User Feedback: What’s Your Backup Strategy?


Regular backups of important data are crucial to ensure that if the worst happens, one can get back up and running quickly; but you already knew that. The big question is, how do you do it? Backup strategies are as varied as the personalities of the people who created them, ranging from strict daily backups onto rotating tape drives, to the occasional backup on to an external drive when the user remembers. In an effort to help our readers, and ourselves, ensure the safety of our important data, we pose this question to you: What is your backup strategy? Respond in the comments, and after two weeks, I will go through and and weed out the juicy bits of information contained within your responses, and post a breakdown of how you, our readers, keep their data safe. Think of this as a kind of poll, but feel free to post and tips or tricks you might have.

As for me, I backup my PowerBook using Carbon Copy Cloner onto two rotating external drives; one USB 2.0, and one FireWire. This way, I can never lose more than a weeks worth of work.



I became very interested in the subject of backup strategies after a catastrophic hard drive failure in my Powerbook G4 a couple of weeks ago. Until then, I never even really thought about backing up my stuff.

Since then, I’ve tested several applications (Synk, iBackup, and SuperDuper!) finally settling on SuperDuper! for its interface, developer support, and ability to perform the tasks that I want it to do.

I backed up all files to my external LaCie HD last night. There was only one hitch right at the beginning that was fixed with a quick trip to the FAQ on the developer’s site. After the backup finished I rebooted from the FW drive and everything was fine.

For the time being, I plan to do weekly smart updates to the external drive. Ultimately, though, I plan to get a second external drive and keep it offsite. That way, I can do daily smart updates to the one onsite and trade them out weekly. That way, if worse comes to worse, I’m never more than a week behind.

Sime, the backup newbie

I recently started using Backup 3, but I’m not sure why!!

I save my most important files to my iDisk so they are available whether I’m at home or at work, and iSync keeps my address book updated.

With almost everything on at least 2 computers (plus the Apple server), do I really need Backup 3?

Marcos Kuhns

I have two internal HDs and use rsync to back up various folders from one HD to the other. I automate backup using anacron (because I don’t always leave my computer on over night) at various intervals: important documents daily, iTunes library ever few days, my Library folder weekly, etc.

I also use an external Firewire HD that I back up more thoroughly to whenever I have the time. Once a month usually. I use rsync for this backup as well.

The scheme seems to work as my 2nd HD crashed a few weeks back & once a replacement drive came in I had all critical information restored within a few hours.

Walter Jeffries

Nightly with Deja Vu and monthly with Carbon Copy Cloner. The nightly one goes to my second internal hard drive – gotta love these old PowerBook Pismos. Bummer that the new PowerBooks can’t take a second drive. I virtually never need a CD/DVD drive and would much rather have a second, removable, drive.

This week I bought an iPod 20G for only $90 and am going to start using that as our family nightly backup as well. It is tiny so it can slip into a pocket when I leave the house.


I backup my Powerbook about once per week using an external firewire drive. First I use Onyx to clean out everything except Finder View, run the maintenance crons, then boot single-user in AppleJack and do a deep cleaning and shutdown ( “applejack AUTO shutdown”). I reboot and use opt-cmd-p-r three times to zap the nvram, and finally let it boot to the desktop. I shut down the webserver and databases, and then I use asr at the command line ( “asr -source / -target /Volumes/Backup -erase” ) to clone the drive. Once it’s done I boot from the backup to make sure it works.

About once per month, when the backup is done I boot from it, make sure it works, and then use asr (again at the command line) to clone it back to the original drive, which gives it a good reorg. Then I use Diskwarrior to fix up the directory.

The external firewire drive is partitioned into two volumes, and I alternate volumes with my backups.

For the stuff I do at work, it’s Veritas Netbackup all round, using LTO2 tapes in two StorageTek with 4 drives each. It takes care of 8 San Media Servers and about 60 networked hosts on this system, nightly differentials and weekly fulls, with vault duplicates taken offsite.

Charlotte Web

AIT-2 tape drive, nightly incrementals, monthly full backups. Use two sets of tapes, keep one offsite in a records storage facility. Trash all the tapes and buy all new ones every year to anticipate data loss due to wear and magnetic media failure.

Retrospect is awesome. A lot of backup programs out there making backing up far more complicated than it needs to be. I’ve used Retrospect on both Mac and Windows servers, and it just works.

On my personal computer, I back up to CD-R’s. I always burn two copies, just to anticipate one failing.

Rich Trouton

Carbon Copy Cloner is my friend for when I’m making disk-to-disk clones, especially since it does scheduled backups (my work’s essential servers and my home server all have cloned disks that are synced nightly using CCC. Saved my bacon a few times.)

For heavy-duty backups, Retrospect is still the tool I use the most though I’m growing fairly dissatisfied with Dantz’s support.


I should add that I have had a Retrospect backup set go bad (once), so I was glad that I always keep the previous month’s set around.


Retrospect backs up 3 Macs nightly to an external FireWire drive. Every month each backup starts with a new backup set, so if anything goes wrong with a backup set, I can still get back data that’s at most 30 days old. (I guess I was confused by the location of the link for the article before.:)

Rolf S.

I use Retrospect for incremental backups to cdroms. Once a week my whole iBook, everyday certain folders I keep work in (my thesis, mail, projects, safari, addressbook, notes etc.). I sync my bibliographies-databases through Silverkeeper within folders on my HD and to an external HD (Firewire 400).

I keep a bootable clone of my HD on a partition of that external HD but right now it is still in Panther…

There is some redundancy but it is better than losing data. That setup has saved my life several times (second HD! in my iBook G3 800 Mhz) even before I bought the external drive.

Retrospect is not fully functional under Tiger so I keep an iCal-alarm opening it at the right time and it takes it from there.

I am unsure about iBackup. They donot even tell what format they save file in. What about resurrection ;-) when I might quit .mac in future?

Daveed V.

I use SoftRAID on two 250 GB drives (on a PowerMac), with two volumes: A small one in stripe mode for scratch space (doesn’t get backed up), and the large startup volume in mirror mode.

In addition, I use the MacOS X command-line utility “asr” to make bootable backups (of the main Volume) to FireWire drives, and a incrementally update those using “rsync”. I back up some other smaller machines by rsync-ing their contents to a directory on the mirrored volume.

So far so good, though I’ll probably have to increase the capacity of the mirrored volume in a year or so.

Scotty Allen

I have most of my data on my linux desktop, but have photos on my powerbook that need backing up. Basically, I back up each machine to each other. I wrote a shell script that I run whenever I connect my laptop to my home network (usually daily), which does a ton of stuff like start a vnc server on the laptop and connect to it with x2vnc. In addition, it starts rsync jobs between both machines. Works fairly well, but there’s no versioning, and it was a bit of a pain to setup.

Rahul Sinha

I had none prior to today, but with the release of Backup 3 (for .Mac users) I decided to give it a go.

It’s straightforward and fairly flexible. It has incremental backups (so additional backup sets need only be as large as the change from the previous set) All it needs is the ability to resolve Smart Folders (so the file selection can get more nuanced) to be stellar.

Still, I and my girlfriend back up our Home folders to an external drive (once a day, automatically) and the iTunes library that sits on the external drive backs up to the main internal hard drive once a week. Either hard drive can fail and we’ll be fine!



I also use SuperDuper to an external hd– and I’ve moved my music to another (smaller) external hd since music is backed up by the ipod & so there’s no need to make a third copy of it.


I use SUPERDUPER to backup my entire drive to an external Maxtor firewire drive. A wonderful program!. If registered, you can make incremental backups to update only what’s changed since the last update. That makes it really fast, instead of doing the entire drive, which takes a substantial length of time for my 120 Gig iMac drive.

I have a large music collection (48 gigs) that I also backup to DVD periodically from a smart playlist in addition to the firewire backup. The same goes for my iPhoto library and video files. Less often, I will backup to DVD my important files in the HOME folder and those apps that aren’t apple apps.


i’ve never backed up anything. i use my ipod for espically important documents, cept it’s broken 3 times and i’ve had to erase the ipod hd, so that doesn’t really count


My backup scheme is designed to be inexpensive. I have a built-in Superdrive, so the only cost is a few packages of DVD+RW.

Twice a week, I burn an encrypted disk image of my Home folder to DVD. (It’s rather large, with photos and movies.) I store one of the weekly DVD’s off-site, the other with the computer. Eventually, when I run out of DVD’s, I re-use some of the old ones, but I always keep an archive of at least one disk a month.

For a few important files, including current projects that I update frequently, I also store them on the web. I formerly used a webmail folder, but now I have a secure web storage area with a versioning system.

For files that are too large to fit on a DVD, such as iMovie projects, I firewire transfer a copy to my girlfriend’s computer.


On my work we run NetVault from bakbone private i use rsync to sync my pb daily this saves alot of backup time as rsync will only take the new or modified files

Michael Clark

My office uses Retrospect to back up users’ Home folders daily to an external firewire drive. Every 3 weeks or so, I copy the data to another firewire drive and take the backup of the backup offsite.

At home, I copy data between my two Macs, and some data onto my iPod. I’ve just strated using iBackup.

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