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Backup strategy

Locating all data within/underneath a single “Master” folder enables a backup strategy in which a full backup can be performed by a single drag-copy of the “Master” folder to other volume(s). It also allows erasing the boot drive at any time, without fear of losing anything more than one’s system preferences. And it enables the transport of one’s data between similar or dissimilar computers via an external hard drive.

I prefer manual backups. Backup software needs to be paid for, upgraded regularly, and learned. In my view, a backup procedure should be brain-dead simple, and should not require special programs, which can contain bugs, not to mention confusing features that can be misused. My strategy involves backing up my Master data folder to four different backup volumes, cycling through them on a week basis.

When I backup, I follow these steps:

  1. (optional) Erase the backup volume using Apple’s Disk Utility. This ensures a problem-free file system. Of course, if the backup volume holds multiple previous backups, then you would not perform this step. And don’t erase the wrong volume!
  2. Create a new folder on the backup volume using the notation yyyymmdd eg “20070302” to represent March 02, 2007 (this notation sorts nicely by date when multiple backups are viewed).
  3. Drag-copy the “Master” folder to the folder created in step (2).
  4. (optional) Disconnect the backup disk and store it in a safe place, preferably away from the computer or at another site.

There’s only one problem with this strategy: what about things like Apple Mail, which stubbornly insist on storing mail in your home directory on the boot volume? Remembering to backup your “Master” data folder and a variety of other data folders is error-prone.
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