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The complete, easy guide to backing up your Mac

You know about Time Machine, but there are other ways to back up your Mac. Here’s how to pick the best backup method for you.

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If, tomorrow, something goes wrong with your Mac or if it gets stolen or damaged, replacing the hardware itself is technically very easy to do; it just takes money. But the data that was on its hard disk or SSD—those precious photos, that carefully amassed iTunes library, that work, that novel? The best case scenario is that you pay hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars to a data recovery specialist to try to get some back, and the worst case is that it’s gone for good.

And that’s why, today, you should back up your Mac. We all know this, but understanding the different ways of backing up, and picking a backup strategy that’s right for you—so that you can rest easy knowing that it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll lose any of your files—can be tricky. At least, it would be, but for this guide!

Here we’re going to talk you through the pros and cons of different ways you can back up your Mac, giving you the information you need to make an informed decision about protecting your data in the way that suits you best.

But because that detailed information might be a bit intimidating, we’re going to start with two simple scenarios: the “if you do nothing else, do this” setup that is easy, cheap, and will give you some basic protection against data loss, and then our recommendation for a good mix of backup methods that should in most situations ensure your data can withstand almost any catastrophe.

If you do nothing else, do this!

A good, safe backup strategy to BackUp your data

BackUp with Time Machine to Disk Connected to your Mac 

Time Machine to a disk connected to your network

Cloning your disk to another connected to your Mac

Using RAID disks, Fire- and waterproof disks to BackUp Your Files on Mac

Cloud backup using  CrashPlan, Backblaze and Livedrive on mac

Peer to Peer Offside Backup on Mac 

A last word of advice

Hopefully, then, we’ve helped you adopt the right backup system for you—or at least, gotten you to plug a sixty-buck hard disk into your Mac for Time Machine—but be careful not to get lulled into a false sense of security. Backup can help mitigate against data loss, and the more backup systems you have running the less chance there is that you’ll lose your wedding pictures, your work documents, your homework. Things can still go wrong, though, so be vigilant, and if one of your backup systems (or your Mac) goes awry, fix and replace it as soon as you can to keep up your protection.

Which brings us to your last bit of advice: every so often, do a quick audit to make sure your backup systems are actually running and are backing up as they’re supposed to. Set a recurring reminder—weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending on how conscientious and/or paranoid you are!—to check your backups.

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