Using Timemachine vs drag and drop on external hard drive?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Eggtastic, Apr 10, 2016.

  1. Eggtastic macrumors 6502a


    Jun 9, 2009
    I am planning to sell my 2011 11" mba soon to upgrade to the 12" rMB. I bought WD 500gb hard drive back in 2011 to help with back ups incase something went wrong. I admit I do not fully understand how it works and need some help.

    I was planning on wiping the external hard drive and starting over. I was thinking just using the extenral hard drive as one big drag and drop "back up" like its a usb stick over having time machine backing up everything. That way, when I do upgrade, I have my few important files (photos, music, word docs) that I can just drag and drop back into the new rMB.

    Maybe I don't fully understand how external HD's work, but what do you all think I should do?
  2. Roquefort macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2005
    U.S. west coast
    In my opinion, it's a trade-off of time versus convenience.

    If you use Time Machine to make a copy of your files on a newly reformatted external hard drive, it will be easiest to restore your files while you are setting up your new MacBook air. However, the Time Machine backup will likely take many many hours. The initial backup to a Time Machine volume is notoriously slow.

    If you use a utility program like SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner (search these forums to find discussions of these and other backup utility programs) then you'll be able to copy data back using the same utility. It won't be as easy as restoring from Time Machine, but it'll be quicker to copy the files to the external disk.

    I think that both of these choices are better than dragging folders to the external disk yourself, since by dragging and dropping your home folder files you wouldn't also be copying system files and files in your user library that are used by your applications, e.g., system settings and application preference files. The only case in which I'd simply drag and drop files is when I was intending only to save and restore a loose collection of data files, e.g., images, spreadsheets, text files.
  3. Mernak macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2006
    Kirkland, WA
    I would personally suggest using time machine, especially since after its initial set up, it's not too slow for incremental backups, it's pretty space efficient, and it does versioned files and not just the most recent instance of that file. Plus, it's automatic when you attach the hard drive without really any configuration (I used to use some tuned rsync for my most important set of files, and don't miss it at all since I moved to Time Machine).

    The drag and drop method works great for using the external drive as additional storage, but it's not great for backups (unless the computer isn't staying on for very long, so you just want to grab anything you can really quickly, which has happened to me before)
  4. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Menark got it spot on above time machine is very convenient after the initial set up.
  5. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    OP asks:
    "Maybe I don't fully understand how external HD's work, but what do you all think I should do?"

    Do this. Very easy:
    1. Download CarbonCopyCloner from here:
    CCC is FREE to download, and it's FREE to use for the first 30 days.

    2. Connect your backup drive and launch CCC.

    3. On the left is where you choose the "source" drive. This is your current internal drive.

    4. On the right is where you designate the "target" drive. This is your external drive.

    5. Set up and then let CCC do its thing. It will completely "clone" the internal drive, that is, make an exact duplicate of it, and you can even boot from it.

    6. When the new MacBook arrives, you can now choose what you want to do, insofar as migrating your files over is concerned. For example, you could:
    a. Do a manual migration. You would have to reinstall apps, then carefully move files from the old drive to the new one. There are special considerations here (not going into them at the moment).
    b. Do a "setup assistant" migration. During the initial setup process, the installer will ask if you want to bring over your accounts, applications and data from the old computer or drive. At this point you can connect the cloned backup and select what you want to migrate.

    It takes a little forethought to determine what's worth bringing over, and what should be left behind.
    Sometimes a notepad with written notes helps, too.

    But creating the backup with CCC would be the best "first step" ...

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