Backing up Family Computer - Advice!

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by ladymacbeth, May 10, 2009.

  1. ladymacbeth macrumors newbie

    Jan 1, 2009
    Hi all,

    This is not an exclusively mac question, but I definitely need advice!

    I've been using my Macbook for almost a year now and I backup my regular files using Time Machine and a Seagate HD. I store ALL of my digital media on another external HD. Its a decent system, but I'm taking on a bigger "backup" project and need to have all of my bases covered.

    My family's computer (a shoddy, 10 year old custom build pc) has their digital photos from the last 10 years on it. The computer is being "wiped" (its really in bad shape!) but before that's done, they want their files and photos backed up. My intended shopping list is:

    - 1 External HD - for Important Files/Digital Media
    - 1 External HD - a backup for the above

    and eventually...
    - 1 New Desktop with a huge HD that can hold all old media as well as anything new they add in the next 10 years (that's how long we keep our desktops!) I'm trying to talk them into a Mac but budget is small and for email, word processing and photo storage, its just not necessary. Any PC suggestions? Should I wait for Windows 7? (No Vista...)

    I am terrified of losing valuable data, but would love to see ALL of the family photos in one place. Backups needs to be accessible by Mac and PC and would (hopefully) be periodically updated. Is there reasonable backup software available for PC's that works like Time Machine?

    How big should I go on the Externals? The family currently has less than 100gb of photos, but that will exponentially increase now that digital cameras are getting better. I was going to buy 500gb or 1tb or bigger, since Newegg has some good prices. Is that excessive?

    Is there an easier way to do this? Help! :confused:
  2. dontwalkhand macrumors 601


    Jul 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Why not a Mac Mini + A 1 terabyte external hard drive? Your family would appreciate the mac side of things.
  3. spinne1 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 12, 2005
    Hermitage, TN USA (near Nashville)
    Your family needs to rethink everything right now. They have risked losing all their photos by not having backup. Backup of photos and other irreplaceable things is absolutely necessary. If you don't properly backup, you WILL lose all your data at some point with a bad hard drive. They need to first get a large external drive, and then second burn DVDs of the photos and GET THEM OUT OF THE HOUSE and store them somewhere else. A local backup will do them no good if the house burns down. They also need off site backup. They could also use an online backup service like Carbonite ( It costs money but is automated and easy.

    You really don't need two local backups. The original hard drive plus one local backup plus one off site backup is all you need.

    Yes, you should wait for Windows 7. Better yet, encourage them to get a Mac Mini off ebay or the Apple refurb store (when they come on there they are $419--but they come on there rarely.) On ebay the 1.83Ghz Core 2 Duo's go for as low as $400. That would be a good computer IF you had a large external HD as your main media space plus another for backup (in this case you would want two large external HDs.)

    1TB is the size to get. They will eventually run out of room on the smaller disk and the prices are not too different between the 500GB and 1TB.

    There are many automatic backup programs for a PC. Just Google: Automatic Backup Windows. I'm sure there will be many offerings.

    To use one hard drive to backup both Windows and PC you can either:

    Format using FAT32, the only PC format that Macs can read and write to, or even better, format using HFS+ (the native Mac format) and purchase a program for the PC that will allow it to read and write to Mac formatted drives (such as or Of course you could just use the hard drive in its native NTFS format for Windows and use software on the Mac to read and write to it (such as

    Anyhow, get backing!
  4. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar

    Time Machine is priceless in the fact that it lets you find files that you've already changed.

    As far as storage goes.....

    Theres no such thing as excessive. Buy the most you can afford. (I have almost 20 TB filled, yes TB)

    By the sounds of your original post it looks like you have a backup drive of a backup. I could be wrong but if this is the case why not buy one of these:

    and buy two 1TB or 1.5TB harddrives and set them to mirror. This way you have a backup of a backup incase your backup fails and it requires no extra steps on your part.

    I do second what another poster said though about offline storage. Carbonite works very well I used to use it but my storage needs are rediculous now so Its not practical for me.
  5. ladymacbeth thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 1, 2009
    Thanks for the great replies. When I realized my family wasn't backing up all of our photos, I immediately decided to take on this project.

    Most likely we will get a Mac mini... but that will be at least one year from now. They will wipe the old PC, reinstall Windows XP, and see how long we can make our computer last.

    I have decided I will get at least one 1TB HD. The idea was that one external will be plugged in all the time, and update itself, while the second will be updated periodically, and stored off our property. I don't have the time or patience to burn dozens of DVD's.

    How do I "mirror" the two external HD's, if I choose to go that route? I would keep the HD's in FAT32 (I learned that the hard way - when none of my files in HTSF were accessible when I used Bootcamp)

    I love the idea of online backups in addition to a local backup, but I don't know if my family will go for it. How long would it take to Backup the entire collection to the service you mentioned? We have broadband internet, but I know some services will only upload a few gigs a day for the initial backup. With hundreds of gigs, it could take weeks to finish for the first "cycle." Anyone know how [fast] Carbonite backs up?

    Digital media is so worrisome! Thanks again for the help!
  6. Tumbleweed666 macrumors 68000


    Mar 20, 2009
    Near London, UK.
    I use Amazons S3 service, just moved to Mac and had to back up all my files again. I have about 40GB of music and photos and I think it took about 10 days to back it up for the initial backup but it happens in the background so its not like you have to wait for it to finish before using the computer . Subsequent nightly backups usually take a few minutes. So you can calculate for your own situation, looking at my logs a Gig takes about 6 hours ( I am on a 512MB upload link ).

    Amazon is pretty cheap I pay about $5-$10 a month and AFAIK its one of the more expensive services, you can get ones that are free.

    As far as I am concerned, if you don't do offline backup, then even with a seperate HD outside the machine, the odds that one day you will lose all your data (fire, theft, user error) are quite high.
  7. GregE macrumors 6502

    Nov 28, 2007
    Another option is to use CrashPlan. With their free software, you can backup to their data center for a fee or you can use it to backup to an external hard drive, another local computer, or even a computer at a friends house. Files are encrypted so your friend won't be able to access them.

    What I ended up doing was getting a RAID 1 EHD for home and backup my iMac and MacBook Pro to it. I also have a PC running Windows XP at my work that I back up to. The initial backup to the remote PC took 3 days I think but now it's just files that change so it is very quick.

    If you don't live at the families house, you could put an EHD on your system and have them backup to it. You could also put an EHD on their system and have them backup to it. You could do the same thing with your computer and then you have both local and offsite backup for both.
  8. ladymacbeth thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 1, 2009
    Funny, my good timing.

    The family computer died a few days ago.

    They bought the external HD (1 tb) and had finished backing up photos when it happened. I will not have access to the computer for another 2 weeks because I am travelling, but from what I hear the computer cant run the OS (XP, Service Pack 3), even in Safemode. Last week it was having virus trouble (supposedly solved by Norton... hrm), so I kind of expected this, just not so soon. Its a shame we lost everything else on the computer (documents, important files, videos, etc.) but I am so happy that we have our photos.

    Where should we go from here? Is a recovery service worth it? (I've heard its so expensive... for non-essential files)

    For a new computer, I'm pushing Mac Mini, especially since the recent trouble with viruses. We'll wait until the Back to School promo kicks in (might as well get an iPod), and the current stats for the more expensive one sounds good, with an upgrade to 4gb of ram. Any other thoughts?

    Thanks again for all the help!!
  9. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    What exactly does "died" mean? Is the HD salvageable?

    If so, you can simply plug that drive into another computer or get an external enclosure or dock to copy the information from it.

    Again, it depends on what is wrong with the hard drive. If the OS is corrupt, it won't boot - but the HD is still fine and you can copy information from it.

    Recovery services are quite pricey, and if your documents aren't essential you might not think it's worthwhile. But I would first try either a different computer or an external dock for your old HD to see if you can copy the data yourself.

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