Loyal Reader and Mac user Mike Van Horn wrote in response to last week’s article on restoring data with an example and a question:
We use Silver Keeper as our backup program. It does incremental backups and makes straightforward copies of the files. We use a couple of pocket-sized Hitachi TravelStar hard drives (40 gig?) to back up three Macs weekly, then take these home.
I’ve never had to restore data due to a disk death, but I do transfer data from my backup drive to my home computer, so I know how easy it is. I can move any set up file icons from one to the other, and place them where I want. Since it’s USB, it’s not the fastest, but I can move the entire backup across in 5 minutes.
I wish you’d say a bit more about backing up, then restoring, applications. Currently, I don’t back up my applications. When I’ve had to re-install them, I use the CD, which has the appropriate codes. But the original CD has to be one place or the other, and if it were lost along with the computer on which it is installed (fire? theft?), how could one restore it?
The reason I don’t talk much about backing up software is that software, unlike data, is replaceable. But that doesn’t mean it’s never a good idea to back up your installation CDs, particularly for your most critical and/or expensive software, not to mention your operating system. (Do I have more than one copy of my $350 mind-mapping software? Heck, yes. And there are software licenses that go for thousands of dollars per “seat.”)
It’s a good idea to make copies of the installation CDs (and the serial numbers) of the programs that matter to you. You can duplicate the CDs or just copy them onto an external drive. I’d recommend a copy for work, a copy for home, and a copy with wherever you store off-site backups. The same is true for programs you downloaded, at least if you had to pay for them. (With many free programs, like Firefox or AVG Free Anti-Virus, you’re better off downloading the newest version.)
If you have lots of software and need to install the same programs onto multiple machines, you might set up an entire shared drive just to host your applications. (The Ur-Guru calls this his “deploy share.”) But don’t back them up on your website or an online backup service. Your web host is likely to suspect that you’re in the software pirating business. (Remember, you’re supposed to buy a separate copy or license of every program for each computer you plan to install it on.)
These days, the only way to get around reinstalling software after a system crash or drive failure is to make a complete drive image. Drive imaging software takes a “snapshot” of your whole system and stores it somewhere else. When it works, it means that you can skip the long, tedious process of reformatting your drive, installing the operating system, installing the software, copying the data onto the computer, and fussing around for weeks to get all your little system preferences re-set and custom fonts and icons installed.
In most cases, drive images have to be restored to the same computer they were made from, or an identical computer, in order to work properly. If you have an image of one drive and replaced the dead computer with a different one, you’re better off reinstalling the hardware and then retrieving the data, fonts, and so forth from the image through an “explore” feature.
The Ur-Guru uses drives images all the time, for both real and virtual systems, and has become a fan of True Image Workstation 9.1, but I haven’t had a chance to check it out, myself. If you’re interested in more details, maybe I can persuade him to write something.
Meanwhile, go forth and back up!