My Backup Strategy

by Dave in ,

On a few recent Mac Geek Gab episodes I've mentioned my current backup strategy and more than a few listeners have asked me to document this somewhere. I figured this blog was as good a place as any.

Starting in 1995 and up until February when Apple's Time Capsule came out, I was a died-in-the-wool Retrospect user. But I got sick. and. tired. of. waiting. for. an. update. Even still there's no Intel native version of Retrospect (due Real Soon Now... in October, or maybe later), and to me that means it's not currently a viable option anymore. Combine that with Mac OS X Leopard's Time Machine and Time Capsule and, well, life can be better than Retrospect.

And it is.

Time Capsule/Time Machine

I have 5 Macs to back-up. 4 of them are on Leopard, and one is on Tiger (too old to run Leopard). All 4 Leopard machines back up to a 1TB Time Capsule. The TC sits over at the house, and is connected via Gigabit Ethernet buried underground. This means if the office burns down the Time Capsule likely won't go with it, and vice versa regarding the house. Semi-off-site I like to call it. So that's one line of defense.


I also use SuperDuper daily to clone my MacBook Pro's hard drive to an external FireWire drive sitting here in my office. This provides both a second backup as well as an "instant boot" method if my main drive were to go down at any point.

Additionally, I use SuperDuper on the Tiger machine to back up critical files daily to the Time Capsule. Yes, though Tiger can't run Time Machine, it can very much see the Time Capsule as a shared drive, and this works perfectly.


Because I use IMAP for my mail, my "current" email is stored on the three Macs I use regularly (MacBook Pro in office, iMac in studio, Dual G4 over at house), so that's backed up. Because of this, I exclude the mail directories from Time Machine backups on all but my MacBook Pro (those being [home]/Library/Mail/IMAP-[name of mailbox]). No need to back that data up again onto the same Time Capsule drive.


Earlier this year, I decided to fully adopt the "cloud computing" concept and moved all of my documents up to my iDisk. This doesn't include pictures or music, but pretty much everything else is there. It takes up about 3 GB. The beauty is that the iDisk can be synced for offline usage to any (or all) of my Macs. So again I have it synced to the 3 Macs I use most, and again I exclude it from Time Machine on all but one of them (this is done by excluding [home]/Library/FileSync, for those playing along at home).

MobileMe Sync

Since I use multiple computers as well as an iPhone, I take full advantage of MobileMe's ability to sync Contacts, Calendars, and Bookmarks. And while I don't fully consider this a backup necessarily, it certainly acts as one since the data exists on all 3 computer plus the MobileMe cloud.

So I have all of my data in at least two places, and some of it in as many as 6. Yes it seems a little obsessive when you break it down, but it really all flows very smoothly together with the sole exception of MobileMe Sync, which is not entirely reliable and requires massaging and resetting about once every six weeks. The rest of it has worked like a charm since I started down this path in February, and I have no intention of changing any time soon.

If you have any questions, please just feel free to comment and ask.