Sunday Afternoon: New Toys

Ever since I ordered my new Macbook Friday night, I haven't been able to get this song out of my head.

"I've got a brand new pair of roller skates, you've got a brand new key"

So, Mac users out there, what's a good external portable hard drive for backup, what programs do you use to backup and are there any new software programs you especially like for it? I'm thinking of getting Parallel and Data Backup 3. Apple Care seems like a necessity too.

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    Yeah, backups (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 12:41:37 PM EST
    are a good idea.

    Overrated though. You never need them.

    Untill you need them. ;-)

    That's my experience (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 01:47:30 PM EST
    And everything that isn't important is safe forever but all that stuff on the brand new external hard drive that pertains to life and limb will somehow crash ;)

    yeah edger (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 01:09:46 PM EST
    that's what i thought too, until i needed one. :)

    jeralyn, pretty much any portable hd should do you. i use both a pleomax 40g and a western digital 120g. you shouldn't require any special back-up application (i didn't), just do a "save as" for whatever file it is, and save it to the external drive.

    the western digital drive also comes with a synchronizing application, for start-up menus, favorites lists, email, etc. in case you should have occasion to reformat the internal hd, you just plug the wd external in, and re-set all this stuff, without having to do it manually. pretty nifty actually.

    good luck with that.

    There is an old corny joke (none / 0) (#26)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 04:58:03 PM EST
    in the computer tech field that goes:

    Q: What's the worst thing your sysadmin can ever say to you?

    A: Go get your backup tapes for me. You do have backups don't you?

    I'm *telling* you... (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by mattd on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 02:17:47 PM EST
    ...to spend the $10 on Take Control of Mac OS X Backups and read it if you don't have a backup strategy.

    You know how you feel when a client ignores your advice to exercise his right to remain silent?  This is how I feel if people ignore backups - you really really feel for them, but there's nothing you can do to prevent the disaster you see looming except pray for luck.

    Prosoft has a good reputation, and lots of people like Data Backup 3.  (Did I mention that the book linked above includes a 50%-off coupon for Data Backup?  I did now.)  The book mentions about a dozen other options and in what cases they'd be good choices.

    As for external hard drives, I've only been using AC-powered models, but I get them from Other World Computing because they have FireWire 800 interfaces at decent prices, making my backups faster.  The MacBook doesn't have a FireWire 800 port, but it has FireWire (400) and USB 2.0, and it's sometimes worth $10 to get both ports so you have an option about where to mount the drive.  Their page for "portable" hard drives (meaning bus-powered, so you plug them into the computer but not into the wall) is here.  Note that bus-powered drives are slower and more expensive than self-powered (AC power adapter) drives, so if you're only going to use it for backup (leaving it at home), a self-powered drive may be more economical and faster.

    Note that both kinds of drives from OWC come with an OEM copy of Prosoft Data Backup already.  I'm a satisfied OWC customer, and I've had good experiences with Prosoft although we do not use their product in our own workflow (we back up multiple computers, so we use Retrospect, which is kind of like the 2nd Amendment in that you know you need it but you really wish a lot of it was just a bit more modern).

    AppleCare is a wise investment for anything that you regularly transport or that you might not be able to afford repairing otherwise.  We get AppleCare on portable devices but not on desktop computers, for the most part.  (If money is fairly free when purchasing a big desktop computer, we'll sometimes get AppleCare with it.  We definitely do if we're buying an expensive display to go with it, but that tends to only happen once every 5-7 years.)

    An ounce of prevention goes a long way in these cases, which is why a good protective bag is every bit as important as an extended warranty.  (Maybe more so, since no extended warranty covers "misuse" like dropping the thing on the floor, and companies like Apple are notorious for trying to refuse warranty service if there's any sign of such misuse, whether it's related to the problems you demonstrate or not.)

    We don't run Windows here so I have no opinion on Parallels vs. VMWare vs. Boot Camp.  My suggestions, in order:

    1. Get the backup book and read it
    2. Choose the right backup strategy for how you work and buy the right hard drive for it
    3. Get a good, protective bag for the MacBook (your old bag will work if the MacBook is the same size as the older PowerBook)
    4. Save the Constitution

    (Note: Step 4 cannot be accomplished at the Apple store.)


    Ok, I'll get the book (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 02:22:14 PM EST
    I promise. You've been very generous with your time and explanations and I much appreciate it.

    Same goes for all of you...I'm learning a lot.


    minor disagreement (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Sailor on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 08:22:46 PM EST
    warning - external disks are a major PIA to use on Mac computers, they go to sleep often and when they do the next time you try to open any folder the system will have to wait for them to wake up, a major nuisance that with time will become much more difficult to tolerate
    Ummm, actually my experience is that when you get a Maxtor or LaCie external drive it comes with an 8 page booklet and an install disk.

    The booklet has one page devoted to Macs (plug it in to a USB or FireWire port and don't bother with the disk), and the rest of the booklet is devoted to how to use the install disk to make your PC format and recognize the new drive.

    The sleep issues on Macs are easily overcome by accessing the System Prefs for sleep.

    External drive sleeping (none / 0) (#32)
    by mattd on Mon Jul 30, 2007 at 10:18:28 AM EST
    This may be true of external bus-powered (USB/FireWire) drives, because they are designed to run off as little computer power as possible.  I have never seen an external self-powered hard drive put itself to sleep while it was mounted.

    I'd have to do some digging through IOKit specifications, but I do not believe the OS has any parameters or control to tell external hard drives to spin down or not to spin down.  That would normally be a function provided by the drive's on-board firmware.  The OS would normally only send a "sleep" command to devices when the system itself was going into system sleep mode, not just because it was idle, because otherwise all kinds of unexpected and bad things can happen (a long camera import stops, loading your iPod stops, your cable modem might disconnect, and so on and so on).


    Backups (none / 0) (#4)
    by chemoelectric on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 01:34:56 PM EST
    I back up with tape cartridges, but I think that wonâ€<sup>TM</sup>t work for you. :)

    It seems unlikely a girl could get new roller skates sans key, so to be more convincing she should have asked for some sugar, because there was baking to be done.

    Backups (none / 0) (#5)
    by chemoelectric on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 01:35:34 PM EST
    I back up with tape cartridges, but I think that won't work for you. :)

    It seems unlikely a girl could get new roller skates sans key, so to be more convincing she should have asked for some sugar, because there was baking to be done.

    Backups and software (none / 0) (#7)
    by Pete Guither on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 02:02:52 PM EST
    I have a couple of LaCie external drives, and one Seagate.  I've had good results with both and no problems.

    I use Personal Backup from Intego -- very easy to use backup software for Mac with lots of automation features.

    I recommend getting an external drive that's twice the size of your hard drive, and then partition it into two sections.

    On one partition, clone your entire computer (Personal Backup will easily do that for you).  Then you can use that partition as a startup disk if you run into problems with your MacBook.  Update the clone when you do major system upgrades or add major software.  You can use this as a temporary start-up disk if your hard drive fails, and you won't lose any time.

    On the other partition, do a simple backup of your data files (iTunes, documents, pictures, etc.) on a weekly basis.  (Personal Backup will remind you if you wish, or just do it automatically in the background.)

    I had a serious hard drive crash that couldn't be recovered without sending it out.  But because I had this set-up, I was able to be up and running again the next day, simply by re-formatting the hard drive, restoring it from the clone, and grabbing my data from the backup.

    Backups (none / 0) (#8)
    by Al on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 02:11:33 PM EST
    I use a G-Drive and SuperDuper to create a bootable backup. SuperDuper is free. Do make sure you don't have a Firewire plugged in when SuperDuper is working because it will mess with your backup. I have also heard good things about Carbon Copy Cloner, which is also free.

    I have scheduled backups which run automatically every 24 hours, and the process is very fast because it only copies the files that have changed.

    SuperDuper is ABSOLUTELY what you want (none / 0) (#9)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 02:16:22 PM EST
    also, make sure that you get a firewire drive. You'll be able to boot from that if you need to. I suggest buying the drive at Other World Computing

    OWC (none / 0) (#13)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 02:56:32 PM EST
    OTher world computing:

    I have this and it is great. Small and compact.

    Ext HD

    Clone your laptop HD with Carbon COpy Cloner

    After you clone your laptop onto the new HD (above), just do regular backups. If your laptop fails you can boot from another mac and be up and running instantly.

     All you have to do is plug it into another Mac and you will have your computer in front of you. Nice for travel if you know that someone has a mac where you are staying. No need to bring your laptop.

    I use tri-backup. It can be automated for regular backups and it does other things.

    Enjoy and don't forget to backup.


    I suggest against (none / 0) (#14)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 03:09:13 PM EST
    Carbon Copy Cloner. Super Duper has been tested to be more reliable.

    CCC (none / 0) (#15)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 03:22:15 PM EST
    Works fine for me. I have cloned mac's dozens of times with no hitches.

    CCC has a metadata problem (none / 0) (#16)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 03:24:09 PM EST
    OK (none / 0) (#18)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 03:37:07 PM EST
    I do not use CCC for backups only cloning. Never had a problem. Never lost anything. If it has not copied meta data I have not missed it, nor noticed any lack.

    Tri-backup which is also only partially recommended via your link has also never failed me.

    I have used both for years without a hitch.

    Never used SD and am sure it is great too.



    Almost every clone is a copy (none / 0) (#19)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 03:40:10 PM EST
    unless you use disk utility and boot off of another drive.

    Not Sure What You Mean (none / 0) (#21)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 03:50:00 PM EST
    I have a whole bunch of hds that have cloned mac os on them. I particularly liked OS 10.3.8 and use that for many things that no longer work on Tiger.

    For Tiger et al I clone (CCC) to another HD and back up (tri-backup) my user (home) daily. If I add new apps I back them up manually.

    The difference for me between a backup and a clone is that a clone is bootable and done once in a while. Backup for me is just copying my user files daily . It goes super fast that way. Recloning or backing up the whole system regularly seems to me a waste of time.


    What I'm saying (none / 0) (#23)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 04:17:18 PM EST
    is that most operations you think of as clones are really backups.

    OK (none / 0) (#24)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 04:42:57 PM EST
    My only distinction is that a clone is an entire bootable OS. It seems that you are saying that mine it is not really a clone because it is missing Meta-Data. Is that your point?

    Most people I know who have backups mean that they have backed up data and not an entre bootable working operating system. If their system fails they have to reinstall the OS and then add their saved files.  Considering that I am the only mac geek I know, and am self taught I could have it all wrong or be out of date since I have been using the same method since 2001.


    CCC was the right choice in 2001 (none / 0) (#25)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 04:45:38 PM EST
    It isn't anymore. Super Duper can give you bootable backups and still only update the files that have changed. It's excellent.

    OK (none / 0) (#27)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 04:58:58 PM EST
    No need for me to change now because all is working fine for me. If I wind up having a problem I will get SD.

    thanks for the tip.

    Sounds better for Jeralyn to buy one product (Super Duper) that does it all. CCC is free but Tri-Backup isn't. I think tri-backup makes clones too, but I've only used it to back up my user to the CCC clone, compare files and copyfiles when normal osx copying says no go.


    But (none / 0) (#17)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 03:26:36 PM EST
    I am unfamiliar with super duper. Also you can clone directly from Tiger although CCC is so easy (and free-but donations are welcome and deserved) I have not bothered to try doing it through Tiger or anything else.

    I've been doing this for a while (none / 0) (#20)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 03:40:51 PM EST
    Super Duper is the best option. Full stop.

    I've been doing this a while too. :-) (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by mattd on Mon Jul 30, 2007 at 10:24:40 AM EST
    ...and both Super-Duper and Carbon Copy Cloner have their places, but neither program is best suited for everyone or all situations.  This is one of those "Firefox vs. Safari" arguments - use the one whose features best fit your needs and work style, and don't assume that your best choice is everyone's best choice.

    I cloned a server drive with CCC a month ago and it worked just fine - took 11 hours, but it worked flawlessly, actually even revealing problems I didn't know about in the file system.  I would use Retrospect to do it next time, but then again, I already own Retrospect and use it daily.

    If either of you two ever wants to change backup software, get the "Take Control" E-book from TidBITS and read it; it covers all the concepts you're arguing about.  If you don't want to change, don't worry that others are using something different.

    And anyone who misuses the term "metadata" is going to get a whupping from me.  The only programs that don't support "metadata" in this context are the old, pre-Tiger Unix command line utilities like "cp" and sometimes "ditto", but even those do the right thing as of Tiger, including ACLs.  I can't think of a single program written and sold/offered as a "Mac OS X 10.4" backup program that does not include all information about a file it's backing up.  Home-rolled command-line solutions may not, but all backup/sync programs certainly do.


    OK (none / 0) (#22)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 03:51:02 PM EST
    I use a 500 GB LaCie external HD (none / 0) (#12)
    by Molly Bloom on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 02:27:18 PM EST
    LaCie is highend, but now that I spent the money, I admit I prefer to my previous 80 GB HD that i bought for my old G3.

    Its plug an play- no formatting needed. Once you set up your wireless network, you can access the LaCie HD from any machine on the network (it does have to be connected to one of the Mac's on the network). I understand you still have a Windows machine. Assuming it is wireless, you can add it to your Mac network  without difficulty using Bonjour, which you can download from Apple for your Windows Machine for free. You can then access files and network printers and the LaCie backup (assuming you go with the LaCie). . I know you previously stated that you use the Windows for work, however, I suspect you will find, you can do your work on the Mac just as easily.

    On a different topic, here is a site full of open source software for the Mac.

    Like any good computer, a Mac is for pleasure as well as for work. I downloaded Miro Video player the other day and am enjoying Neil Young video  as I work. You can also watch Democracy Now using Miro.

    It also has links to iPod rippers.

    Work wise, I am impressed with Neo-Office. Its seems to work seamlessly with MS Office documents. I don't claim to have fully tested it (it is free), but I may never buy another MS Office Suite again.

    There are free FTP clients on the page, I haven't tried them. I use Fetch which is about $20.00. I recommend Fetch without reservation.

    Visual Hub is another 25.00  program I have used and am satisfed with.

    On a final note, I find the local library the best place to sample CD's. Archive.org is the best place to find legal live JAM Band music (Grateful Dead, Derek Trucks Band, Little Feat, Ratdog, String Cheese Incident, to name a few). The bands that are there have consented to fans posting digital copies of what we used to call show tapes for downloading or streaming.

    Happy computing!

    I agree ... (none / 0) (#29)
    by Sailor on Sun Jul 29, 2007 at 07:46:14 PM EST
    ... we need to backup patient info/digital medical images at work and I'm responsible for it. Our LaCie 300GB has been great. And as mentioned, on Macs it's plug and play. I use one as basically an external server for researcher shared data. (It allows me to not give access to my machine to researchers, some of whom are not security conscious.)

    We outgrew it this year and now after extensive research we use Maxtor 1 TerraByte drives. They also have been trouble free.

    the backup software Silverkeeper (?) that came with the LaCie drives works great on the Maxtor drives as well.

    Carbon Copy Cloner is a wonderful free way to clone your OS so you can boot from external drives even if the internal one fails.

    p.p.s. I wish I could still get excited about a new computer;-)


    An anecdotal disagreement (none / 0) (#34)
    by mattd on Mon Jul 30, 2007 at 10:26:43 AM EST
    We have purchased one LaCie external drive in the past five years, and it's the only external drive from any source that we've purchased that has failed.  It's failed in the same way that other similar LaCie drives failed - it doesn't reliably spin up and therefore won't reliably mount or remount.

    It is anecdotal data and nothing more, but the drives cost more than OWC drives and, in my experience, provide fewer features.  They are more readily available at local retail stores and they look nice, but I do not find that compelling.


    A caveat (none / 0) (#35)
    by mattd on Mon Jul 30, 2007 at 10:32:10 AM EST
    Nice thing about a Pocket back-up is there is no need for a separate power supply they work off of the Firewire port ( or if you are using USB the 2nd USB port with the supplied cables)

    You must be specific in purchasing to get a bus-powered drive for this to be true.  Most drives simply labeled "USB 2.0" or "FireWire" are self-powered, meaning they plug into the wall socket's AC power and are not as portable as this.

    It's not a big deal, but if you're expecting a bus-powered drive and get one with a brick-on-a-leash power adapter, you're gonna be disappointed.  Make sure you get the kind you want, as bus-powered drives are more expensive (and slower and smaller).

    Technically, you can boot Mac OS X from a USB 1.1 storage device, if you have a few days to spend on the task, kind of like downloading a DVD from Netflix over a 28.8Kbps modem.  Otherwise be sure it's marked "USB 2.0" or "USB Hi-Speed".  For historical reasons, "USB Full Speed" means USB 1.1 and speeds of 12Mbps, not USB 2.0 and the 480Mbps speed you really want for high-capacity storage devices.  This hasn't been too much of a labelling problem since about 2003, but it's probably worth mentioning.