Jeff’s Comprehensive Mac Backup Guide

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Today is World Backup Day, which is great, but for me every day is backup day. I hate to lose files. I hate that so much that I have backup systems for my backups. No kidding. I'm kind of out of control.

You can never have too much. That's Jeff's backup motto.You can never have too much. That's Jeff's backup motto.

My data backup routine is made up of multiple strategies: on sight and off site; hourly and daily. Here's how it all comes together.

On Site

My on site backup routine for my Mac starts with Apple's own Time Machine. It handles hourly backups and gives my quick access to previous file versions in the event I really screw up something I'm working on. I see Time Machine as a very transient backup system because it's giving fast little snapshots of what I'm working on throughout the day.

I can go back a few weeks for older files, but that rarely happens. If I need something from my Time Machine backup, it's almost never anything that's more than a few hours old.

My nightly backup is under the watchful care of Data Backup 3 from Prosoft Engineering. It backs up all of my files and keeps several weeks worth of changes for me. If something goes horribly wrong I can get back my lost data with out any hassle.

My nightly backup is stored on a Drobo 5D, which adds in another level of backup: hardware. If a hard drive fails in my Drobo, I can swap it out for another without risking any data loss.

Off Site

I use two off site backup services, both of which fall more or less under my hourly backup routine. Since they're checking throughout the day for changed files, I'm never more than a couple hours ahead of both backups.

Dolly Drive covers my truly cloud-based backup needs and hasn't ever failed me. As a bonus, you can use their service to manage file synchronization between multiple computers and mobile devices, too. You can try it out for free, and depending on your storage needs, plans are available ranging from US$10 a month for 250GB storage up to $55 a month for 2TB.

My second off site backup comes courtesy of CrashPlan's free service that lets me use my own hard drive connected to someone else's computer. I like the idea of having an off site backup on one of my own drives because all of my important data is easily accessible and nearby. If I were to loose my computer and local backups, I could drive over to the location where my off site backup drive sits, plug in a new computer, and restore my files without waiting for long online downloads to finish.

To use CrashPlan's free off site service, you'll need a trusted friend that's using it, too. Your drive connects to their computer, and backups happen only when both of your computers are online. I wouldn't use this as my only bakup option, but it's a great supplement to my already extensive backup routine.

Mobile Backups

My iPhone and iPad need to backup important data, too, and I use iCloud for that. It may not be a perfect solution for everyone, but it's worked reliably for me.

Since iCloud also handles data syncing for my schedule and contacts, I have an extra backup of sorts there, too. My schedule is available on all of my devices, as are my contacts.

More Cloud Backups

I have even more file backups thanks to Dropbox and Drobo's Transporter. Since I use both to store synced files, I have copies of documents on multiple computers. The files on both also live on their respective servers, so if I can always look there for documents I otherwise might lose to a hard drive failure.

Like I said, I hate losing files. I'm always looking for ways to improve my backup process, so tell me about your routine. I'm ready to be impressed.

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Off sight ? Off site methinks (darned auto-complete!)


Jeff, I presume you mean “On Site” and “Off Site”, or maybe “in Sight” or “Out of Sight”.

Jeff Gamet

Foiled by ducking autocorrect again!


I run regular backups with TimeMachine., I should have an off site copy but just don’t yet.

But it’s better than my friend. I asked him about his backup strategy and he answered “I move the shifter to R”.
I have a lot of work to do with him.


I wonder if any members here have NEVER backed up their data on their Mac Tower as opposed to a more fragile design compromised-for-space laptop???? I don’t want to tempt fate or karma but as a strictly Mac user of Towers or say desktops because my 6100AV certainly wasn’t a “tower” nor was the IIci or SE(x), but the G3,4,5 and Pros were and are.  I would upgrade and target mode the ol’ Mac onto the new Mac over and over through the years without ever backing up. I have a terabyte external drive I throw stuff on once in a while randomly but well, I was just wondering exactly HOW dumb-luck stupid I am, or has anybody else NEVER suffered data loss?  nice syntax, not.


“I wonder if any members here have NEVER backed up their data on their Mac Tower as opposed to a more fragile design compromised-for-space laptop????”

I lost my first data on a Gigabit G-4. I have lost count how many times Time Machine has saved my bacon.

Scott B in DC

I just use Crashplan for on-site, off-site, near-site and line-of-site (ok… that’s a joke) backup. I have a disk attached to my iMac, a disk attached to my wife’s Win7 box, and a disk attached to an old PowerBook (yes, a G4 PowerBook) in another room. All running CrashPlan. The PowerBook is nothing more than a “server” driving an old printer and the 1Tb external disk. I don’t back anything up on that system (running Snow Leopard).

Both my iMac and my wife’s PC is backed up to CrashPlan’s “cloud” storage. It appears to be reliable. I’ve used it to recover my wife’s machine twice (I still hate Windows, but I can’t get her to switch).

Of course I am very old school. I come from a day when not only did we backup to 9-track tape, but we did disk-to-disk images on removable platters. I became very paranoid when disks stopped being removable! Then again, I couldn’t fit an RM05 into any PC! grin

Melissa Holt

I second the use of CrashPlan and enthusiastically recommend it!

My current backup plan is simple…ish. My incremental backups are to a Time Capsule on my home network and to CrashPlan. I do a once-per-week clone backup using Carbon Copy Cloner, another program and developer I think very highly of. My essential work files, like Jeff’s, are also stored in Dropbox.

OK, maybe it’s not so simple. But it keeps me from losing sleep about the safety of my data!


Jay Carroll

Jeff, why would you not use Crashplan’s unlimited cloud backup?? I don’t know of another cloud storage solution that is as comprehensive and secure.  Perhaps you do? Dolly drive is pretty expensive in comparison and doesn’t seem offer anything more.

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