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Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, Second Edition
Set up a rock-solid backup strategy so that you can restore quickly and completely, no matter what catastrophe arises.
Read along as backup guru Joe Kissell helps you understand the three components of a solid backup strategy, implement that strategy to meet your specific needs, and understand the hows and whys of what you are doing, taking you far beyond the limited security of turning on Time Machine or copying a few files to a flash drive or cloud service. You'll also find details on how to test your backup system and restore from backup. Whether you're running 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion, or 10.9 Mavericks you'll soon have a reliable, up-to-date backup system.
Bonus! The ebook includes money-saving coupons on ChronoSync, Data Backup 3, DollyDrive, QRecall, and Retrospect Desktop—see the FAQ tab below for details (and check out the Joe of Tech comic in the Contents & Intro tab!).
Mavericks reassurance: This book's publication date is a few months prior to the release of 10.9 Mavericks, but Joe says the book is good-to-go for Mavericks without an update. To read Joe's exact analysis, and learn just how minor the Mavericks changes are, click the Blog tab below.
Although the 201-page ebook is organized so you can start backing up without reading every page, the full ebook will teach you to:
Design a reliable backup system. If you’re developing a new backup system, you’ll learn how to make it not only thorough, ensuring that all your data is safe, but also easy to manage and appropriate for your situation. If you’re assessing an existing backup system, Joe discusses how to evaluate it and offers guidance for improving and modernizing it.
Talk like an expert. You'll learn the meaning of terms like “versioned backups,” "delta encoding," “push” and “pull” backups, “duplicates,” “server,” “client,” “incremental,” “hard link,” “mirroring,” and “snapshot.”
Choose backup software. Consider the pros and cons of Apple's free Time Machine and determine whether it's a good match for you—or if you should consider a different program with better features for your needs. You'll learn about 14 key features to look for in backup apps and find overviews and tips for 8 noteworthy products (an online appendix covers nearly 100 options), plus several suggestions for online backups. You'll also get Joe's recommendations to help you sort through the possibilities.
Shop for hardware. You'll discover the pros and cons of backup media options such as hard drives (with USB, FireWire, eSATA, or Thunderbolt interfaces—and with or without full-disk encryption), flash drives, optical media, tape drives, RAIDs, Drobo storage devices, Time Capsules, and NAS and SAN devices.
Operate Time Machine. Find out what goes on beneath Time Machine’s simple surface, and how best to make use of Apple’s built-in backup system, including how local snapshots work when your Time Machine volume isn’t available, and how to encrypt a Time Machine backup.
Make backups. No matter what backup software you decide to use, Joe provides a conceptual walk-through of the entire process, offering basic information for people who've never made a backup before and savvy, real-world suggestions for making the backup process as easy as possible.
Deal with special backup needs. You’ll learn what to do about certain kinds of data that may require special backup strategies, such as large media archives, frequently changing files that need special versioned backup treatment, and Windows files and volumes hosted on your Mac.
Manage your media. Diamonds may be forever, but backup devices are not. Disks fill up. They also wear out. Find advice for handling those realities.
Recover lost data. Use your backup to recover lost data successfully in the event of a hard disk crash or other calamity. After all, restoration is what's really important.
iPad & Kindle
About the Author
Joe Kissell has written numerous books about the Macintosh, including many popular Take Control ebooks. He's also Senior Editor of TidBITS and a Senior Contributor to Macworld, and previously spent ten years in the Mac software industry.
Reviews of Previous Editions
Table of Contents
Read Me First
The data on every Mac should be backed up to protect you against theft, hardware failure, user error, and other catastrophes. This book helps you design a sensible backup strategy, choose and configure the best backup hardware and software for your needs, and understand how to make your backups as painless as possible. This book was written by Joe Kissell, edited by Jeff Carlson, and publishing by TidBITS Publishing Inc.
Before we get started, check out the comic that our friends Nitrozac and Snaggy at the Joy of Tech made for us…it’s the Joe of Tech!
The first book I wrote about backups, back in 2004, was called Take Control of Mac OS X Backups. My goal was to help Mac users make sense of the complex and sometimes daunting topic of backing up and restoring data. That book, which turned out to be wildly popular, went through five editions and spun off a shorter title (Take Control of Easy Backups in Leopard, later renamed to Take Control of Easy Mac Backups). In 2011, I simplified things by creating a new book, Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, which incorporated the best of its predecessors while rearranging the material for easier reading.
Now, nearly two years later, it’s time for another fresh look at backups. As time goes on, I’m constantly reevaluating my approach to backups as well as the advice I give to others. Although my overall strategy has remained largely consistent, the ways I implement it have changed, and will surely change again. This new edition of Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac reflects my most recent thinking, and even if you already have a good backup system in place, you might find some ideas that will help you modernize and improve it.
One of the specific challenges I’ve always faced in keeping a topic like this up to date is that hardware, software, and online services are constantly in flux. For example, some of what I said about Time Machine in the days of Lion became obsolete when Mountain Lion was released. Hardware and software have been superseded by new products. Cloud services have appeared, disappeared, and changed.
Several years ago, in response to this problem, I moved a couple of appendixes from the book onto a Web page so that I could keep them current without making readers wait for a new version of the book. I’ve now realized that a few more portions of the book would benefit from the same treatment. So, what I now provide in certain spots is a brief summary along with a link to a Web page where you can see further details, which I’ll try to keep reasonably up to date. I’ve also pruned a few other portions of the book that have outlived their usefulness.
With those changes made, we have a modern approach to Mac backups that covers the bases but doesn’t overwhelm you with extraneous details. I explain how to develop and apply a solid backup strategy, make smart hardware and software choices, and restore your data if disaster strikes. Rather than explore every alternative exhaustively, I guide you gently but firmly into a fairly narrow set of options that should yield excellent results for the vast majority of Mac users.
Before we get started, however, I need to mention a few qualifications:
This book is primarily for people who need to back up either a single Mac or a small network—not for system administrators who need to back up dozens or hundreds of machines. As a result, I say little about the high-end equipment and enterprise-grade software used for backing up large networks.
I don’t cover command-line software such as
rsync. My goal is to make the process as simple as possible—ideally, without requiring you to open Terminal or know anything about Unix.
Although I provide basic guidance for performing backups with several popular programs, I can’t give foolproof, step-by-step instructions for setting up every backup program you might use. But by the end of this book, you should have enough information to determine, with the help of your software’s documentation, the preferences and settings needed to achieve your desired outcome.
To make this edition shorter and easier to read, I’ve included specific instructions only for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and later. Although much of this book applies generally to older versions of Mac OS X, I don’t spell out any differences. If you’re still running 10.5 Leopard or 10.6 Snow Leopard, you can download (for free) the previous edition, which covers those versions of Mac OS X: in Ebook Extras, follow the “access extras” link and then look in the blog. In addition, although I don’t cover Windows by itself, do see Windows Files and Volumes, which discusses backing up Windows when it’s running on your Mac.
You can read this book in any order, but I suggest that you start with Plan a Backup Strategy in order to understand the rationale behind the hardware, software, and setup advice I give later. Here are the components of a solid Mac OS X backup plan.
If you already have a backup system in place based on what you read in an earlier edition of this book (or one of its predecessors), begin by reading Reassess Your Backup Strategy to find out what’s new and which Factors to Reevaluate to determine whether any changes are in order.
Everyone else: Start at the beginning, with the Plan a Backup Strategy chapter. You’ll soon Understand Joe’s Basic Backup Strategy, which revolves around three key components: versioned backups (containing multiple copies of files as they existed at various points in time), a bootable duplicate (a complete, bootable copy of your hard disk), and offsite storage (in case something wipes out your Mac and the backup media sitting right next to it).
Figure out whether Time Machine is a good option for your needs, and if not, select a different program to perform versioned backups. Read Choose a Versioned Backup Program for a feature overview, and then either pick an option noted in Explore Backup Software Features or consult the Online Appendixes for details and sources.
Choose Backup Hardware—most likely a hard drive or two—to store your backups on (one of which may be inside a Time Capsule or similar device).
Learn how to Prepare Your Hard Drive with the right number and type of partitions and volume formats for the types of backups you want to do.
If you’ve chosen to use Time Machine for versioned backups, read Configure and Use Time Machine. Otherwise, consult Use Other Versioned Backup Software to learn how to configure a versioned backup and verify that you can retrieve stored files.
Make a bootable copy of your startup volume, schedule it for regular updates, and test it to make sure it works with the advice in Create a Bootable Duplicate.
One way or another, Store an Extra Backup Offsite—either by physically moving backup media or by signing up for an online backup service.
If your disk dies, your Mac is stolen, or an important file goes missing, don’t panic; read What to Do When Disaster Strikes.
After months or years of backing up your Mac, you may run out of space on your backup disks, or you may become concerned about the long-term viability of your backup media. Discover what to do about this in Manage Your Media.
Find out how to deal with backup needs that don’t fit neatly in the duplicate or versioned categories by reading Consider Special Backup Needs. As appropriate, read about Digital Photos, Dealing with Huge Volumes of Data, Backing Up a Small Network, Backing Up While on the Road, and Windows Files and Volumes.
It’s been nearly two years since the last update to this book, and a lot has changed in that time—a new version of OS X; many new or updated hardware, software, and online tools for backups; and, as always, further refinements in my thinking about how best to tackle backup problems. Here are the biggest changes in this edition:
Several chunks of content were moved to Online Appendixes (with summaries and pointers left in the book) so that I can more easily keep them up to date. In particular, most of the content for these topics has been moved to the Online Appendixes:
Alternative Hard Drive Options, including hardware-encrypted drives, driveless enclosures, portable drives, and NAS devices
Photo Sharing Services, which can serve as a backup of sorts for photos and videos
My table of backup software, which provides feature comparisons for nearly 100 Mac backup apps, remains in the Online Appendixes, and has been freshly updated with the latest facts—and a new, much prettier interface. I’ve also split online backup and storage services into a separate area of the appendixes for easier reading.
The erstwhile Retrospect Primer, which was formerly online and which covered the use of Retrospect Desktop 6.x, has been retired, since that version is now so far out of date.
Added a sidebar called Cloud Sync and File Restoration that covers ways in which syncing your data to the cloud using a service such as as Dropbox can simplify restoring backups.
Updated the sidebar Backing Up iTunes Store Purchases, and added the sidebar iTunes Match and Music Backups, to address Apple’s changing policies about re-downloading purchased media and the use of iTunes Match.
Thoroughly revised the chapter Reassess Your Backup Strategy to cover changes in hardware, software, online services, and the ways in which digital media is used.
Downgraded my previously enthusiastic endorsement of Time Machine by listing a number of problems that Apple seems reluctant to address; see Decide If Time Machine Is Right for You.
Changed my earlier term “sub-file updates” to the more common expression Delta Encoding.
Dropped Synk from the list of recommended apps for versioned backups (due to long-standing bugs and an extended period without updates), and added DollyDrive; see Choose Another Versioned Backup Program and Use Other Versioned Backup Software.
Combined two chapters from the previous edition (“Pick a Hard Drive” and “Consider Other Hardware Options”) into a new chapter called Choose Backup Hardware, which better covers newer technologies such as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt while dropping some material and moving other details to the Online Appendixes.
Trimmed the chapter Configure and Use Time Machine to remove seldom-needed details and outdated instructions, while adding information about newer features, such as multiple destination disks in Mountain Lion and the Power Nap feature for certain notebook Mac models.
Updated the chapter Create a Bootable Duplicate to include cloning a Recovery HD partition and revised instructions for how to Create a Duplicate with Carbon Copy Cloner, as well as new sidebars: Perform a Safe Boot and Running Backups from a Duplicate.
Added a topic called Think about Long-Term Archive Storage, which discusses the problem of data degradation over time.
Addressed the important matter of how privacy laws affect online backups; see the sidebar HIPAA and Cloud Backups.
Expanded the discussion of backing up data that’s normally stored only in cloud-based services to either local destinations or secondary cloud destinations; see Back Up Data from the Cloud.
Revised the discussion of how to Duplicate a Boot Camp Volume to cover the resurrected Winclone utility.
Added a chapter called Teach This Book about how you can use the contents of this book as the basis of a class or presentation.
At the back of the ebook, you'll find coupons for these deals:
ChronoSync: Save 25%. Regular price is $40, you pay $30.
Data Backup 3: Save 50% , List price is $49, you pay $24.50
DollyDrive: 20% off when you buy a new backup plan
QRecall: Save 40% on a QRecall Identity key. Regular price is $40, you pay $24. (Please request your coupon by June 30, 2014. You can apply it later.)
Retrospect Desktop: Save 25% on Retrospect Desktop (or Retrospect Desktop with ASM). Regular price is $119 (or $249), you pay $89.25 (or $186.75)
The coupons are located at the end of the ebook. Each coupon has a somewhat different redemption procedure. In general, examine the coupon itself to see if it has a coupon or promo code on it. After you click the link associated with the coupon, you may get a Web page with directions. Or, you may find that if you enter the cart that your discount is automatically applied. Or, in the cart, look carefully for a button, checkbox, or field where you can indicate that you have a code—and fill in the code.
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February 26, 2014 -- We have no special plans to update the book in the near future; see Joe's comments below about 10.9 Mavericks.
—Tonya J Engst
February 24, 2014 --
Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, 2nd Edition was published a few months before the release of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, and a number of people have asked whether the book is still up to date, or whether anything about Mavericks changes the backup story. The short answer is: The book is still fine. You can follow all the instructions in the book, even if you're running Mavericks.
However, a few facts have changed that you may want to be aware of:
I do have a (short) list of other topics I'd like to cover in more detail or clarify in some way in a future version of the book, but they aren't specific to Mavericks and also not particularly urgent. Very tentatively, I imagine I might update the book to version 2.1 after the next version of OS X (10.10?) is released, presumably late in 2014—but we'll have to see what changes Apple has in store for us and when.
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