Despite Macbook laptops being extremely reliable, every once in a while an accident happens or there is a hardware failure that takes out your hard drive, leaving you wishing you had a backup.
Here are a couple of ways you can backup your Mac’s hard drive or solid state disk.
External Hard Drive
External hard drives can be used to store additional files, or they can be used as a backup drive. While I previously described how to buy and use a hard drive for external storage, in this article, I will go over how to setup Time Machine on the HDD to backup your Mac.
Purchase an External Drive
First, you must have an external drive you are willing to use for a backup. Because Time Machine uses HFS+ drives to backup your Mac, you will want an entirely blank HDD or a hard drive you do not mind wiping. Though you can use Time Machine with a dual (or triple, or more) partitioned disk, we will go through formatting the entire drive and using a single partition.
If you don’t have one, you can purchase a hard drive at low cost ($50-150).
Setup the Hard Drive
First, plug in the hard drive. On your Mac, open the app called “Disk Utility” under the Utilities folder in your Applications.
Find the hard drive in the list on the left. Make sure it is your external hard drive you see– if you accidentally format the wrong hard drive (like, say, your internal drive, though Mac OS X prevents you from doing that to your primary drive), things will get very bad.
Double check the drive you see and ensure it’s your external drive.
Click on the drive on the left hand side, and then click the “Erase” tab that appeared at the top of the right hand pane.
Change the format to “Mac OS Extended (Journaled),” name the drive (for example, “Backup Drive”), and hit erase.
Once the erase is complete, you can now use your hard drive with Time Machine.
Alternatively, if Time Machine asks, “Do you want to use [XXXX] to back up with Time Machine,” you can hit “Use as Backup Disk” to immediately setup the backup. As Apple says:
That’s all you have to do for Time Machine to automatically backup your Mac. Time Machine keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups until your backup drive is full.
That’s it. It just works.
However, if you are not offered that choice or want to setup the drive at a later point in time, you can follow the instructions below.
Setup Time Machine
Open Time Machine from your System Preferences app and flip the switch to “On.”
From the pane that appears, select your external drive you just formatted. It should have the name you specified earlier. Click “Use Disk” in the bottom right hand corner of the pane.
After you’ve done that, Time Machine is set up and will begin backing up your Mac. Remember, don’t unplug the hard drive or turn off your Mac during the initial backup.
Local backups are good to prevent losing data from spilling liquid on your Macbook Air or Macbook Pro, but what if your house catches on fire or floods? At that point, an external drive would be useless because it would too be destroyed by the disaster.
However, if you use a cloud backup solution, you may be saved from losing precious photos and files.
Backblaze is a great, cheap service to backup your data. For $5 a month, you can backup and unlimited amount of data. The best part is, it is easy to install and forget about. Once you’ve installed Backblaze, you no longer have to monitor the program. It works on its own to backup new data.
If you need to restore your data, you can either download it again from Backblaze or they can send you an external hard drive to save you the bandwidth and download time.
Mozy is another popular solution to backup. It costs $6 a month to backup one computer and as much as 50 GB of data.
Personally, I use an App called “Arq.” It uses Amazon S3 to store your data in the cloud.
However, Arq is relatively complicated to setup in comparison to Time Machine and involves registering an account with Amazon Web Services. This is more for advanced users, but the manual is located here for those who would like to use Arq.