Deep Dive: Back Ups and Data Storage

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This deep dive is dedicated to differentiating the various methods available to back up your device. As a mac user you not only have access to iCloud storage, but you can use more traditional ways to save your personal data, as well as an Apple-only form of backing up known as Time Machine. This section will outline the advantages and disadvantages of each form of back up, how to create each back up, and how to access them if needed.

iCloud Drive

The first method of data storage is called iCloud Drive. This is a data storage option available through your iCloud account, which allows you to remotely save your desktop and documents folders to iCloud servers. While many people may hesitate to save their information to a non-local location, Apple’s servers are extremely secure, meaning that your personal data is heavily protected, and stored across multiple servers so there is very little risk of data loss.

The benefits of iCloud Drive are many, key among them is that this system is automatic, meaning that as soon as you save a file to your documents or desktop, a copy is made and stored in Apple’s servers. This means that you do not have to take any manual steps to save your information once you have turned on this feature. Additionally, in the event that you cannot access your locally saved data — whether you lose your device or it breaks — you can quite easily access your information from any device by simply signing into your iCloud account on a browser, and downloading whatever files you need.

In order to turn on iCloud Drive on your computer, first make sure that you are signed into your iCloud account on your device. To do so, open System Preferences and select the “Apple ID” icon in the top right corner of your window.

On the next screen, if it displays your Apple ID and first and last name in the top left of the screen, then you are signed into your account. If you are not signed in, a field will appear to enter your Apple ID to start the sign in process. To sign in, simply enter your credentials.

Once you have signed in, or determined that you are already signed in, you can now proceed to turn on iCloud Drive. On the right side of the Apple ID window of your System Preferences should be a list of check boxes, these boxes allow you to turn off or turn on various iCloud features available to your machine. At the top of this list is a box titled “iCloud Drive.” To turn on the back up feature, simply select this box. Your current documents and desktop files will begin to upload to iCloud, and in the future the rest of your files will automatically save to your iCloud account.

As stated in our “How to Set Up your Mac” section, if you turn off your iCloud Drive at any time, your documents and desktop files and folders will no longer appear in their original locations. In order to access this data, you will need to navigate to the root folder of your user. To do so, simply open your Finder and press “Command and Shift and G.” A search bar will appear in the center of your window, into which you will enter “/”, then press return and you will be taken to the root folder.

The next screen will populate with various folders, some of which contain your applications, as well as shared and user data. You will select the file titled “user.” In the next window, there will be a folder titled “iCloud-Archive,” in this folder will be all of your previously saved files that were stored in iCloud. You can simply drag and drop these files back into your documents and desktop folders in order to retrieve them.

Time Machine Back Up

If you prefer to use a physical external drive to store your information, a Time Machine Backup will be the quickest and easiest way to set one up. Time Machine is a built-in service that comes with all Mac products, and Time Machine Backups are completely comprehensive, which means that they will save all current information on your device, including software, emails, music, photos, files and folders. The central benefit to a Time Machine backup is that it not only saves all of the information currently on your device, but does so in an easy, one-step process that requires little hands-on knowledge or interaction with your system. Time Machine backups are not only easy to make, but easy to restore and access, and are designed so that you can create and overlay multiple backups onto the same external storage device.

To create a Time Machine back up, all you need is an external storage device with enough room to save all of your personal data. We personally recommend the LaCie 1TB external drives, which are not only reliable but also compatible with mac systems. When you first plug this drive into your device, you will be prompted by the machine to select a way to configure the drive, you will want to select this drive as your backup disk, and your device will take it from there. You can, at this point, decide how frequently you would like to back up your machine, you can have it back up hourly, weekly, or monthly.

You can adjust the frequency of your back ups, as well as your selected backup disk, by going to System Preferences, then “Time Machine.”

As long as your device has sufficient power, and your drive is plugged into the machine, your device will automatically generate Time Machine backups at the rate that you have chosen. Please note that your oldest backups will begin to be deleted once your drive’s storage is full, so make sure that if there is any data on your older back ups that are not in your newer ones that you save it to a newer Time Machine backup or retrieve it from the drive before the backup that contains it has been deleted.

Additional Backups

Aside from Time Machine and iCloud Drive there are other ways to backup and restore your personal data. One of these methods includes applications or services that are designed to provide remote back ups, such as Carbonite. These programs usually require a subscription fee, and you will need to download the software onto your device in order to use it. Please keep in mind that these types of backup programs are not as comprehensive as Time Machine, and will usually only save your files and folders on your device. However, if you are looking for an alternative to iCloud Drive, this option may be the one for you.

Additionally, if you are only looking to save only a select number of files from your device, you can always use the traditional “drop and drag” method. This entails plugging in an external storage device, such as an external drive or flash drive, and opening Finder. From here, all you need to do is select the file or files that you would like to save, and drag them over to the left hand side of your Finder window and release them into where the external storage device is listed. This is a quick and efficient way to save one or two files, but if you are looking to save all of your information, we do not recommend this option.