Over the last year or so of running New Mac User the question I am most often asked is “What is the best way to backup my system?” I have tried to give just about everyone who asked advice on what will work for them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. I firmly believe that until you lose some very important data backing up is not a priority for you. This was the case for me. Right after my wife and I had our second child, Maddie, we were in the waiting room for her one month check-up, and something happened to my macbook. It would not come out of sleep mode and it would not restart. The drive just would not mount at all. Needless to say I had not backed up my computer since we had made it home from the hospital and the only copy of all the pictures we had taken were on that hard drive. I tried everything, but nothing worked on the drive because there was something physically wrong with the drive and it would not spin up. Not to fear I was able to recover the pictures from the camera card, but everything else was gone, and for the week in between losing the drive and figuring out I was able to get them back from the SD card I was really sweating it. If I just had a backup procedure I would not have spent the hours I should have been sleeping trying to figure out how to get my pictures back.
Normally when someone asks me “Do I need to back up my computer?” my first response to them is also a question, “Can you afford to lose all of your data and for how long can you be without a computer?” Most of the time the answer to the question is the same: I can’t live without “insert your most valuable thing here” and then they tell me that they really can’t be without the computer for one reason or another.
If that answer is close to how you would answer than you really need to make sure that you have a redundant back up solution. Most people say that it would cost way too much. I tell them that I could them a redundant system for under $175.00. They say that sounds good to them.
To get started on this system you will first need a drive that is big enough. The bare minimum for my solution is two times the size of your internal hard drive. For example, if you have a 160 gig internal then you will need a 320 gig external. I have found a great drive from Western digital on Amazon for 132.00 (get it here Western Digital 500 gig My Book)
After you have the hard drive, you will need to fire up Disk Utility from your utilities folder inside Applications. Make sure the new external drive is plugged in and turned on. If you use a dual format drive like the Western Digital 500 gig My Book, which supports FireWire,USB, and e-SATA, then you will want to use the FireWire feature on your Mac. Select the Drive from the menu on the left and click on the partition tab in the middle of the main section. Here you will want to create 2 partitions (more if you want to use the drive for more than just this backup application). The first partition you will want to make about 1 gig more than your internal hard drive. So for the 160 gig internal hard drive we talked about above you would make the first partition 161 gig and the second would be the rest of the space on the drive. If you are good at labeling the drive I would name the first partition Super-Duper and the second Time Machine.
We are now done with the Hardware setup. In the next part we will discuss what you will be doing with the first partition.