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Mac OS X Tiger Timesaver: Backing Up Your Data to an iPod

With Mac OS X Tiger, you can back up your data to an iPod in several ways, including simply dragging files and folders to the iPod in the Finder. Regardless of the method that you use, keep in mind that the iPod differs from the typical backup medium in a few ways:

  • The iPod's hard drive is geared toward light use during music playback. Don't perform full backups to it every day. Writing and reading massive amounts of data very often could shorten the iPod's life span.
  • The iPod's capacity is probably a lot smaller than your computer's hard drive. Be selective and back up only important files, like your documents. Leave out things like applications or drivers, which you can always reinstall from installation CDs.

Using .Mac and Backup

If you're a .Mac member, you can use Apple's Backup utility. Starting with version 2.0, it can back up to an external FireWire drive, which is exactly what an iPod is.

If you haven't installed Backup on your computer, install it now. You can download the software after you log in to the .Mac member Web site.

To set up Backup for the first time, do the following:

1. Launch Backup by double-clicking the Backup icon in the Finder (presumably in the Applications or Utilities folder), which looks like a small umbrella.

2. Choose Back Up to Drive from the drop-down list in the upper-left corner of the Backup window.

3. Decide what to back up by selecting the check box for each item that you want to back up.

Backup shows you a list of items in your Home directory. For a full backup, choose everything. However, try leaving out as much as you can. For example, you don't need to back up the iTunes collection because it takes a lot of space (and thus backup time) and because you can always re-import the music from CDs. Furthermore, you probably already have a backup of your music collection on the iPod, anyway!

4. Use the + button to add other items to the list, especially items that aren't stored in your Home directory.

5. Click the Set button to choose the backup location.

6. Click the Create button in the dialog that pops up.

7. In the Save dialog that appears, select your iPod in the list of available volumes on the left.

8. In the Save As text box, enter a descriptive name for this backup.

9. Click Create to make the new backup location and return to the main Backup window.

10. Perform the backup by clicking the Backup Now button.

You can set up automated, scheduled backups by using the Schedule button at the bottom of the window (the one that looks like a calendar). You have to make sure that your Mac is turned on, your iPod is connected to your Mac, and you're logged in at the scheduled time. You could, for example, leave your machine running through the night and have it start the backup at a fixed time. This way, your computer does the hard work while you're sleeping.

Using Carbon Copy Cloner

Apple's Backup utility is tied to a .Mac membership, even if you back up only to local drives and not to the .Mac servers. However, if you don't have a .Mac account, you can choose from plenty of other tools to perform backups. An inexpensive and reliable one is Carbon Copy Cloner by Bombich Software (free, but donation requested).

Follow these steps to back up your computer:

1. Launch Carbon Copy Cloner.

2. In the main window, pick a source disk from the drop-down list.

3. Remove any unwanted items from the Items to Be Copied list.

To remove an item, select it from the Items to Be Copied list and click the Delete button (the red circle with the slash through it).

4. From the Target Disk drop-down list, select your iPod.

5. Click the Preferences button to edit your preferences.

Carbon Copy Cloner can create two kinds of backups: identical, bootable copies; and disk images. In the preferences dialog that appears, select the Create a Disk Image on Target check box unless you really plan to boot from the iPod later on. Booting from the iPod can be handy in case of a problem with your computer's main startup disk. Click Save to close the preferences dialog.

6. Click the little lock symbol and enter your password in the dialog that appears.

7. Click the Clone button to start the backup process.

The backup usually takes a while, so plan on getting a bite to eat or taking a nap while it does its thing.

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