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How to Set Up Backup 3 and Save Your Data

by Derrick Story
09/23/2005

I've been fascinated with Apple's backup software since its early release. Back in 2003, I wrote an article titled "802.11, .Mac, Backup--All Coming Together" that discussed how WiFi and .Mac provided laptop users with flexible backup options. Back in those days, we only had 100 MB to work with via .Mac, so only the most basic data was eligible for this service (no iPhoto libraries, that's for sure).

Each year things have improved. We tend to see new .Mac tools and service enhancements in September. That's because many of us who upgraded from the previous incarnation of .Mac--then called iTools--did so in the fall. My account comes up for renewal on Oct 7. So do many others. This year's enticements are pretty good. I now have a full gigabyte to play with in my .Mac account, and I have a new version of Backup. Both are substantial improvements.

In this article I'm going to show you how to set up Backup 3. There's a lot more to this new version than a brighter red umbrella icon. Apple has made substantial changes to the software, and in my opinion, has created a workflow that's truly useful.

I'll resist spending too much time here waxing about the virtues of automated backup. We all know that it's essential for protecting our data. Whether you use these tools, or roll your own--such as the techniques Richard Hough outlined in his excellent article, "Automated Backups on Tiger Using rsync"--be sure to choose some method. 'Nuff said.

Get Your Account in Order

As I mentioned in my weblog entry Backup 3 QuickStart Guide, you should start by logging into your .Mac account and configuring your storage partition. I tend to give most of my MBs to iDisk, since .Mac isn't my primary email location. Your mileage may vary. This is also a good time to make sure your credit card info is up to date, so you don't have any glitches on renewal day. Before you leave the site, download Backup 3 and install it. (If you already have Backup on your hard drive, you can also use Software Update to get version 3.)

Backup 3 works for both Panther and Tiger users. I've tested the app on both platforms. Panther users need Mac OS X v10.3.9 and Tiger folks need Mac OS X v10.4.2 or later.

Choose Your Plan

At the heart of this new version of Backup is what Apple calls a "Plan." Plans are separate configurations that enable you to execute different types of backup scenarios. You can create a variety of Plans, then choose from your Backup menu which one you want to enable for any given backup.

Each configuration includes a name for the Plan, when it's scheduled to run next, the types of files included in the backup, where the files will be saved to, and when the last backup of the Plan was executed.

The Plan for Existing Backup Users

If you've been using an earlier version of Backup, I recommend that you start with the "Transfer previous Backup settings" Plan. This option takes your current settings and builds a Backup 3 Plan with them.

Migrated iDisk Plan
Existing Backup users might want to start with the "Transfer previous Backup settings" Plan

Once you choose the Transfer Plan, you're presented with a second window that lets you choose "Migrated CD, DVD Plan," or "Migrated iDisk Plan." Since I want automated network backups, I'm choosing the iDisk Plan.

Now here's an important tip. At this point, double-click on the Migrated iDisk Plan to reveal another menu that shows what is actually being backed up. When I first tried this method, I didn't do that. I then got a failure notice because somehow the Transfer Plan decided to add all the Filemaker DBs on my hard drive to the backup. (Then it spent a long time searching for all the DBs on my drive.) This pushed me over the 1GB limit on my iDisk and prompted a failure notice. Once I eliminated the Filemaker DBs from the Plan, everything went smoothly. If everything looks good to you once you review the items list, then click on the Back Up Now button to initiate the process.

One of the big advantages to choosing a simple set of files for your first backup is that it saves you time while setting up your workflow. One of Backup 3's weaknesses is how long it takes to scour your hard drive for loosely categorized file types, such as "all Microsoft Word docs." At least during the "getting your feet wet" stage, keep it simple and back up items, such as your Address Book database, that reside in one location. Later, you can add more items to your list as time permits.

I should also say that once Backup knows where everything is, it's quite speedy. My backups now take less than two minutes. It's those initial searches for files that seem to take forever.

If you do get a failure, be sure to check the log files. You can do that by clicking on the History tab in the Plan detail window. Choose the session that you want more info about, then click the View Details button. Backup will launch the Console app and display your log files.

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