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3 Simple Ways to Backup your Mac

Backups. A dreaded word because it is tedious and boring. You say it and people go fleeing in all directions plugging their ears. So what do you do? Below are a few ways in which can make your life just that little easyier.


1. How to do Manual Backups with Time Machine

By far the simplest way to backup your content is with the Mac’s Time Machine application that has been bundled with every Mac since Leopard was released in 2007. Time machine is designed to be very simple to use and nearly invisible. In fact, all you need to do is plug in an external drive and configure Time Machine to use it for backups. From then on, it makes hourly backups of the changes to your hard disk for the last 24 hours, consolidated daily backups for the last month, and weekly backups for everything older than that. Time Machine also features a very intuitive user interface that lets you zoom back in time to any date you want to restore individual files and folders from. Once your Time Machine disk is full, it starts deleting the very oldest weekly backups first to make more room.

Once Time Machine is up and running, there’s not really anything you need to do except let it continue its backups quietly running in the background. An important point to realise is that Time Machine doesn’t make an absolutely perfect copy of your hard disk – rather, it backups up your documents and files and the most important system files. It won’t let you boot from a backup disk either – in the event of a catastrophic failure you’ll need to boot from a Mac OS install disk if you have one (or Lion’s recovery partition) and then restore using your Time Machine disk. The process is fairly straightforward and will get you back up and running relatively quickly.

Here’s a quick rundown on the basics of Time Machine.

1. Open Time Machine (from the Dock, Applications folder or Spotlight) and enable it using the main slider on the left

Turn Time Machine on and configure its options

2. Hit Select Disk if you haven’t already been prompted (such as when you plug in a new external USB drive)

3. Choose the disk you want to use as your Time Machine disk, or setup a Time Capsule device then click Use Backup Disk

Choose the backup disk for Time Machine

4. Select Options to open additional Time Machine preferences, and choose any items that you want to exclude (normally the backup disk itself) as well as extra preferences to lock documents and whether to show Time Machine status in the menu bar

Choose the locations to exclude and other options

5. Now just sit back and let Time Machine do its magic. There’s nothing else you need to do until you want to restore a document from a backup, or completely restore your Mac’s files and applications on boot up. In the former case, open Finder and click on the Time Machine icon to open the list of files by date and time. Likewise in Mail, just click on the Time Machine icon and all the mail backups will be conveniently displayed


2. Mac Backups Made Easy with Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner is a powerful application that overcomes many of the limitations of Time Machine (for example, the relative lack of control over what’s backed up and its inability to exclude certain file types or files over a certain age). Carbon Copy Cloner is free software that relies on donations, so you can try it and see whether you like it first.

The advantages it has over Time Machine are:

• It creates a bootable backup of your hard drive for fast system recovery

• It uses an ordinary file system which can be browsed in Finder to find specific files

• It can backup to any drive attached to a Mac on the network

• It has more advanced scheduling and exclusion capabilities than Time Machine


3. Online Backup Solutions

There are several cloud-based backup solutions on the market, and while Apple’s own iCloud doesn’t yet allow full system backups to the cloud, it’s surely only a matter of time before more advanced functionality is available. In the meantime, several of the more popular solutions available today are detailed below. On the whole, online backup solutions are inexpensive and work well, but you may need a speedy Internet connection to use them to their fullest potential.


DropBox is an application that must be installed on your Mac, which provides online cloud-based file storage for all your content such as documents, music and movies – in fact anything that you want to keep safe online. Once the app is installed you can select the items to be backed up and synchronised, plus if you have an iOS or Android device you can access your content from there too (once you’ve installed the app), as well as designate shared folders that anyone can access.

The service is free for just 2 GB of storage, or $99 per year for 50 GB and the top tier is $199 per year for 100 GB – this amount should be more than enough to hold your most important files.


Backblaze is an extremely inexpensive online backup solution that provides unlimited storage for just £4 per month. Create an account, install the application and choose what you want to backup and when. Backblaze has lots of customisable options, and can exclude certain file types such as system files.


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