Backing-up Data on a Macintosh Computer

Backing-up a computer is important. Motherboards can call it quits, CPUs can malfunction and files can become corrupt. The result can be financial ruin for businesses or frustration or heartbreak for those who use their computers exclusively for personal use.

The back-up process for a Mac isn't difficult and takes only a few simple steps. Like a PC, the steps may be simple, but the actual back-up time can take several hours as duplicate copy is made of what you have on your hard drive.

Checking for Viruses

It's important to make sure your computer is virus and Trojan free before copying files. You don't want to make the mistake of copying them to your hard drive and spreading the virus. Complete an in-depth scan of your entire computer before you create your back-up copy. Do this even if you have a virus program that automatically updates. An in-depth scan may take some time so prepare for this.

Connect the External Hard Drive

There are a variety of external hard drive choices available and the one you pick will depend on your needs and the type of computer you have. They all vary somewhat between model and manufacturer, but if you would like to make the process go faster, use Firewire as a connection type. If your Mac is not compatible with Firewire a USB connection will work fine.

Connect one end of the cable to the external hard drive and plug the other end into the proper port on your computer. If your Mac supports Firewire, you'll have a Firewire 400 or Firewire 800 port. Otherwise most computers will have a USB 2.0 port you can use. A cable is not always necessary and you can often plug the USB directly into your Mac without the cable.

Format the Back-up Drive

If this is the first time you're using the hard drive as back-up, you'll need to format it. Snow Leopard and Mac OS X Leopard will automatically recognize the drive once it's connected. If for some reason the Mac platform doesn't recognize the drive, try unplugging it and reconnecting the USB or Firewire cable.

If your computer is still not recognizing the drive, you'll need to manually set your Mac to recognize the portable hard drive. Navigate the path: Finder>Applications>Utilities>Disk Utility to open the Disk Utility. There will be a list of drives to the left. Select the external hard drive option from the list.

Choose Mac OS X Extended (Journaled) from under the format listing after clicking the "erase" tab. Type in the name you've decided to call your back-up hard drive in the box provided. Click the "erase" button again and your back-up file will be formatted for your Macintosh computer.

Begin the Back-up Process

Choose the Time Machine icon from the top right section of your screen beside the clock and battery settings to access the drop-down menu. Select "Open Time Machine Preferences" from this menu and slide the control from off to on. You may need to enter a password to make these changes. If you don't see the Time Machine icon, go through the Finder with this path: Finder > Applications > System Preferences. Within the system preferences is the Time Machine icon.

Choose the newly formatted external hard drive from the drop down menu of the "Select Disk" button. Click the "Use for Back-up" button and the "Back-up now" option.

The process can take as long as 10 hours if this is the first back-up and if there's a lot of data. Your Mac will let you know when the process is finished. Disconnect the back-up drive by selecting the "eject" option before removing the cords.


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You can protect your computer from viruses without expensive software. Instead, follow these simple tips:

Stay up-to-date on all system updates.

Don't download any email attachments you weren't expecting.

Avoid freeware and peer-to-peer sharing sites.

Use alternative web browsers and email software.