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World Backup Day: Turn, turn, turn + more giveaways

time-machine-logo_270.jpgHappy World Backup Day! We can't really emphasize this strongly enough: you need good backups, and you need them now. That's why we've joined the cause for data saving with tips, techniques and giveaways all day today.

For Mac users running Leopard or Snow Leopard (10.5 or 10.6), the good news about backups is that you've got a pretty solid tool already installed and ready to roll: Time Machine. We've covered the basics on Time Machine before, but there are a couple of ways to supplement and improve your TM experience -- making your backups safer and simpler.

Ask an IT professional about backups, and you might hear a maxim like "If you haven't verified that you can restore the data, it's not a backup; if you haven't made at least two copies and sent one of them offsite, it's not a backup either." Most Mac owners would do well to follow these guidelines, as it's far too easy for a single backup drive (especially one sitting right next to your computer) to fall victim to trouble and woe.

If you want to verify your Time Machine backups, a test restore of a few critical files is always a good place to start, but in Snow Leopard you have a new choice: hold down the Option key when clicking the Time Machine icon in the menubar and you'll see 'Verify Backups' as an option. Choose it to have your Mac do a basic check of your backup media; if there are problems, you'll be told about it.

As far as the "make two copies" rule goes, Time Machine doesn't give you an automatic way to alternate between different backup drives (commonly referred to as 'media rotation'). It does, however, do the next best thing: automatically back up to any recognized previous backup when the drive is connected. Simply unmount your 'A' backup, connect your 'B' backup and tell Time Machine to use the new drive. Then take your 'A' drive to the office for a month, setting a calendar reminder to bring it home again the next time. Drives are inexpensive enough these days -- whether you go for an external or with bare drives and a dock for swapping -- that it's not worth the risk of having your only backup sitting right there next to your computer, subject to the same environmental and electrical challenges.

Don't forget that Time Machine backups, while useful, are not bootable (unless you do some special pre-work to make them so); if your Mac's system drive goes south, you cannot start up directly from your TM drives. For a bootable backup, consider SuperDuper!, Carbon Copy Cloner or SmartBackup; you can use the same rotation concept and keep a spare version of your boot drive offsite for emergencies.

Now to the good stuff: more giveaways! Speaking of drive docks, from our friends at OWC, two NewerTech Voyager SATA drive docks. Pop in any SATA drive (or, preferably, alternate drives and keep the idle one in a safe and fireproof location) to begin backing up. Just comment on this post (telling us your preferred backup medium) for a chance to win!

Official Rules:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, and residents of Canada (except Quebec) who are age 18 and older.
  • To enter leave a comment on this post about your backup medium of choice.
  • The comment must be left before Saturday April 2 at 11:59 PM EDT.
  • You may enter only once.
  • 2 winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Prize: One NewerTech Voyager USB drive dock (ARV US$35.99).
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.

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