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Dr. Mac's Guide to Backing Up Your Mac
By Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus


Chapter 5: Backup Tutorials

For these tutorials I will make the assumption that Plan A and B users are backing up with Retrospect Express to some type of disk or disc, and that Plan C users are using the higher-powered Retrospect with a tape drive or external hard disks.

Note

See Chapter 2 for descriptions of Plans A, B, and C.

Full and incremental backups, scheduled backups, and disc/tape swapping

Backup software such as Retrospect and Retrospect Express use a full/incremental backup routine by default. That means the first time you backup a disk or disc, Retrospect backs up every file that matches its criteria. Then, for the second and all subsequent backups, it only backs up files that match its criteria and have been modified since the last backup. As you can tell, this type of "intelligent backup" saves you oodles of media.

Your first backup will always require the most media. Thereafter you'll only be adding a few megabytes a day to your backup sets so the same piece of media will last quite a while. This is good because both Retrospect and Retrospect Express can run automatically at a scheduled time. All that's necessary is that the proper disc or tape be available when the scheduled backup begins; all three tutorials show you how to schedule a backup.

When a disk, disc, or tape is filled completely during either a full or incremental backup, Retrospect and Retrospect Express will pause politely and asks you to insert another disc or tape. If you're not around, it will just sit there waiting until you return.

Tip

To find out how much room is left on a piece of media, click Retrospect's Configure tab, then click the Storage Sets button (in the Directory window of either Retrospect and Retrospect Express). Then double-click the name of your storage set.

If your aim is to have backups of your entire startup disk occur unattended, tape drives or hard disks with their massive capacity and low cost per gigabyte, are probably your best bet. Otherwise, be prepared to swap a disc every few weeks, days, or hours depending on how big each incremental backup is and how many files you modify each day.

Plan A Tutorial

This tutorial is for the Plan A user described in Chapter 2.

First install Retrospect Express on your hard disk, then launch it, personalize it, and type in your registration code number. Type your password if asked. Once you do these things you should be looking at the Retrospect Directory window, as shown in Figure 5-1.


Figure 5-1: The Retrospect Express Directory window; the first thing you see after you launch, register, and authenticate the program.

What we're going to do now is create a "script" that will help you perform backups automatically from now on. So click on the Automate tab at the top of the window, and then click the Scripts button. The Scripts window will appear. Click the New button. A little dialog box will ask you if you want to use EasyScript (the wizard I mentioned earlier). You do, so click Yes. The Welcome to EasyScript window will appear.

EasyScript walks you through the steps to set up and schedule automatic backups of your files using your answers to some key questions. Read the text in this window, and then click Next.

Tip

In each of the following windows there is a "Tell Me More" button. It wouldn't be a bad idea to click it for each window even if you think you know what you're doing. Although I will make recommendations for each of the windows, you may want to disregard my advice for whatever reason. If so, I urge you to click the Tell Me More button before you commit to it.

The Backup Media window appears and asks you about the media that you plan to use for your backups-either CD-R/CD-RW or removable cartridge or disc. Click the appropriate button-Tapes, CD/DVDs, Removable discs, Internet, or File backup set (hard disk)-then click Next.

The Backup Frequency window appears and asks you how often you plan to backup, once a day or once a week. Depending upon your needs, choose one or the other then click Next.

The Rotating Media window appears and asks you how often you plan to rotate media. I would choose weekly. This way you'll back up to Set A for 7 days, then backup to Set B for 7 days (see the rules in Chapter 2 for why this is important). If you choose Daily, you'll backup to Set A on even days and Set B on odd days. Make your choice then click Next.

The EasyScript Backup Strategy window appears and summarizes the choices you've made in the previous windows. You can click the Print button to print a copy of your strategy now if you wish. You can also change the time at which Retrospect Express will automatically launch and backup your files by clicking on the time, as shown in Figure 5-2. I like to set it for 6PM. That way if I'm still working at 6, Retrospect Express launches to do its thing, which reminds me that it's suppertime.


Figure 5-2: My backups occur every day at 6PM.

Once you've chosen a time for your backups, click the Create button. Yet another window appears and asks you to name your Storage Set or Sets (depending upon what you choose in the rotating media window). I like to name mine using the date. So I might call my two: Storage Set A (12-27-2005) and Storage Set B (12-28-2005). Just use meaningful (to you) names and you'll be fine. Do that, and then click New. You'll see a Mac OS Save dialog box so you can save the catalogs for the storage sets on your hard disk. Do that and click OK.

Warning

DO NOT save these files on another disc. Retrospect Express needs them to perform your scripted backups.

One last EasyScript window appears and reports that it's created and scheduled a script named EasyScript Backup for you, and tells you when the script is next scheduled to run. It also reminds you to make sure to make sure there's a new or erased disc, tape, or removable disk cartridge in your backup device or that the hard disk you're going to back up to is mounted and available.

We're almost done now, but there is one more modification I think you'll want to make to your script. So rather than clicking the default Done button, click Open Script.

The script for your EasyScript Backup appears as shown in Figure 5-3.


Figure 5-3: This window represents the script for your EasyScript Backup.

Click the Selecting button shown above. The File Selection Criteria window appears. Click on the pop-up menu and choose Users Folder and Prefs (OS X), then click OK.

That's it. You're ready to backup. Your Home folder and preferences will now be backed up daily, rotating between two backup sets.

If you want to perform your first backup now instead of waiting for the scheduled time, choose EasyScript Backup from the Run menu.

The first time you run this script, Retrospect Express will automatically backup your Home folder and preferences. This first backup to each backup set is a "full" or "complete" backup. All subsequent backups to that backup set will be "incremental" backups, only backing up files that have changed and files created since the last backup.

That's it. From now on, Retrospect Express will launch itself automatically and perform the appropriate actions at the time you've chosen. The only thing you have to do is be sure the appropriate cartridge, disc, tape, or hard disk is available before the backup starts. And, if the next backup fills up the cartridge, disc, or tape, you'll need to be available to insert a fresh piece of media.

Note

A section on restoring from your backup appears after these tutorials. You don't really have to read it unless or until your hard disk gets messed up but I wanted you to know it was there.

One thing you should know is that this plan will backup a lot of files that probably don't really need backing up. Still, this is the quickest and easiest way I can think of to protect the stuff you may need if your hard disk dies.

If you would prefer instead to backup only a few selected folders, here's an alternative strategy. Let's call it plan A-plus. In the Directory window, click the Automate tab, then click Scripts. Select your script then click Edit. Now click the Selecting button and choose Hot Items instead of Users Folder and Prefs (OS X) from the pop-up menu. This tells Retrospect Express to only backup items you've labeled "Hot" in the Finder. Now close and save your script.

Next, go to the Finder and label every folder you want to back up with the red label using the Finder's Label command (File | Color Label). That's it. From now on, every folder with a red label will be backed up automatically when the script runs.

Tip

If you're going to use this method, it's a good idea to label the "Documents" folder in your Home folder with a red label and then always save documents you create into this folder. Just remember to save new documents here and don't forget to label this folder red so Retrospect Express knows to back it up.

At this point you've got two backup sets, which you will swap daily or weekly. The unused set should be stored somewhere other than where your Mac is. You might also want to create a third storage set at this time, just in case (see the immutable rules in Chapter 2).

Plan B Tutorial

This tutorial is for the Plan B user described in Chapter 2. It is almost the same as the Plan A tutorial with a few important differences.

First install Retrospect Express on your hard disk, then launch it, personalize it, and type in your registration code number. Once you do, you'll be looking at the Retrospect Directory window, as shown in Figure 5-4.


Figure 5-4: Retrospect Express Directory window; the first thing you see after you launch, register, and authenticate the program.

What we're going to do now is create a "script" that will help you perform backups automatically from now on. So click the Automate tab at the top of the window, and then click the Scripts button. The Scripts window will appear. Click New. A little dialog box will ask you if you want to use EasyScript (the wizard I mentioned in the Plan A tutorial). You do, so click the Yes button and the Welcome to EasyScript window will appear.

EasyScript walks you through the steps to set up and schedule automatic backups of your files using your answers to some key questions. Read the text in this window, and then click Next.

Tip

In each of the following windows there is a "Tell Me More" button. It wouldn't be a bad idea to click it for each window even if you think you know what you're doing. Although I will make recommendations for each of the windows, you may want to disregard my advice for whatever reason. If so, I urge you to click the Tell Me More button before you commit to it.

The Backup Media window appears and asks you about the media that you plan to use for your backups-either CD-R/CD-RW or removable cartridge or disc. Click the appropriate button-Tapes, CD/DVDs, Removable discs, Internet, or File backup set (hard disk)-then click Next.

The Backup Frequency window appears and asks you how often you plan to backup, once a day or once a week. According to your profile in Chapter 2, you can't afford to lose more than a day of work. Choose "Every day."

The Rotating Media window appears and asks you how often you plan to rotate media. In your case, Daily is the correct choice. This way Retrospect Express will automatically rotate between two backup sets, using Set A on even days and Set B on odd days (see Rule 1 in Chapter 2). Make your choice, and then click Next.

The EasyScript Backup Strategy window appears and summarizes the choices you've made in the previous windows. You can click the Print button to print a copy of your strategy now if you wish. You can also change the time at which Retrospect Express will automatically launch and backup your files by clicking on the time, seen in Figure 5-2 or the Schedule button seen in Figure 5-3. I like to set it for 6PM. That way if I'm still working at 6, Retrospect Express launches to do its thing, which reminds me that it's suppertime.

Once you've chosen a time for your backups, click the Create button. Yet another window appears and asks you to name your Storage Set or Sets (depending upon what you choose in the rotating media window). I like to name mine using the date. So I might call my two: Storage Set A (12-27-2005) and Storage Set B (12-28-2005). Just use meaningful (to you) names and you'll be fine. Do that, and then click New. You'll see a Mac OS Save dialog box so you can save the catalogs for the storage sets on your hard disk. Do that and click OK.

Warning

DO NOT save these files on another disc. Retrospect Express needs them to perform your scripted backups.

One last EasyScript window appears and reports that it's created and scheduled a script named EasyScript Backup for you, and tells you when the script is next scheduled to run. It also reminds you to make sure to make sure there's a new or erased disc, tape, or removable disk cartridge in your backup device or that the hard disk you're going to back up to is mounted and available.

We're almost done now, but there is one more modification I think you'll want to make to your script. So rather than clicking the default Done button, click Open Script.

The script for your EasyScript Backup appears as shown in Figure 5-5.


Figure 5-5: This window represents the script for your EasyScript Backup.

Click the Selecting button shown above. The File Selection Criteria window appears. Now it's time for some tough choices. Should your hard disk die completely, do you want to reconstruct it by restoring piece by piece from a handful of original CDs? If so, choose Users Folder and Prefs (OS X) from the pop-up menu.

Or do you want to have Retrospect Express set your new hard disk up just like your old one in just a few minutes. If so, just leave this pop-up menu alone. Your backup will include all the files on your hard disk.

Tip

You may want to choose All Files Except Cache Files from this pop-up menu, then click OK. This will exclude all of the OS X cache files, which help to speed your work but are otherwise worthless and often quite large, from your backups.

That's it. You're ready to backup.

If you want to perform your first backup now instead of waiting for the scheduled time, choose EasyScript Backup from the Run menu.

The first time you run this script, Retrospect Express will automatically backup all your documents and preferences. This first backup to each backup set is a "full" or "complete" backup. All subsequent backups to that backup set will be "incremental" backups, only backing up documents or preference files that have changed or new documents that fit the backup criteria.

That's it. From now on, Retrospect Express will launch itself automatically at the chosen time and perform the appropriate actions. The only thing you have to do is be sure the appropriate cartridge or disc (for the appropriate backup set) is in the drive before the backup starts. And, if the next backup fills up the tape, cartridge, or disc, that you're around to insert a fresh piece of media.

A section on restoring from your backup appears after these tutorials. You don't really have to read it unless or until your hard disk gets messed up. But I wanted you to know it was there.

One thing you should know is that this plan will backup a lot of files that don't really need backing up, including applications and Mac OS files that you could restore from the original CD-ROMs. Still, this is one of the quickest and easiest way I can think of to get your life back to normal as quickly as possible should a disaster befall your hard disk.

If you would prefer instead to backup only a few selected folders, here's an alternative strategy. Let's call it plan B-plus. In the Directory window, click the Automate tab, then click Scripts. Select your script then click Edit. Now click the Selecting button and choose Hot Items instead of Users Folder and Prefs (OS X) from the pop-up menu. This tells Retrospect Express to only backup items you've labeled "Hot" in the Finder. Now close and save your script.

Next, go to the Finder and label every folder you want to back up with the red label using the Finder's Label command (File | Color Label). That's it. From now on, every folder with a red label will be backed up automatically when the script runs.

Tip

If you're going to use this method, it's a good idea to label the "Documents" folder in your Home folder with a red label and then always save documents you create into this folder. Just remember to save new documents here and don't forget to label this folder red so Retrospect Express knows to back it up.

Plan C Tutorial

This tutorial is for the Plan C user described in Chapter 2. It is completely different in from Plan A and B-it assumes you're using Retrospect (not Express) and backing up to either a tape drive or multiple hard disks.

OK big guy (or gal). Your backup needs are humongous. You need everything protected multiple times. And you don't want to spend your whole life managing the process. So here's what you do.

First install Retrospect on your hard disk, then launch it, personalize it, and type in your registration code number. Once you do, you'll be looking at the Retrospect Directory window, as shown in Figure 5-6.


Figure 5-6: The Retrospect Directory window; the first thing you see after you launch and register the program.

Click the Automate tab at the top of the window, then click the Scripts button. When the Scripts window appears, click the New button, which takes you to the "Create what kind of script?" window.

Tip

Notice that Retrospect offers several options not found in Retrospect Express, including network backups, archiving (copy files with optional move), and filters (called Selectors). These features are beyond the scope of this tutorial but now you know they're there if you wish to explore them further at your leisure. The Retrospect manual is among the best in the business if you want to know more.

We're interested in creating an automated Backup script, so click Backup then click OK. Name your script and click New. And finally, the backup script window appears as shown in Figure 5-7.


igure 5-7: The backup script waiting to be configured.

You'll notice that the backup script has no volume, storage sets, or destinations chosen. That's what we're going to do next. Unlike Retrospect Express, Retrospect doesn't have a "wizard" or EasyScript mode. So we're going to set everything up manually starting with the first choice, Sources.

Sources

Click the Sources button and the Volume Selection window appears as shown in Figure 7.


Figure 5-8: Choosing the volume Boots to be backed up by this script.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.)

Click the volume or volumes you want backed up by this script then click OK. Another window appears. This one lets you change the order the disks will be backed up, which only matters if you chose more than one disk or volume in the previous step. So if you only chose one volume in the previous step, just click OK and be done with it. If you're backing up two or more disks or volumes with this script, drag any volume name up or down in the list to change the order. When you're happy, click OK.

You've now selected the source disk or disks for this script-the disk or disks you wish to backup.

Destinations

The next thing we'll do is choose a destination for your backup and create a storage set for it. So click the Destinations button in the backup scripts window and the Backup Set Selection window appears. Click the Create New button and the Backup Set Creation window appears, as shown in Figure 8.


Figure 5-9: The Backup Set Creation window.

Choose your backup device from the pop-up Storage Type menu. (You'll choose "File" if you intend to backup to another hard disk.) You can click the Security button if you want to password protect or encrypt your backup, and then type a name for your storage set in the Name field. When everything is set, click the New button at top right and save the catalog file on your hard disk.

Warning

DO NOT save these catalog files on another disk. Retrospect needs them to perform your scripted backups.

If you're backing up to another hard disk, a standard Open File dialog box will appear next. Choose the destination hard disk-the one you want to back up your files to, and then click Save.

Back in the Backup Set Selection window, click on your newly created storage set then click OK. Another window appears. Since you have only one storage set at this time, just click OK and be move on to the next step.

Selecting

You should be looking once again at the backup scripts window. At this point, you can choose to "filter" your backup and exclude or include specific files or folders. Or not. Since you're probably backing up to inexpensive tape, I'd just leave things alone and backup everything.

But if you'd like to exclude certain files or folders, click the Selecting button. The Choose File Selection Criteria window appears. You can choose one of the included filters-All Files, Applications, Documents & Preferences, etc.-or click the More Choices button and create a custom "Selector."

I created a custom selector that excludes cache files, temp files, and Virtual PC files, which I feel don't need to be backed up. Because I doubt I'll ever need any old cache or temp files, and I know I have Virtual PC (which each take up over a gigabyte on my hard disk) on the original CD-ROMs on my shelf, so this selector saves me hundreds of megabytes of backup storage.

Still, if you want the safest, easiest backups and restores, leave it set to "all files" and don't bother with selectors.

Tip

If you do create selectors and want to reuse them with other backup sets in the future, choose Save As from the Selector menu, which appears when you're editing a selector.

You may have noticed that I am about to skip right over the Options button in the backup scripts window. Don't worry. It's already set up properly for 99.9% of Retrospect users.

Warning

One thing you should never do is disable the verification option. Verification ensures files are copied correctly by comparing files in the StorageSet with the original source files after the backup is performed. If the StorageSet spans multiple CDs, tapes, or cartridges with verification enabled, you must reinsert all CDs, tapes, or cartridges to which data has been written. Although verification increases the time it takes for a backup to complete, it ensures that information is correctly written to the StorageSet. This option is on by default and should never be turned off. Verification has saved my butt more than once when I had media go bad on me.

Scheduling

The next thing to do is schedule your backup. So click the Schedule button in the backup scripts window. The Schedule window appears. Click the Add button. Click Repeating Interval then click OK. Choose a start date, a time, a repeat interval, and number of days. Leave the Action menu set to Normal Backup. In Figure 5-10 I've set up a scheduler that runs every day at 6PM.


Figure 5-10: My daily backup scheduler.

When everything in this window looks good to you, click OK. The Next Execution window shows you when this script will run next. Click OK.

And that's it. Close the script, save the changes, and your copy of Retrospect will do the rest (as long as there's enough tape in the drive or enough space on the hard disk you're backing up to).

Note

If you're a Plan C user you may need to backup multiple Macs over a network. If so, Retrospect, in conjunction with its optional Remote Clients, can do it for you automatically (and backup PCs , too). Unfortunately (and I'm going to use my first and only "weasel-out" in this article), an explanation of how to do it is beyond the scope of this project. Suffice it to say Dantz's documentation is exemplary and if you have this need, you'll have no trouble figuring out how to make it work on your network.

Other considerations for Plan C users

You should repeat the entire procedure above two more times, creating three tape or hard disk sets. Then, use the scheduler to set up a rotating schedule. Don't forget that one of the sets should be stored in another building if possible. Here is the schedule I use:

  • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Backup Set A
  • Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday: Backup Set B
  • Sunday: Backup Set C

Next week swap Set A and Set C so A is stored off-site and C is used Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The next week swap Set A and B so B is now stored off-site. And so on.

One other consideration is that I can't bear the thought of losing even an hour of work. Yet I don't want Retrospect performing an incremental backup of my whole hard disk every hour. I'm only concerned about the folder with the project I'm working on today. Fortunately, Retrospect's Duplicate command allows me to do something far better-a script duplicates just the folder for that project every 60 minutes to two hard disks.

Cloning -- It's Not Just for Sheep Anymore

If you're a Plan C type of user, you may want to make one of your backups a clone of your boot disk. To do this you'll need an external FireWire hard disk the same size as or larger than your startup disk. Then, use Retrospect or Retrospect Express (or SuperDuper or ChronoSync) to create an exact duplicate of your hard disk on the external hard disk. The big advantage here is that you can start up any Mac from the cloned external hard disk. So if your Mac dies or your startup disk melts down taking all of your files with it, you can be back at work in mere minutes by taking the cloned hard disk to any modern Mac, plugging it in, and booting from it.

For what it's worth, I have Retrospect clone my startup disk to another hard disk every night in addition to my three scripted backups to hard disks and DVDs. If you're like me and can't afford the time it would take to fix and restore a damaged hard disk, you should almost certainly have a clone in addition to two or three backup sets.

Backing Up Over the Internet: Is It For Me?

One last thing we should discuss before we move on to what to do if your hard disk dies is Internet backup. What is it? Is it right for me? How much will it cost me?

Internet backup is a nifty feature that lets you backup from your hard disk to a secure backup server located somewhere else via the Internet.

Both Retrospect and Retrospect Express include Internet backup. But is it right for you? The answer depends on two things: How much data you have to backup and how fast your Internet connection is.

Note

Refer back to Chapter 4 for descriptions of BackJack and Backup 3, which both offer Internet backup.

There are no hard and fast rules but I would say that if you have more than one or two gigabytes of files to backup, you should probably not use this method. It'll take as much as several hours to perform your initial backup (depending on your connection speed), and your incremental backups may take a long time, too (again, depending on your connection speed). Not to mention the monthly or yearly cost of the storage space.

One good way to use Internet backup is to only use it for very, very important documents and use a traditional backup device for your everyday backup needs. I suggest that if you have a slow Internet connection you should back up only your most critical files to the Internet, such as your customer database files, Retrospect Catalog files, novel in progress, Quicken data files, etc.

This approach offers three distinct benefits: It's relatively cheap, it fulfills Rule 2 (offsite backups) at least partially, and it allows you to restore your backup files from anywhere in the world (all you need is Retrospect Express and an Internet connection).

The bottom line is that Internet backup is best if you have a fast Internet connection and a small amount of data to back up. Otherwise, it's likely to be both time and cost prohibitive.

Since BackJack offers a 15-day free trial, you have nothing to lose by trying it.


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