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How to back up a Mac: Four types of backup all Mac users should be using

David Fanning | March 8, 2016
What's the best and most secure method of backing up a Mac?

It's now possible to find a good 1TB drive for less than £50, and if you need more, higher capacities are also available and inexpensive. Depending on whether you are backing up a single machine, or a number of laptops and desktop machines, there are a few choices to consider.

If you are backing up multiple desktop machines, you can either choose to buy a drive for each machine, or have one that you back all the machines up to. For the ultimate in fast restoration of your data, individual drives are ideal. If you can live without the luxury of a bootable backup, then you can get a bigger drive that would be shared by a number of machines. They can be connected by a Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 connection, or some older Macs might be better with a FireWire interface. Check your Mac's specs to see the available connections.

If you choose to go for a drive that will be shared, you will either need to connect it to one computer and set up sharing. Not a big deal, but it's best if that machine is left on all the time. For a little extra you can get a drive that attaches to the network. This means it doesn't require a machine on all the time. But it is more akin to having cloud storage in your home. Bootable backups aren't possible, and the backup and restore is a bit slower than a directly connected drive.

Laptop users may still choose network-attached storage, as it means they don't have to remember to plug the backup drive in. Instead backups can happen over the WiFi network. Another thing to consider is that it will limit the choice of backup software, as networked backup software is typically a little more expensive.

First line of defence: Bootable backups

If you have decided to go with a directly attached drive for individual machines, you'll be able to take advantage of software that creates a bootable backup. Two pieces of software that have amassed a loyal following from Mac fans over the years are Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper!

But there's a new option recently launched called Mac Backup Guru 2.0. It offers similar features to the more familiar backup options, but with a simpler interface and a pretty neat trick up it's sleeve. So if you're setting up a backup solution for somebody less computer savvy, it's a good option.

The second line of defence: Live backup

Having a daily backup is a great comfort, especially if it's a bootable backup. The ability to simply restart a machine the instant the main drive fails is great. But even a once-a-day backup means if disaster strikes, any documents created that day may be lost forever. Even hourly backups can mean an hour's work can be lost. But it doesn't have to be like that. Having a live backup that secures a document as soon as it's saved is now possible. Better than that, it can be even be free.


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