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JoSH Lehan

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Set up Time Machine on Mac [Dec. 13th, 2009|02:42 pm]
JoSH Lehan
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I set up Time Machine on my Mac.

This is something I've wanted to do for a while. I wanted to make a backup of my data, and also, I wanted to be able to have a chance to go back when upgrading from Leopard (10.5) to Snow Leopard (10.6). If you don't have Time Machine, then upgrading to Snow Leopard is a one-way street. There's been talk of some problems with Snow Leopard, so I want to be careful just in case.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need an Apple "Time Capsule" external hard drive, to use Time Machine. Any external hard drive will do!

I bought a Seagate 1TB hard drive, and a generic USB enclosure for it. (The enclosure also supports eSATA, for faster speed, but unfortunately, my Mac doesn't.)

I'm trying something new: spending a little more money and getting an "enterprise" hard drive. There's no difference in hardware manufacture between desktop and enterprise hard drives, except that enterprise drives represent a cull of the drives that performed the very best in testing. They are said to be more reliable, and they do carry a longer warranty. I believe enterprise hard drives have a different firmware version as well. I was concerned that it would be noisier, but it seems fine so far.

The brand-new drive began completely blank (all zeroes). Time Machine is known for being painlessly simple, and popping up automatically, but you need to do a few things first, if you're using a brand-new external drive. To get Time Machine to see it, there are 4 things you must do:

1) Open Disk Utility (a popup box will appear when you first connect the drive, doing this automatically).

2) Select your new external drive, at left. Select "Partition", at top. Choose "1 Partition" from the Volume Scheme pulldown menu.

3) Choose "Options". Choose the "GUID Partition Table" scheme, but if you have an older non-Intel Mac, instead choose "Apple Partition Map". Hit OK.

Avoid "Master Boot Record", this is only for PC use. Unfortunately, many hard drives default to "Master Boot Record", and will need to be changed before they can be used with Time Machine, or there might be problems down the road.

4) In the main window, give your new partition a name, and make sure the type is set to "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)". Hit Apply.

Now, the Time Machine window should pop up! All you need to do is choose "Yes" when it asks you if you want to use this disk for Time Machine, and you're good to go.

Backups will automatically be scheduled to take place in the future. If you're impatient to get started, in the upper right corner of the screen, there will be a new icon, that looks like a clock with a circle around it. Pull down the window and select "Start Backup Now" or something like that. I did that, and it's happily chugging away now. I'll let it run overnight, in order to finish, as when the very first backup takes place, it has to make a copy of everything on your computer, and that takes a long time, especially over USB.

Of course, the true test of any backup system, is: Can it restore? I'll have to remember to test that later....

[User Picture]From: jkusters
2009-12-14 12:19 am (UTC)
We're using a Time Capsule to back up our laptops (very convenient and easy), but I've been thinking about what to do with my old G5 with the >1TB of data. I'm glad you made this post so I can avoid making some of the mistakes I would have made without your research. Thanks!
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[User Picture]From: krellan
2009-12-14 04:59 am (UTC)
Very good, that's the main reason I post to this blog: to tell other people things I learned, and to serve as a reminder for myself later in the future once I've forgotten.

Can you use a single external USB drive, to back up more than one Mac computer? I have an old Mac Mini that's running 10.3.9, which might be too old to see the "GUID Partition Table" format of the hard drive. Haven't tried it yet, not too concerned about it since that computer is just a "spare" and isn't critical.
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[User Picture]From: jkusters
2009-12-14 05:30 am (UTC)
I don't know of a way to share one USB device with two host machines simultaneously. If you mean serially, it might work. It would depend, I suppose, on whether Time Machine knows to put each machine's backup under a differently names sparse disk image like it does with a Time Capsule.
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[User Picture]From: krellan
2009-12-14 09:13 pm (UTC)
That's what I meant: manually connecting the USB drive to one computer at a time. I wouldn't intend for it to be used simultaneously by more than one computer!
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[User Picture]From: russj
2010-04-03 05:10 am (UTC)

What about RAID storage?

I have been manually doing what you are doing--periodically backing up files to an external HDD (monthly).
But I started a new job in November where we are writing firmware for RAID controllers, and that has gotten me thinking about it.
The concept is that you use an array of 2 or more drives for your data (or even boot from the array) using some of the space for redundant data.
With RAID-1, 2 drives mirror each other. With RAID-5, parity data is put on one of 3 or more drives. In either case, if a single drive dies, you won't lose data, and you don't have to "backup".
But you need a RAID disc controller. Some computers have one on the motherboard; others you have to buy an add-on card. Other systems have a slower "software RAID" features.
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[User Picture]From: krellan
2010-06-13 03:51 pm (UTC)

Re: What about RAID storage?

RAID probably isn't the best application for this. I wanted to back up to only a single drive, and have something that would remain mostly offline. RAID won't help in the situation where a virus, or careless user mistake, erases or scrambles your data.

I am running Linux software RAID now on one of my computers, to increase the speed and storage space, and make it more reliable against hardware failure of a disk, but I still back up the data somewhere else.
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