I’m someone who has experience going through hard drive crash hell with my MacBook Pro. The last time it happened to me was in 2006 and it cost me several thousand dollars to recover most of my hard drive data. Soon after that happened, we wrote about how to backup your Mac intelligently so we could help other people avoid what I had to go through. Although that article is still relevant today, new services and software have come out that make backing up your Mac even easier.
A good backup plan involves having two copies of your data — one local and one offsite. A great plan involves having three copies! I’ll show you how to have either one.
1. External Drive + Time Machine
This first example is a no brainer. If you’re running the latest version of Mac OS X, then you already have Time Machine. All you need is a FireWire or USB 2.x external hard drive, which you then plug in (at least once a week) and you’re good to go. I recommend getting at least a 500GB hard drive. Having a bigger hard drive means you’ll be able to save more versions of your files, which means you’ll be able to recover files after they’ve been changed multiple times or were deleted a long time ago.
2. Online Backup with Backblaze
Online backups have finally come into being for the Mac. The first viable option was introduced by Mozy — a tool I’ve used for quite some time. However, a new service has emerged that is even better than Mozy called Backblaze.
Mozy throttles your upload connection, uses an unreasonable amount of resources, and can occasionally get in your face with application messages. On the other hand, Backblaze allows you to upload your files as fast as your connection will allow, appears to leave a very small footprint on your computer when it’s running, and runs completely in the background (I have yet to see a message pop up from it.)
Backblaze costs $5/mo (same as Mozy) and backs up everything quickly. When you download and install Backblaze, make sure you go into Preferences, click on the Settings button and turn the Throttle up (to the far right) in order to upload files quickly.
3. Online Backup with Carbon Copy Cloner + S3
This third option makes a good backup plan a great backup plan! This example is a little more time-consuming, but is one of the very best ways to truly backup your entire hard drive and have a secure offsite copy of it.
You will need an additional computer, like a Mac Pro, iMac or MacBook Pro, with enough hard drive space to save a copy of your laptop’s hard drive or an external hard drive.
Install Carbon Copy Cloner on the additional computer. Then, with your laptop turned off, connect both computers via FireWire. Turn on your laptop, but make sure you hold the “T” key when you do it. That will turn on FireWire target disk mode.
Once you see your laptop’s hard drive appear on the additional computer, open Carbon Copy Cloner and create a disk image of your hard drive. After you finish making the disk image, upload it to Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). You can easily do that by signing up for S3 with your Amazon account and uploading it using Transmit, which supports Amazon S3.
Doing this third backup step will ensure that your data is always backed up and restorable. However, if the third step is still too much for you to do, the first two steps will still do the trick just fine. With the availability of Time Machine and Backblaze, there’s really no reason why you should ever lose your data again.