Choosing a backup drive – a word of warning

If you read MacMousecalls or the Dr. Mac Consulting Newsletter, you have read many posts and articles about the necessity of backing up your computer.

There are many software solutions and hard drives that can be used for backing up your files, photos and data. Many of our long-time readers (and often long-time Mac users) prefer to make bootable backups of their data. This means they use an application like Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) or SuperDuper to make an exact duplicate of their hard drive.

If (when) you need to use the backup made by Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper, it is often necessary to use the backup hard drive to boot your computer.

The cheapest form of drive to use for backups is a USB drive--and if you have a MacBook, it is probably the ONLY way you can connect an external drive.

Now, here comes the rub! Even though all Intel Macintoshes are able to be booted from a USB drive, not all brands of drives can be used to boot a Macintosh. In particular, Western Digital hard drives are a problem.

On their own web page, Western Digital notes that they do “not provide technical support for booting your computer using an external hard drive.” They use the language “should be bootable,” but they make no guarantees.

While this might not be a problem, it COULD be one.

Because of this issue, noted on the Western Digital web page, I would have difficulty recommending a Western Digital hard drive. I would NOT recommend them for use with Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper or any other program that makes a bootable backup drive for your Mac.

While I use SuperDuper to make a bootable backup of my Macs, it is not my primary backup system. I am a strong proponent of Time Machine, Apple’s backup software that is a part of Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard and Mac OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard. It does not make a bootable backup, but I can always use the System DVD that came with my computer or the Leopard or Snow Leopard DVD to boot my computer and then I can restore my computer using the backup files on my Time Machine drive.

The most valuable feature of Time Machine is that I can restore individual files, photos, addresses, emails and more and I can go back “in time” to restore a file I have changed or perhaps discarded if I need the earlier version or missing file.

Backing up is the single, most important thing a computer user should do. Loosing all of your files and photos is heart-breaking and recovering them from a failed drive is very expensive when it is even possible.

--Pat
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