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Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide
Jun 02, 2015
The Author

Joe Kissell has written many books about the Mac, including many popular Take Control ebooks. He’s also a contributing editor of TidBITS and a senior contributor to Macworld, and previously spent 10 years in the Mac software industry.

Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide

Develop a bulletproof strategy for backing up your Mac that will enable you to recover your data easily when disaster strikes.

Joe Kissell has been writing about Mac backups since 2004. In this latest title, he explains the three components of a solid backup strategy and helps you figure out the best way to adapt that strategy to your needs. You’ll learn the hows and whys of backing up your Mac, understand the benefits and limitations of Time Machine (as well as alternatives to it), and discover how elements like bootable clones and cloud storage may factor into your overall setup. You’ll also discover how to deal with unusual backup needs and restore your data in an emergency. This book covers 10.9 Mavericks and 10.10 Yosemite.

Hey, What’s This?
We can focus our attention on only so many books, so when our friend and longtime collaborator Joe Kissell proposed revisiting this topic and creating a new book on his own, we jumped at the chance to bring it to you. It’s his book, not ours, so it looks a little different, but the content is great.

More Info

This 202-page ebook is designed to help you jump right to the information you need, so you can get started with your backups without having to read the whole thing first. You’ll learn how to:

  • Design (or update) the ideal backup system. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll find all the information necessary to assemble a reliable and easy-to-use backup system. If you’re updating an existing system, you’ll learn about what’s new in hardware, software, and online services that might affect the way you back up your Mac in the future.

  • Choose backup software. Apple’s Time Machine, built into OS X, is both free and easy to use. But it’s not the best choice for everyone, and even if you do use Time Machine, you’ll certainly want to supplement it with other tools too. You’ll learn about the key features to look for when considering backup apps and find tips on using several popular tools. You’ll also discover the pros and cons of using cloud backup services, and get help choosing the right one. (An online appendix covers nearly 100 apps and services.)

  • Shop for hardware. For most users, hard drives make an excellent backup destination, but the range of options (sizes, interfaces, speeds, and more) can be bewildering. Joe helps you find the best backup hardware, whether it’s individual hard drives, RAIDs, Drobo storage devices, Time Capsules, or NAS devices.

  • Operate Time Machine. For readers who choose to use Time Machine, the book explains all its ins and outs. You’ll learn how to back up and restore individual files, application-specific data (such as contacts), and even an entire disk. You’ll also discover why and how to encrypt Time Machine backups and what to do if Time Machine misbehaves.

  • Make and maintain backups. Once you’ve selected hardware and software, you’ll need to know how to make your first backup, set up your backups to run unattended, and test them regularly to make sure they’re working as they should. This includes both versioned backups (which contain old file versions and deleted files) and bootable clones. And, you’ll learn about strategies for keeping extra backups offsite.

  • Deal with unusual backup needs. If you deal with exceptionally large files (such as audio and video files), spend a lot of time on the road away from your usual backup hardware, run Windows on your Mac, or rely on cloud services to store essential data, you’ll want to take extra (or different) steps to make sure everything is safely backed up.

  • Manage your media. What happens when a backup drive fills up, or becomes so old that you worry about its future reliability? What if you want to archive older files for posterity, but not necessarily maintain them as part of your daily backups? Joe explains how to deal with media management tasks such as these.

  • Recover lost data. Backing up data can be easy, but restoring it is often more challenging. When you discover that data is missing (whether due to a disk error, theft, or a simple mistake), you need to know the exact steps needed to recover it and get back to work as soon as possible.

What's New

This book is based on an earlier title of mine called Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, which was last updated in 2013 (and was itself based on previous titles going back as far as 2004). With the kind permission and cooperation of the folks at Take Control Ebooks, I’ve “adopted” that book and turned it into the one you’re now reading. The overall structure is nearly the same, but I’ve thoroughly updated the text so that it reflects the latest hardware, software, and online tools for backups, as well as my latest thinking about backup strategies. (And, of course, I’ve altered the look and feel of the book to reflect the Joe On Tech brand.)

  • If you’ve already read Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, you can think of this new book as being equivalent to a new edition. In this book I made thousands of small changes (mainly to reflect the changes in OS X 10.9 Mavericks and 10.10 Yosemite), along with several larger ones:

  • Added a discussion about using cloud syncing services such as Dropbox to supplement backups and simplify restoration; see Can Cloud Sync Simplify Backups?

  • Rewrote What’s New in the World of Mac Backups to cover the latest hardware, software, and cloud developments

  • Added a new topic describing a feature some backup apps have: Bootable Duplicates with Versioning

  • Expanded and updated the discussion of hard drive interfaces in Choose an Interface (or Several) to cover USB 3.1 (and the USB-C connector), Thunderbolt 2, and my revised recommendations for which interfaces are best

  • Updated Decide Whether to Buy a Time Capsule to cover Apple’s newest, 802.11ac models

  • Updated the chapter Configure and Use Time Machine to account for numerous small changes in Time Machine

  • Discussed whether and when you should create Duplicates of Non-Boot Volumes

  • Included a new sidebar about Finding Recently Backed-Up Files after restoring a bootable duplicate

  • Reworked much of the chapter about special backup needs, especially the topics Back Up Digital Photos and Back Up Data from the Cloud