View Full Version : OT: Apple Time Machine questions

2010-08-13, 00:40
This is comletely off-topic, but I thought I'd ask it here as I know there are some Mac users here, and this is the most helpful forum I know.

My daughter will shortly be going to university to study photography and has been advised to buy a Macbook. I know next to nothing about Macs. For backup, it looks like Time Machine is the simple option, and I have a couple of questions:

1. Can *any* external USB hard disk be used, or is there some subtle requirement that limits the choices? (I realise that it'll probably need reformatting first).

2. I presume that if the external drive happens not be attached when the next incremental is due, that's not a problem and Time Machine will just catch up next time the external drive can be seen. Is that correct?

2010-08-14, 02:20
Yes, you can use any drive and if the drive is not connected nothing happens until the drive is next connected.

I would recommend in addition Crashplan, Dropbox, SpiderOak or the like, which do offsite backups. One should always have one backup that is not in the same place as the computer, to cope with theft, fire, etc. All the ones I have suggested are free provided the use is small. Crashplan has the advantage that iy can back up to any computer over the internet.

2010-08-14, 07:25
Yes, you can use any drive and if the drive is not connected nothing happens until the drive is next connected.
Many thanks for confirming this.

2010-08-14, 09:36
Time Machine creates new backup copies until the drive is full, then starts overwriting the oldest files duplicates.
Photography will probably call for quite a bit of HDD space, but maybe you do not want to see the backup swell to 1 or 2 TB over time... Partitioning the drive will limit the backup size (I'd suggest twice the laptop drive capacity); on the other partition, you can setup a standard file share.
Since the Apple partitioning tool erases the drive, make up your mind as early as possible. However, TM does not preempt the space on the drive, it grows over time; without partitioning you can use the drive for file sharing also.

A cool and silent drive is preferable since the TM client starts every 15 minutes (30 ?) to refresh the backup. The Western Digital "green" drives I've had for many years now fit perfectly the bill I think. A laptop-sized HDD will be cool and silent as well, the largest ones are 1TB today. A "performance" drive is not needed at all.

If we're talking of an external USB drive, then I guess a laptop-sized, self powered (via the USB plug) drive is the best option. "Self-powered" should be advertized.

An ethernet cable is recommended if you opt for remote operation (Time Capsule, but also Apple routers, some NASes, a hacked linux box can host the TM backup service), at least for the initial backup which covers over 100k files. After that, updates can probably go wireless.