Here are the three methods of backing up data. Choose a style that suits your needs and an external hard drive to go with it. Time Machine, included starting with OS X 10.5 Leopard, is a great primary backup solution for most people. We strongly recommend using two of the methods below on two separate storage devices and keeping one backup in a separate location.
Simple Copy Backup - Just the Bare Basics
Simple Copy Backups are the simplest and quickest method. Just drag and copy your most important files to an external hard drive, a USB thumb drive, or a network drive. (You can’t drag your computer's entire hard drive to an external hard drive because it will create an alias to the drive instead of copying it.) Drag your entire user folder (Macintosh HD/Users/YourName) to grab the most important files. You don’t need any special software to do this.
Pros: This is the least expensive data backup method. External drives and USB thumb drives are easy to store off-site.
Cons: You may miss something important and you may forget to do it regularly.
If you are backing up your files by hand, don’t forget the following:
|Applications, music, or movies that you have downloaded||Keep and back up all the original installation files and disk images of files that you download.|
|Address Book data||Macintosh HD/Users/yourname/Library/Application Support/AddressBook|
|iCal data||Macintosh HD/Users/yourname/Library/Calendars|
|Mail data||Macintosh HD /Users/yourname/Library/Mail|
|Safari bookmarks||Macintosh HD/Users/yourname/Library/Safari|
|Firefox bookmarks||Macintosh HD/Users/yourname/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profile|
In Lion, the Macintosh HD/Users/YourName/Library folder is hidden. To access it, click on your desktop, select Go to Folder from the Go menu. Type “~/Library” into the resulting box. Then select the revealed Library folder and wait a few moments for it to load.
Complete Bootable Clone Backup - Made for Fast Recovery
Complete Bootable Clones are an exact copy of everything on your computer, created by using special software. Your Mac has invisible files that you cannot backup by hand. A bootable clone ensures that you have a copy of absolutely everything on your computer just in case. We’ve had good experiences with SuperDuper! for making bootable clones. Read our step-by-step instructions under How to Create a Bootable Clone Backup to set one up. Alternatively you can get our help setting up a backup solution for $39 at Tekserve (complimentary for Tekserve INsiders).
Pros: If you lose all your data to a thief or a hard drive crash, this backup is the fastest way to restore all your files and applications. A bootable clone can also be used to troubleshoot your Mac (especially useful if you’ve lost your system installation disc). Finally, a bootable clone can allow you to keep working if your Mac has to go in for a repair. You can use the bootable clone with any similar Mac and continue using your applications and files.
Cons: A clone is out of date almost as soon as it is made. You need to remember to periodically update the backup. This method also only backs up the current versions of your files, if you accidently deleted a file three months ago, you won’t find it on your backup.
Incremental Backup - Perfect for the Accident Prone
Incremental Backups make an initial full copy, then incrementally and automatically copies changes. Old files, even ones you have deleted, are kept around for a while. Time Machine automatically backs up your entire hard drive every hour. In rare cases if one back up increment becomes corrupted (incorrect) you may not be able to restore files created after that point. Which is why you should test your incremental backup periodically by trying to restore files. See "Time Machine: How do I start using it" to set it up. Alternatively you can get our help setting up a backup solution for $39 at Tekserve (complimentary for Tekserve INsiders).
Pros: Automatically backs up your work in progress, so you don’t need to think about it. Recovery of an individual file is very quick.
Cons: Requires lots of disk space to keep around so many versions of the same files. Recovery of an entire disk can take a while. Incremental backups are not appropriate for off-site backups.