Which files to I back up?

Discussion in 'OS X' started by mnya, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. macrumors member

    Jul 20, 2012
    Sorry if it's a stupid question, but I want to know if I can pick which files to back up on my MacBook (snow leopard).
    I just don't have much space on my external hard drive.
    I know I should back up pictures, movies, music, documents, etc... but do people usually need to back up their entire HD? I want to know if there are files I can skip, such as stuff in the "system" like the Library folder etc.?
  2. macrumors 603


    Do you want your external to be a bootable backup, if so "all" files are needed.

    There are plenty of files not really needed though, for instance dictionary files, these are fairly huge and many people don't need them.
    Fonts can also be quite big, /Library/Fonts.
    Screensavers and desktop pictures saves another bit of space, also in /Library
  3. macrumors 68020

    Jun 15, 2012
    Ask yourself the question: "What happens if my hard drive stops working, and what will I have to do to get everything as it was?"

    You can normally use the Firmware Internet Recovery to reinstall the OS -- this will be a "clean", new system, with none of your settings, etc. You will then need to transfer everything else from your Time Machine backup, which can be done through Migration Assistant.

    However, many people like to have a complete, bootable copy of their internal drive so that they can resume work immediately from an external drive, or so they can restore their complete data onto a replacement drive.
    A backup of system files is also useful so that you can replace a system file if it gets deleted or over-written somehow.

    If you have all your Applications on installer disks, the Mac App Store, or other method, then you don't need to back them up. But again, it's often easier and neater to have everything in a backup from which it can all be restored with a few clicks.

    Obviously, music, photos, documents etc will all need to be backed up, otherwise they will be lost. You can never have too many backups. I would recommend getting a new external drive just for backing up.
    BTW, what else is on the external? And what happens if that drive stops working?
  4. thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 20, 2012
    Thank you very much for your replies!
    I haven't made many adjustments to my Mac, so the only 'settings' I can think of that needs to be saved would be Safari bookmarks... if they are considered a 'setting.'(?)
    It sure does sound like it's easier if I just make a bootable complete backup...
    but I was just thinking that my Library folder has lots of stuff (besides dictionary files etc.) that I never knew I had... and it's huge, so maybe do you think it'd be ok if I just don't back up Library (I guess except for the Application Support folder.)
  5. macrumors 603


    That's not for us to decide which is best for you, but I have to agree with Benwiggy here, why not backup everything, and if you don't have space then why not buy a new bigger External drive, they aren't expensive and one day will safe you from disaster.
    If you make a bootable backup you could start up from that one if there are troubles.

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