Back up your files! (Mac)

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How to back up your Mac files to a variety of devices.

Why back up?

It is important to back up all your files and documents on a regular basis. Hardware and software DOES FAIL and can destroy documents. Viruses can also corrupt or delete documents. It is very difficult to recover files and your best insurance that you do not lose data is to make a backup of all your files on a regular basis. (At least once a week, or more if you are working on a document that you would not want to lose.)

Where should I back up?

You have a number of choices: your network user folder, external hard drive, CD, DVD, or USB flash drive. Your choice will depend on how much data you have and how long you plan to keep it. If you have tens of gigabytes of data and want to keep a permanent backup, an external hard drive is your best option. If you have just a few gigabytes of data, then the network is an excellent backup location. CDs and DVDs are very portable, long-lasting, and inexpensive. If you only need the backup for a short time, then a USB flash drive is appropriate.

Automatic or manual?

It's easy to forget to back up. With backup software such as Silverkeeper, you may schedule a daily backup. Please follow the preceding links for more instructions on how to correctly configure these backup utilities.

Archive or separate files?

Archiving files and folders creates a copy of the items you want to back up in a compressed file. Archived files take up less disk space than uncompressed files and can help you avoid naming problems if you copy from a Macintosh computer to a Windows server. Archive if you are short on space or are having file naming problems. Otherwise, you may be just fine copying plain files.

  • Select an item or items in the Finder.
  • Choose File > Create Archive.
  • If you archive a single item, the archived file has the name of the original item with a ".zip" extension. If you archive multiple items at once, the archived file is called Archive.zip.

When you open an archived file, your computer displays uncompressed copies of the original items.

Back up to the server

Advantages: located at school, automatically available to you

Disadvantages: not available from home, not enough space for music or videos. Please back these up to other media.

  1. In the Finder, navigate to Go menu -> Connect to Server (or type Command-K on your keyboard)
  2. Select the server shortcut to your user directory or type smb://cgsfiles01
  3. Select Connect
  4. Enter your username and password at the prompt. (The same ones that you use for your email.)
  5. If necessary, select your class year from the next menu (e.g., 2010) and click OK.
  6. A new icon for the server volume will appear somewhere on your desktop.
  7. Double-click the new server volume to open it, then double-click on your user folder (your last name and first initial).
  8. Create a new folder for your backup (we recommend dating it as well).
  9. Drag any or all of your documents into this folder. Make sure that the mouse changes to the plus icon instead of the shortcut icon . If it does not change to the plus, hold down the Option key while dragging the files.
  10. If you get a message stating that this folder already contains a folder with the same name, click Yes to All.
  11. Once all your files are copied, your backup is complete!

Back up to an external hard drive

Advantages: greatest storage capacity, fast

Disadvantages: additional cost, usually kept in one location

  1. Connect the hard drive to your computer.
  2. Switch the hard drive power on.
  3. An icon will appear on your desktop for the device:
  4. Drag and drop files into the icon.
  5. When you are done, drag the icon into the Trash
  6. The Trash icon will change into an Eject icon.
  7. Turn the hard drive power off.
  8. Disconnect the hard drive from your computer.

Please refer to external hard drive care and feeding for more information.

Back up to CDs or DVDs

Advantages: portable, long-lasting

Disadvantages: slow to copy data, must use a new disc each time, 750MB capacity per CD, 5GB per DVD

  1. Insert a CD/DVD into your CD/DVD drive (your machine must be capable of burning CDs or DVDs).
  2. A menu will appear on your screen, select "Open Finder” and press OK
  3. A CD icon will appear on your desktop.
  4. Drag any or all of your documents into the CD. Make sure that the mouse changes to the plus icon-> instead of the shortcut icon -> . If it does not change to the plus, hold down the option key while dragging the files.
  5. When you are finished drag the CD icon to the trash. The trash icon will turn into the burn icon.
  6. Another menu will appear. Change the Disc Name and Burn Speed if desired and then press Burn.
  7. Remove the CD from your computer and store it in a safe place where it will not be scratched!

Back up to a USB Storage Device

Advantages: quick, very portable

Disadvantages: small capacity, susceptible to static electricity, only reliable for short-term storage

  1. Insert the device into your USB port on the side of your computer.
  2. An icon will appear on your desktop for the device.
  3. Drag and Drop files into the icon.
  4. When you are done, drag the icon into the Trash
  5. The Trash icon will change into an Eject icon.
  6. Remove the device from your computer and store it in a safe place!