applications or device drivers; maybe, maybe not).

    I’m very happy with Time Machine. It hasn’t let me down (yet?). I’ve got several external drives from OWC, but I’ve had horrible luck with them over the last two years and I’m starting to look for alternatives. I’ve had a couple drives mechanisms go bad (not their fault), but the boards in the enclosures themselves seem to have a short half-life, and can be flaky. One external drive works fine, but will go to sleep and not wake up; if I power-cycle the enclosure, it’ll come back, but not without the warning from the OS that I disconnected the drive incorrectly.

  4. Sorry, just getting back to this.

    SuperDuper will allow you to create a **bootable** backup (again, with a Firewire drive) that you can use to bring your applications and all that back.

    As far as a full system restore, I don’t think it will do that. It might, but I haven’t had to yet so I’m not 100% sure what the process is. Sounds like something I need to do however!

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