Periodic backups of your hard drive

Your computer can use an external hard drive that can be connected to it in either one of two ways: FireWire or USB. The external hard drive is just a hard drive [the component that permanently stores software on it, which is part of the innards of your Mac] that is placed in a box that has a power supply and cable ports that allow it to be connected to the Mac. There are two popular ways to connect an external hard drive: USB, which is very popular, and FireWire, which is not as popular but is faster and more reliable. USB is also the way that your keyboard, mouse, printer and, probably, digital camera connect to your Mac.

While I prefer using Firewire hard drives, they are not readily available in a local store, unless you go to an Apple store. USB hard drives are readily available in Staples, Office Max, Best Buy and other computer stores. They are also cheaper than FireWire hard drives, when you compare them by storage capacity. Such a drive should work fine as a backup drive.

Since several companies make external hard drives, you have to choose which one to get. Companies that have built good reputations for external hard drives are LaCie [la-SEE], Seagate/Maxtor, and Hitachi, to a lesser extent, Western Digital and Verbatim. I would look at the length of the manufacturer's warrantee as a guide to selecting a particular product. Seagate usually offers a 3-year-long warrantee, while other manufacturers offer one year. I think the longer the warrantee period, the higher the quality, since the company is willing to back their product for a longer time than most others.

Once you've selected a brand, the next thing to think about is the capacity of the external hard drive, which these days is measured in Gigabytes [GB for short]. A backup hard drive should be at least the same capacity as the hard drive inside your Mac. You can get the capacity for your hard drive by doing the following:

1. Find the hard drive icon on your desktop [it will look like a grey box, probably, but not necessarily, on the upper right area of your screen]. If you don't see it on the desktop, then go to File>New Window or press Command-N, which will open a window. You should see the hard drive icon in the column on the left. If you don't see it here, try clicking on the gray button in the upper right-hand corner of the window.

2. Click on it once to select it, then press the Apple/Command key on your keyboard [it should have the Apple logo on it] and the "i" key. A Get Info  panel should appear with a lot of information in it.

3. In the Get Info panel, find the Capacity number and write that down. The external hard drive should be at least a little bit bigger than that number.

Next, go out and make your purchase; just make sure the storage capacity of your purchase is at least equal to, if not greater than, that of your Mac's hard drive.

The last thing to think about is what software do you use to copy the contents of your hard drive to your new backup drive. There are many applications available that will do this. Two I recommend are Carbon Copy Cloner, which is donationware, and SuperDuper, which is shareware.

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