Just a quick reminder to make sure you regularly back your essential files up. This goes double for those of you who are highly organized.

You can also file this under: “Learning From My Mistakes.”

I recently lost (beyond recovery) a whole bunch of important personal project files. See, since I’ve been into GTD I’ve been really organized, which is great — except when you accidently delete your “current-projects” folder which contains all those neatly organized files. I had thought it was backed up, but I was wrong. Well, not 100% wrong, but it hadn’t been backed up for quite awhile and I lost some important files and hours of work.

Ah, anyway, can’t cry over spilt milk. I did my best to try and recover it, but as I had been using my hard drive I could only find bits and pieces and nothing I really wanted to find.

(For those of you who are curious, you can actually recover deleted files on OS X. Many resources say you can’t but I was able to get some stuff back. The key is to stop using your hard drive right away. For me, I don’t know for sure how I deleted this stuff and a few days had gone by with me working away, totally oblivious.)

This is going to set me back weeks on a few projects. So I’m looking into auto-backup solutions (I’ve been recommended Synk) and you know I’ll be more disciplined in my manual backups from now on. I’ve never had a data loss this big or important. If you’ve got a system or solution you think is great, please leave a comment so I (and anyone else who might want to know) can check it out.

Losing hours of work is certainly not productive; make sure you have a plan to back up your data, ideas, project plans, etc. or all your work getting organized and being more productive will be for naught! My advice, which I plan on taking myself, is to not try and rely on memory. Get a software solution of some sort set up to do the heavy lifting for you. This will ensure your files are safe and free your mind from potential stress.

Trust me, you’ll be glad you did! And if it seems like a pain getting it up, just remember what happened to me and be glad you learned from someone else’s mistake! :0)

23 Comments on Back Your Files Up

  1. Brian says:

    I’ve been using .mac’s Backup, which is very classy and easy to set up schedules. I have it backup some of my stuff daily and other stuff weekly. YOu can backup to the 250MB idisk thing, but I backup all my big stuff to an external HD.

    LaCie’s Silverkeeper is free and pretty easy to use, though I dont know if it’s as powerful as backup.

  2. Dave says:

    Good post. Even though we have all had backup, backup, backup drilled into our brain we still forget at the worst time.

  3. Mike S. says:

    A while ago I posted about the same thing. I was looking for something that could backup a remote server as well as my local machine. It was suggested that I look into RsyncX. Seems like a pretty straightforward solution for backing up local machines. Might want to give that a go.

    As a sidenote, I think I’m going to see if I can’t create a specialized cron script to run on my local machine nightly. Oy, just thinking about it gives me butterflys ;^)

  4. Frank says:

    I’ve found SuperDuper (http://www.shirt-pocket.com/) to an external drive (or local partition, or disk image) to be excellent, and the registered version has an incremental update. If you use an external firewire drive, you can always boot from it in case of a catastrophe.

  5. David says:

    As an MS Access developer, I know what can happen if data isn’t backed up. Before I make substantial changes to a file, I make a back up of that file to an external drive. I like to think of is as a “base line” that I can always step back to incase of a problem or a programming error on my part.

    The key to keeping this in the forefront of your mind is to ask this question–“If I lost everything today, how much could I recover and is that acceptable?” That will tell you how much you need to be backing up.

  6. Britt says:

    I also use .Mac for the basics weekly (settings, keychain, etc.), a thumbdrive for current projects, and a Lacie firewire drive and SuperDuper for full system backups not often enough.

    I’ve never had data loss, so I know I’m more lax than I should be. It seems to take an accident to make one realize the importance.

  7. r says:

    Once you get more than 3 or 4 machines, automated network backups are the way to go. At work, I setup AMANDA for this purpose & back up more than a dozen win32, linux, freebsd, and OS X machines.

  8. Harmony says:

    I do this once a month, but I don’t rely on my memory because like most information junkies it’s appalling ;) I’ve been using a great little app called 1st Clock for over a year and I couldn’t live without it now. Among other things I have an alarm pop up on my PC once a month to tell me to backup certain folders, which I then copy to the server or burn to DVD. Since I’m at my computer at least once a day this has become a really effective organisation tool (and no I’m not associated with the company or anything awful like that, the app is just that good) – http://www.1stclock.com/

  9. jake says:

    Nice article, though I have to disagree with the commenters here. Dotmac couldn’t be a bigger ripoff. With a little effort, there are better options, and far better value. Apple make dotmac to work easy so you don’t look at the actual product.

    But classy it is not.

  10. VERiON says:

    I agree with “r” – automated network backups are the way to go. I always forgot to back up my stuff. I do remember to do it regularly, but it ALWAYS turs out that my backup is TOO OLD.

    Good reading about backup:

    although this story it is sponsored by a backup company (of course – I’m not associated with the company, i don’t even know what product they offer) it good text about backup practices – all put in a very funny way.

    You can click “Click for more information on…” link at the bottom of every page to get more “scientific” description of each backup rule.

  11. Good reminder!

    We’ve been using the automated backup at Connected for a few years now. Might be PC only.


    We’ve set it up to backup each of our computers after 8 pm. If the computer is shut down when it tries, it leaps in and grabs some memory to start backing up the minute you re-boot! ;~)

    A few times, being able to go back and retrieve things has really saved our bacon. Just as important is the peace of mind of knowing that the backups are getting done … every 24 hours … whether we remember or not.


    Sheila Martin

  12. Keith,

    if you’r eon Tiger, try

    sudo rsync -av –delete /Users /Volumes/BackupDisk/

    That’s about it. Then you can automate the thing if you add it to your crontab.

  13. Daniel Schildt says:

    rsync is one of the best free backup tools around.

  14. Either use rsync that shipped with Tiger, or RsyncX, but do not use rsync directly from the samba site as it does not have full HFS support.

    RsyncX works, is free, and is scriptable.

    Always, always, always test your backup.

    The following will make a bootable backup, run daily to keep your backup up-to-date:



    sudo vsdbutil -a $BACKUPVOL

    sudo /usr/local/bin/rsync -va --exclude "/dev/*" --exclude "/afs/*" --exclude "/private/tmp/*" --exclude "/private/var/vm/*" --exclude "/Network/*" --exclude "/Volumes/*" --exclude "/automount/*" --exclude "/private/var/run/*" /. $BACKUPVOL --eahfs --delete

    sudo bless --folder $BACKUPVOL/System/Library/CoreServices

  15. If you can’t find the tool you need or want to have a free backup solution, see my tips on automated backups if you are on Windows (might be ported probably easily to other platforms):


  16. Bryan says:

    I am just curious, do you all backup your stuff to an external harddrive, dvd, or maybe an additional harddrive?

    In my case, I have a 120 gb external harddrive, my main 250 gb harddrive, and an additional 250 gb harddrive I use for storage.

    I backup important stuff (not regulary though) to my external drive AND my storage drive.

    However, I don’t have a fluid method of backing stuff up. So I need to investigate this as well.

  17. Ryan Carson says:

    I just slap a DVD-RW in my drive and back up everything at 17:30 every Friday. Seems to work great for me.

  18. Carl says:

    I’ve been using Syncback from 2BrightSparks (http://2brightsparks.com/)

    It runs on Windows, is totally automated and can backup or sync file to another internal drive, external drive, network share, or FTP server.

    I have it scheduled to backup all my design files, emails, etc. And it runs flawlessly on a schedule.

    Just set it and forget it! ;-)

  19. Bert says:

    Gee, I’m going to sound extremely simplistic here — I could be because I don’t have an extreme amount of data to back-up. I zip the My Documents file and put it on my 2G jumpdrive several times a week. Quick, inexpensive (JumpDrives are coming down everyday), easy, and portable, since I take my back-up out of the physical building to remove it from hazards of fire, tornado, etc. I suspect the odds of losing both my jumpdrive AND hard drive on the same night are pretty slim. Naturally, this is impractical for those who work with confidential data that shouldn’t leave the building.

  20. Sagres says:

    I use PSyncX – It’s free, easy and it works.

  21. Chris says:

    For those of you doing local backups (e.g. to external hard drives, JumpDrives, DVD-RW, etc.), make sure to keep it OFFSITE when you’re not backing up. It’s not just accidentally deleting files or equipment crashes that destroy your precious data, it’s fires and floods too.

    I do the external hard drive thing. It’s in a locked drawer at work. My home computers do weekly/daily incremental backups to a server computer. One day a week I take the hard drive home, plug it into the server and run a script that backs up critical files from the server and the other computers’ backups onto the drive. Since this data is not stored at home, in my constant posession, the drive is encrypted, should it fall into the wrong hands.

  22. Dan Wolfgang says:

    Making backups is important, but there’s another important step to take, too: test the backup. I don’t mean “verify it,” I mean go to another drive or computer and restore your backup–did everything work successfully?

    There’s no point in making backups if they don’t do what you need.

  23. Olu says:

    Excellent post and I hear of similar stories all the time.

    I always think it’s a bit like being knocked over by a car or something – it always happens to someone else. Well I’ve been run over twice and don’t take chances now days.

    Feel free to view http://www.data-backup-online.co.uk or http://www.data-backup-online......p-blog.htm for more info on automated backups – the blog has a lot of good information on cost comparisons etc.

    All the best

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