Coffs Computing Services

Coffs Computing Services

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Enrichment through Technology!


If your computer got stolen, how much data would you lose?  Wedding photos, baby photos, important documents, photos of deceased family members?

It’s vitally important that you have a backup solution ready for when disaster strikes, and just one backup isn’t enough.

3-2-1 Backup

The basic principle of 3-2-1 Backup, is you have 3 copies of your data, stored on 2 different types of media and 1 of them is off site.

A good example of this is having one backup on an external hard drive at your house and an online backup.

Read more to find out about how to setup both a local backup on a Mac with Time Machine.

This is Part 1 of 2 on how to Backup for your Mac. Part 2 is how to backup using CrashPlan. Click here to read it!


Local Backup with Time Machine

The easiest way to do a local backup on a Mac is using Time Machine. It’s software built into most macs released in the last 10 years, and all it requires is an external hard drive.

The greatest thing about Time Machine is once it’s setup, it’s all automatic. As long as the drive is plugged in, it will backup. If there’s something wrong, it will bring up a little notification letting you know what happened and what to do to fix it (the most common problem is forgetting to plug the drive in).

Time Machine will save you from things happening like: your computer dying, the hard drive in your computer failing, your computer being stolen/lost (assuming they don’t also steal the backup drive) or files being accidentally deleted, overwritten or corrupted.

What it won’t save you from: Someone stealing your computer *and* your backup drive, your house burning down and taking the hard drive with it, some types of virus (that also infect the backup drive) or the very rare situation where both your backup drive fails at the same time as your computer (eg. a really bad lightning strike that breaks both your computer and backup drive).


Choosing a Hard Drive

There’s 2 different types of drives you can use for Time Machine, one is the Time Capsule (made by Apple), it works wirelessly however it it’s more expensive.

The more common option is a USB Hard Drive, these are available in many different sizes.

Time Machine will use all the space available on a drive to hold both the data currently on your Mac and older versions and deleted files as far back as it can.  The bigger your backup drive, the further back you can recover data from.

To determine how big of a drive you need, it is recommended that you get a drive that’s approximately 2x the size of your current drive, though it will work with a drive that is the same size as your Mac.

To determine how big the drive in your Mac is, if you click the Apple Menu in the top left hand corner of the screen and go to About this Mac, then click the Storage Tab, it will show you.

Note: 1000GB (Gigabyte) is the same as 1TB (Terabyte)

You can see I have a 500GB Hard Drive, so a 1000GB (1TB) backup drive would be a good size for me.

Extra notes for buying hard drives

  • For the most part, the brand of the drive doesn’t matter.
    • Drives from companies like Seagate, Samsung, Toshiba, Western Digital, Lacie are all good.
  • You should aim for something that has USB3.  Most drives are already USB3 anyway.
  • There are two sizes of drive, 3.5″ and 2.5″. The 2.5″ drives are smaller and don’t require a power brick to use, however the 3.5″ drives come in much larger sizes.   A 2.5″ drive will be fine.

Not sure what drive to buy?  Come see us in store and we can recommend the right drive!

How to Set Up Time Machine

So, you’ve got a hard drive. All you need to do now is to set it up!

If you’re using a Hard Drive you already own, before you follow these steps you need to copy all your data off the drive. There is a way to split a drive in half and use half for Time Machine and half for data, but it’s generally not recommended.

Step 1: Plug in your Drive

The first time you plug a Hard Drive in, it might come up asking you if you want to use it as a Time Machine drive.  If it asks you, click Yes and you’re done!  Otherwise, proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Go to the Apple Menu in the top left corner of the screen then down to System Preferences

Step 3: Click on Time Machine

Step 4: Click on Select Disk

Step 5: Click on the Disk you’ve plugged in (if you have no other drives plugged in, it should be the only option)

Step 6: Select “Use Disk”

Step 7: It will ask you if you are sure you want to Erase the disk. Again: Make sure you don’t have any data on the drive you want to use as a Time Machine backup (if it’s a new drive, you won’t have any data on it so it’s okay). Then Click Erase.

It will now back up all your data onto the drive.  The first backup may take a few hours to run, so leave it plugged in and let it finish.

From now on, whenever you plug the hard drive in, it will automatically backup. If you’ve got a laptop, I suggest you leave the backup drive on your desk at home, and whenever you put your laptop down, plug the backup drive in.

How do I know if it’s working?

If you go into the Time Machine settings in System Preferences, it will tell you what’s happening with the drive (including when it last completed a backup)