Mac Tips: Back That Mac Up (and that PC too)

I'm not gonna pull punches here. If you don't back up regularly, you are an idiot. It's unfathomable to not have a backup of your work. It isn't a question of "if" you will lose everything. It's a question of "when." So here's the four lamest excuses I've heard for not backing up, with rebuttals:

Lame Excuse # 1: "It costs too much."

Nope:

[Edit, 2013: The sentiment is still true, but the particular items listed here are out of date. These days, for backups over the size of a few DVD-Rs, it's cheaper to buy a hard drive. And, backup the most important files to a DVD-R for longevity. But remember that ALL hard drives have a short lifespan, maybe 5 years. DVD-R might last 10-15 years but that's unproven. Bottom line: always migrate to new media every few years and keep the old ones too.]

My first choice is DVD-R:

DVD burners are now under $200, and DVD blanks are under $1.50 when bought in bulk. Don't get DVD-RAM or DVD+R, get DVD-R.

First, get 4.7 gig blank DVD-Rs for cheap. For great prices, try Amazon.com or SuperMediaSupply.com.

Check out the Pioneer DVR-A07 drive, it's way cheap! (It replaces the Pioneer DVR-A05, A04 and A03). It does it all. See the table below for speed ratings. As the mechanism in other companies' drives (such as Apple's SuperDrive in Macs), the DVR-A0x series is called the DVR-10x.

The previous versions of this drive had slower speeds. The 04 also improved upon the 03 by being slightly smaller, quieter, and adding buffer under-run protection.

Apple's SuperDrive (and ComboDrive) can be one of a few different mechanisms depending on it's birthdate. The following stats are just examples, so double-check yours (OS X: Apple Menu--> "About this Mac-->More info", OS 9: Apple Menu-->System Profiler). It's hard to discern drive speeds due to inconsistant specs, but here's what I've gathered so far about the Pioneer series and a few others:

 (write speeds depend on media) CD read CD write CDRW write DVD read DVD write DVD-RW write DVD+R write DVD+RW write Cache
DVR-A07XLA/XLB 40x 24x 24x 12x(single)

/8x(dual)
8x 4x? 8x 4x  
DVR-A07   16x 10x   8x 2x 8x 2.4x  
DVR-A06 32x 16x 10x 12x 4x 2x 4x 2.4x 2MB
DVR-A05 32x 16x 8x 12x 4x 2x  
DVR-A04 24x 8x 4x 6x 1x or 2x? 1x  
DVR-A03 16x 8x 4x 4x 1x or 2x? 1x  
Matshita UJ-825

(iMac G5/1.8 20")
24x 16x 8x 8x 4x       2MB
Apple's Combo Drive:          
Matshita CW-8121

(PowerBook G4/867 15" M8858)
24x 8x 8x 8x 2MB
Sony CRX820E

(iBook G3/800 14.1" M8862)
24x 16x 8x 8x  


Or there's tried-and-true CD-R:

CDR works fine if you don't have large amounts of data (over a GB or two). Blank CDRs are cheaper than dirt at less than 25 cents apiece, and they hold 650-700 megabytes. You can get a CD burner for under $100. Backing up 2 gigabytes of data on 3 CDRs costs less than a buck.

For cheap blank CDRs, check out Amazon.com, or SuperMediaSupply.com. They can be less than 25 cents apiece when you get a pack of 100 or more.

Get CD burners at Amazon.com. If you buy a new computer, at least get the ComboDrive, which burns CDs and reads DVDs. There are different versions of the Combo Drive! Check which mechanism you are really getting.

For DVD or CD burning, you'll need software too. If you have Mac OS 9.1 or later, you already have the free Disc Burner app for basic burning, and iTunes 2 for audio only. In OS X, CD burning is built right into the system. For faster and more advanced burning buy Roxio's Toast Titanium or Toast With Jam, which can burn VCDs, PC CDs and audio CDs directly from MP3s. All of these apps allow you to burn a DVD/CD without tying up your Mac so you can keep working.

Make sure any CDR drive that you buy is compatilbe with your software. For Toast, see the list at Roxio.com.


Lame Excuse # 2: "I don't have the time."

Which is greater: 4 minutes, or the length of time it took you to pick a desktop picture, bookmark that Robert Goulet webpage and write that masterpiece Fluffernutter haiku? 32x CD burners can burn a 700MB CD in about 4 minutes!

Lame Excuse # 3: "There's nothing that important on my computer."

Horseshit.

Lame Excuse # 4: "I don't know how."

It's easy. First, organize your files into "documents" and "applications" folders. Then it's a simple drag-and-drop procedure. For Disc Burner, check this step-by-step guide (example is a Sony drive). For Toast, check out the online help in the help menu.


So, don't give me any of these lame excuses next time! Capeesh?

A few bonus tips:

To calculate how much hard drive space digital audio needs based on how many tracks, what bitrate, and what samplerate, try the Ultimate Track Sheet and Hard Drive Space Calculator. To find out how much data you have, select your documents folder (or your hard drive on the desktop) and hit command-I.

Burn your collection of MP3s onto a specially-formatted "MP3 CD" and play them back on many DVD players for the ultimate 10+ hour random mix!

DVD burning at 2x speed is roughly equivalent to CD burning at 18x (around 2.77 MB/sec). For more techie info, see the CDR FAQ and the DVD FAQ.

If you have trouble with Toast after installing iTunes, read this from Apple and this from Roxio.

Apple's Disc Burner app uses your hard drive as a cache while burning, so to burn a 500MB CD you need to have twice that amount of hard drive space free.

Update the firmware for the Pioneer DVD recorders listed above here.


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