Dr. Mac’s Backup Advice for macOS Sierra

By Bob LeVitus

When working in macOS Sierra, would you like to ensure that you won’t lose more than a little work no matter what happens — even if your office burns, floods, is destroyed by tornado, hurricane, or earthquake, or robbed? If so, you might want to follow the setup described here.

Here is what you’re trying to accomplish (at a minimum): you want at least three (reasonably) current backup sets with copies of all your files.

Update two of them every day and keep the third somewhere offsite, such as in a safe deposit box at the bank. Every month or two, swap the offsite backup for the latest backup from home — and then reuse the older backup disk.

Note that after you set up the following programs, they run automatically in the background with no further action on your part. Think of this as a “set and forget” feature.

  • Your first line of defense, of course, is Sierra’s excellent Time Machine. There’s no excuse not to use it. But although Time Machine maintains multiple copies of files, they’re all stored on the same disk. If something’s worth backing up to one place, it’s worth backing up three times.
  • And so, in addition to Time Machine, use the excellent CrashPlan (free for local backups; $5 per month for unlimited cloud storage). You might use it to back up your Documents folder four times a day to two different hard drives. It also backs up your Home folder continuously to yet another hard drive, so every time you make a change to a document, the backup copy is updated in real time. Finally, it backs up your Home folder over the Internet to the CrashPlan cloud-based servers. Best of all, it does all that for a mere $5 per month.
  • Every night at midnight, Carbon Copy Cloner ($39.99) can clone (duplicates) your startup disk to another hard drive, which provides you a bootable backup you can use with almost any other Mac.
  • Finally, enable iCloud Desktop & Documents to synchronize current projects among several Macs and your iPhone and iPad, giving you even more backup copies of your most important files.

There is one last thing: test the integrity of each backup regularly. For one thing, it confirms that the files you think are there are actually there, and it reassures you that the files in that backup set aren’t corrupted or damaged and are capable of being restored successfully.