Thinking back a few years, I remember every time I needed to upgrade my system or prepare for a format, I’d rely on using CD-Rs as a method for backing up my media and documents. Pain yes, efficient no, effective, yes. Of course this was back in the early XP days when I needed to format every 6 months to keep my sanity, and my computer booting. But as I grew older, so did my volumes of content. Eventually good fortune was bestowed on me, and a bad Trojan Virus led me to my first iBook. From there formatting wasn’t an issue, now it was only a matter of backing up. Three years and one hard drive later, I had learned my lesson the hard way.
Needless to say I began to look for much more efficient tools to remain organized and safe in case that one inevitable day should return, hard drive hiccups and all. I began using an external for basic back up. Thanks to OS X’s ability to simply copy files from my Library to save settings, I was able to back up my iCal, Address book and other application preferences. For software it was more of an issue, keeping .dmg’s can be tough. Documents were simple drag and drop, and media, in all its extenuating glory took quite a bit of time. Then came Mozy. And I was happy. It seemed that for 2 gigs of space I would be able to keep a constant back up of key files, documents, few pictures, and application preferences. Having it completely in the cloud and up to date without me touching it, seemed like the perfect blend of web and application.
I did come across SuperDuper! in my trials, and without paying, the free version only allows for a complete wipe of an external drive and an exact duplicate of your hard drive. I gave it a shot, and felt content only until I realized how quickly I add or update files. Without paying for it, free would be out of the option. I finally saw Leopard spots on the horizon and began preparing my backups for a completely clean install and restore for my now MacBook. I figured now would be the best time if any to put all my backing up methods to the test. So I re-plugged in my external and re-SuperDuper!’d my entire Tiger operating system to create a bootable external drive. Thinking about it made me feel the most secure, mostly because of the issues I kept hearing regarding Leopard installs. Next I made sure my Mozy was synced up ready to go with the nearly all 2 gigs filled with documents, app preferences and more. CD-R’s you ask? I think I’ve had enough for a few lifetimes, and for the record I never had a Re-Writeable drive in those days, so you can imagine how fun it was for me every 6 months to re-burn everything. Having a 2 gig thumb drive, however, I duplicated all the files going to my Mozy on it for reference, and well, just in case.
Despite the few Leopard install issues I was hearing about, I was prepared for my clean install, and ready to migrate everything if necessary from my external drive. It was my hope that Mozy would be the most efficient method for getting set back up on Leopard. So now came the faithful moment. I popped in the Leopard CD and after one necessary Disk Permission Repair, I had a completely formatted MacBook and Leopard ready to go. So I accessed Mozy’s site, logged in and saw three choices for retrieving my files. One, download the client and restore; two, request the files be sent to me via email; three, buy a DVD burned of my files mailed to me. One, I downloaded the client, set it up, but when I chose to restore files, no files appeared in my directory. It took me a minute, but I finally found them. Browsing through my files, a few were missing, namely my iCal. I attributed this to Leopards new and improved iCal which no longer resides in the Library. However I soon realized more was missing, including documents, and other application files. Odd, I remember backing them up, yup, they’re all on the thumb drive. Let’s see the other options. Two, sure, I’ll request it by email, but it takes a few hours to receive the e-mail, and 2 gigs will take a bit of time to download. And three, despite being cheap, I decided that CD/DVD’s would be a bit aged for my transition, after all this isn’t Windows anymore. So I figured having them e-mail me my files would consist of the same ones the client found, so I hit restore, choice number one (the one Mozy recommends). Seeing the amount of time it would take to download for files that are patchy at best, I gave up after the first twenty minutes. It wasn’t worth my time to reorganize files that weren’t going to be there. So I fired up my external drive, and migrated my life back over, applications and all.
I know, you’re all thinking well it’s great you now have Time Machine. It might be for some, but I haven’t set it up yet, and still remain a bit apprehensive about it. I’ve been hearing issues arising with it, moreover I feel a possible hard drive plus RAM hog. The alarm bells are ringing, and until I see it in physical action, I think I’ll stick to what I have. Unfortunately SuperDuper! isn’t Leopard ready, and for the record I did eventually opt to buy it and be able to sync only new files, or updated files to the external. For Tiger it was an immense life saver, and once it’s Leopard ready, I believe it will be my go to system. Maybe it’s hard to let old methods die, and maybe I’m taking the long way, but I’ve always been a, “better to be safer, than sorry” kind of guy.
For those who love the idea of uploading to cloud for immediate access wherever you are, I did finally find something worth trying. Box.net offers a 1 gig free account with a good number of features to boot. You can publicly share files, folders, or have a Facebook widget of your files. And so I’ve decided to backup my entire Documents folder to it in case I need to access it globally. But dragging and dropping files can be really tedious, especially if you have to do it one at a time. So thanks to Firefox, and the FileUploader application, I can access my Box.net account and simply drag and drop my entire Documents folder at once for an entire sync. It’s no “back up” system that will automatically retrieve files, and update files, but it is a simple tool provided you keep organized.