Actually, this goes for any Mac user: BACK UP YOUR MACHINE!!! Spend $100 on a decent FireWire drive, and save your life!
I was going to go into the horror story first, but I decided to just come out with the point of this article instead. About a month ago, my iMac started acting up, running real slow. So I closed all my running programs, and shut down and restarted my machine. To my horror, when the machine tried to boot up, I just got a folder icon with a flashing “?” onscreen. I didn’t panic. I opened my software file cabinet, got my install disks, and ran the disk utility, only to find that my disk was unrepairable. My only option was to reformat the drive and re-install the operating system.
What was the result? Though I had backups of completed GarageBand songs made, I lost ALL my GarageBand project files! That’s hours and hours of work that is simply gone. While I’m happy with the quality of the finished stuff (for demo purposes), I’m in no way happy with the fact that I don’t have the source files in order to make tweaks. After that experience, I saved a bit of money to buy a backup drive, and upgrade OSX to Leopard.
Among Leopards fine virtues is a no-brainer backup utility called “Time Machine.” Just plug in an external drive. Finder will pop-up a Time Machine dialog box asking you if you’d like to use the new drive as a backup. Select “Yes,” and that’s all you have to do! No thinking, no complex setup. Time Machine does it all for you. I won’t go into a lot of technical or usage details about it, though I did learn that you should let Time Machine run its initial imaging overnight. It takes several hours, and if you’re using your machine while it’s running, it’ll take longer. But once it’s done, Time Machine works automagically, continuously checking for changes to existing files and backing up new files – all in the background! With this ease-of-use, you’d be a fool to not go out right away and get a decent drive.
Myself, I got a Maxtor One-Touch III 320GB FireWire drive at my local electronics store for $99.00. It’s a decent drive with middle of the road performance. I didn’t need a 10K rpm drive. I just needed something that would back up my files – especially my GarageBand files! To test this, I created a new GB project and saved it immediately. After that, I opened up Time Machine and was pleasantly relieved to see that the file got backed up immediately! What a wonderful utility.
Even if you don’t have Leopard – get a backup drive anyway. Most drives, like my One-Touch, come with backup management software. They’re not as easy to use as Time Machine as they require a bit of configuration, but doing regular backups can save you hours or days of work!