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I’ve seen lots of discussions on the net this past week about upgrading to the latest Apple operating systems and most of them stress backing up first, but most of them don’t differentiate between types of backup. Is Time Machine enough? Should you have a bootable clone backup? Can you backup two machines to the same drive? Do I really need to do a backup?

Call me paranoid, but I keep multiple backups of my main computer. Why? I’ve had backup drives fail, usually when I’m least prepared to deal with a failure. I’m not as fussy about my laptop, but it’s not a work machine. It has a single cloned backup drive, that is always updated just before installing any upgrades or updates.

My iMac is my work machine, and as such, it actually has three backup drives. One is for Time Machine, one is a bootable mirror image, and the third keeps a spare copy of my home folder and my Documents folder. Why Documents folder when it also copies my home folder? Because I keep all of my documents in the root Documents folder, not the home Documents folder. If I’m working in a different identity, I still want access to those documents. No one else uses this computer, so no need to worry about what others will see.

The Time Machine drive is great when a file is accidentally deleted or an App goes nuts on me. It’s easy to go back to just before things went wrong and just restore that single file or folder. The bootable clone? If something has gone terribly wrong with an upgrade, or I just plain hate the upgrade, I can boot my computer from the clone and clone everything back to the internal drive. All I lose is the time involved. Added bonus to having a cloned drive? I had one of the ill-fated G5 iMacs that made several trips in for repairs before Apple replaced it with a nice Intel iMac. I also had a business to run and needed my computer. I used the cloned backup drive to boot my laptop, running from the external drive until the iMac came back and I could clone my data back. Saved many headaches.

So, before you start installing Yosemite, take a look at your backups. Decide what works best for you. Yes, you can restore from a Time Machine drive, but you can’t boot from it. Can you live with that? Food for thought. Backup drives are inexpensive insurance, and while cloud backups are great, if you are transferring a lot of files, it’s slow. And yes, I do keep critical data files on a couple of cloud servers. Paranoid? Me? Yep.

Ten days until Halloween, so it’s time for a new MacGroup 5 Halloween video. Our own Dave McGuire makes a great Gomez Addams.


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