Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #22, Feb. ’97

Welcome to 1997! As My Mac now has technical writers for the lesser experienced crowd, this column will start to focus on the technical support level closer to what I deal with every day. This month’s column is about backups – something I had to personally deal with on my 7500 at home.

To start with, do you back up your data? I’ll bet most of you will answer no. If you did answer no, do you have any idea how much data recovery costs? I do, as I do it commercially (and it isn’t cheap). What would you do if you lost your documents? Never thought of it that way? Hmmm… I know what you mean (I deal with clients everyday that have never thought of those questions).

At work, I run Retrospect® from Dantz every night that backs up everyone on my network, including the servers, to a DAT drive. I change tapes frequently and have a schedule that keeps everything current. Does it work? Absolutely! I’ve had hard drives completely fail that I couldn’t recover data from, but the backup still had everything on it. There has also been the occasion that a user has deleted the “Oh, so darn important” file, again. I just pull it off the tape.

At home is a different story. I keep over 5 gig of data on line. Do I backup? Heck no! I’m the tech after all, why should I back up? Well, New Year’s day, my primary internal drive failed. After spending 8 hours recovering, I was able to get everything back, except for a few files, which I only lost a couple hours of work on. The loss of data wasn’t the issue, spending my time on it was. Do I backup now? Well, sort of…. I back up the critical files to my Zip drive, the rest I just watch closely. There is a new DAT drive ordered from APS however, so I will keep everything precisely archived in the future.

So, enough about my sob story, what can you do to keep your life’s work backed up?

The cheap way: Purchase a couple boxes of floppy disks and drag over your documents. Most files should fit on a disk (especially ClarisWorks® and other word processing items). If the documents are almost small enough to fit on a disk, pull down a copy of DropStuff from the Internet and compress the file(s) to fit. This method doesn’t make a copy of your applications, but then, you’ve paid for them (right?) and have the original disks/CDs anyway, so you can reload the programs in a worst case scenario.
The more expensive way: buy a Zip drive. Copy your documents to a Zip disk (or disks). Buy more Zip disks and make an entire backup of your hard drive. Seems that Iomega bundles a limited backup application, if so, use it. If not, I recommend Retrospect® from Dantz Development, but you could try one of the programs toward the end of this list. A good backup program will compress your data and fit it on fewer disks.

The even more expensive way: Purchase a DAT drive and archive your entire drive to tape. Frequently. Most drives come with an OEM version of Retrospect. Read the manual, and use the darn thing.

Finally, here are a few tips on backup procedures:

How often should you backup? Depending on the convenience of your system, you should perform it as often as possible, or as I tell many of my clients “how much of your time do you want to lose?”. If you’re using the floppy disk method, try once a week. The Zip method, every few days. The DAT method, every day.

How often should you change the media (disks, cartridges, tapes, etc.)? Similar guidelines as above should be used; normally I recommend changing floppy disks every month, Zips and DAT tapes every 2 months. This also depends on the nature of how important your files are to you. Mission critical data should have the media changed frequently. That way if you step on the disk or set your favorite horseshoe magnet on the tape, you will always have another copy handy.

What backup procedure/program should you use? In most cases, I recommend using the system that works the best for you. If you like the program that came with your computer, then use it. If you like your friend’s backup utility, try that one.

Here are 3 backup utilities that I found on the HyperArchive. I’ve not tried any of them, nor do I know what fees (if any) are related to the products.

About MacUpdate:

Download MacUpdate:

About SimpleBackup:

Download SimpleBackup:

About SwitchBack251:

Download SwitchBack251:

Real World Experience:

The computer: PowerMacintosh LC 5300

The problem: Random system freezes/bombs in any application.

The solution: Replaced main logic board.

The explanation: This was one of those computers that cried out “software problem.” After a full format and reinstallation of everything multiple times, it was determined to have one of the logic boards that Apple has the repair extension program for. The initial symptoms did not indicate it as such, but after replacing the board the machine was rock solid in performance and reliability.

Jeramey R. Valley (

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