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Backing up Laptop Files

A wise man once told me that in the world of digital files, if something doesn’t exist in at least 2 places, it doesn’t really exist.  With that sentiment in mind, it is highly recommended that you backup the digital files and content that you rely on to do your work.

How do I know how much storage space I need to backup my files?

  1. On your assigned Mac go to the Finder (Mac Desktop)
  2. In the menu bar select the “Go” menu and select “Home” from this menu.
  3. Once there, select “File” from the menu bar and select “Get Info” from this menu.
  4. The “Get Info” window that appears will tell you the amount of storage space your local account (home folder) is using on the laptop.

Every user’s Home directory can and will be different.  IT IS UP TO THE END USER TO DECIDE WHAT ITEMS FROM THIS FOLDER NEED TO BE BACKED UP FOR SAFEKEEPING.

  • Applications: This folder is created when software that stores preferences specific to that user in their home folder.  For example, Chrome will install shortcuts to apps installed in Chrome here.  It is usually not necessary to backup this folder as it will be recreated on another machine when a user launches that software for the first time.
  • Desktop: Created by Mac OS, this folder contains all of the items that you see on a User’s desktop in the Finder.  This includes alias files but not other connected disks.
  • Documents: Created by Mac OS, this folder is the User’s place to save documents and is the default save location used by many software applications.
  • Downloads: Created by Mac OS, this folder is the default save location for files of any kind that have been downloaded from websites (including Skyward) or exported attachments from email.  It is up to the end user to decide if this folder should be backed up.  Since most of the files that are located here are temporary in nature, it is not recommended.
  • Movies: Created by Mac OS, the folder designated for movie and video files. iMovie will save projects here by default, and some applications will look here for movie files.
  • Music: Created by Mac OS, the folder designated for music files. iTunes keeps its library database file and all related music files here by default. GarageBand also saves into this folder by default.
  • Pictures: Created by Mac OS, the folder designated for pictures and photographs. iPhoto and the Photos app will each keep its library database file and all related image files here by default. This is one place the Desktop & Screensaver System Preference panel looks by default for desktop images.
  • Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.  These folders are created and used by services that allow a User to save their files in the cloud and sync them on the User’s computer for convenience.  If any of these folders are still actively syncing to their respectful service, it is generally not necessary to backup these folders anywhere else.
  • Library, & Public folders: Created by Mac OS, these folders contain system preferences for the user and the user’s local read-only folder.  These folders do not need to be backed up as they are created and used by the system software.

How Do I Backup to an External Drive?

 

  • Connect an external hard drive to your computer.
  • In the Finder, open a window that displays the contents of your home directory, AKA your house.
  • Create a new finder window that displays your attached external drive.  You can go up to the menubar and select “New Finder Window” from the File menu to do this.
  • You should now have two windows open in the finder, one of your house and the other your external drive.
  • This is where you will be dragging things into, so make sure that you are able see both of these windows easily.
  • Now you can simply select an item or items from your house folder, and drag the items over to your external drive to begin the copying process.  You can copy multiple items simultaneously, but it will slow down the copy process if too many things are copying at the same time.
  • You will see a “Copy” status window displayed while your items are copying.  When the copy box has closed, verify that you have copied all of your things, you can safely eject your external drive by dragging it’s icon to the trash icon in the dock.

Using Time Machine to Backup

Set up Time Machine

Time Machine is the built-in backup feature of OS X. To use it, you need one of these external storage solutions, sold separately:

  • External hard drive connected to a USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt port on your Mac
  • Time Capsule or OS X Server on your network
  • External hard drive connected to the USB port of an AirPort Extreme (802.11ac) base station on your network

When you connect an external hard drive directly to your Mac, you might be asked if you want to use the drive to backup with Time Machine. Click “Use as Backup Disk.” If you select the option to encrypt, your backups will be accessible only to users with the password.


If Time Machine doesn’t ask you to choose a backup disk:

  1. Open Time Machine preferences from the Time Machine menuTime Machine icon in the menu bar. Or choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Time Machine.
  2. Click Select Backup Disk.
  3. Select an external hard drive, Time Capsule, or other storage solution from the list, then click Use Disk.
  4. After you choose a backup disk, optionally click “Add or Remove Backup Disk” to add more backup disks for extra security and convenience.Time Machine preferences

Backup using Time Machine

After you set up Time Machine, it automatically makes hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. The oldest backups are deleted when your backup drive is full.

  • To back up now instead of waiting for the next automatic backup, choose Back Up Now from the Time Machine menu Time Machine icon.
  • To stop automatic backups, turn off Time Machine in Time Machine preferences. You can still back up manually by choosing Back Up Now from the Time Machine menu.
  • To pause a backup, choose Stop Backup from the Time Machine menu. To resume, choose Back Up Now.
  • To check backup status, use the Time Machine menu. The icon shows when Time Machine is backing up In progess, idle until the next automatic backup Idle, or unable to complete the backup Can't backupCan't back up.
  • To exclude items from your backup, open Time Machine preferences from the Time machine menu, click Options, then click Add   and select the item to exclude.

Your first backup may take a long time, depending on how many files you have. You can continue using your Mac while a backup is underway. Some Mac computersmake backups even when asleep. Time Machine backs up only the files that changed since the previous backup, so future backups will be faster.

Backing up your files with Google Drive

Most people think of Google Drive as an easy way to share files with other people or to work on the same file from different computers. In addition, Google Drive provides a cost-effective way to back up some of your current files.

There are two methods of using Google Drive to help you backup files:

  1. Make a copy of files you want to backup and move the copies into your computer’s Google Drive folder (This requires installing the Google Drive app:https://www.google.com/drive/download/). The copy will be synced to drive.google.com when your computer connects to the Internet. This method’s advantage is that you are not changing the way you are using other folders on your computer. The disadvantage: you have to make a copy and move it into the Google Drive folder for it to be backed up.
  2. Move the files you want backed up directly into your computer’s Google Drive folder. You can move entire folders into the Google Drive folder. This method’s advantage: Every time you save a file, it is automatically synced to drive.google.com. The disadvantage: Moving files into the Google Drive folder may not match how you have your computer files organized.
  3. Uploading files to Google Drive directly by visiting https://drive.google.com, clicking on New and then choosing File Upload or Folder Upload. This method’s advantage is that you do not have to install the Google Drive app. The disadvantage is that it does not sync directly to your computer.

Unlimited free storage space

  • You can store and sync an unlimited number of files using Google Drive for free(with a 5 TB per file size limit).
  • Google Docs (Google documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, etc.) don’t count against your Google Drive file limit.
  • Files owned by others and shared with you don’t count against your Google Drive limit.
  • You can store just about any type of computer file in your Google Drive folder. The exception is Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. On your current operating system, these files are not compatible with Google Drive. We do not recommend trying to upload them to Google Drive.

Automatic syncing using the Google Drive App

Google Drive App automatically syncs the files that are in your computer’s (local) Google Drive folder with those stored at drive.google.com.

  • When you are connected to the Internet and save a file in your local Google Drive folder, the file is automatically synced to drive.google.com.
  • If you’re not connected to the Internet, Google Drive will automatically sync any new or changed files in your computer’s local Google Drive folder the next time your computer connects to the Internet.

Backing up your files with Dropbox

Similar to Google Drive, Dropbox is an online cloud storage solution. The School District of La Crosse does not have Dropbox accounts created, so in order to use this solution you must create your own Dropbox account. Please keep in mind, the storage size limit is 2GB for a free plan.

There are two methods of using Dropbox to help you backup files:

  1. Uploading files to Dropbox directly by visiting https://www.dropbox.com, clicking on the upload button (looks like a file with a plus sign). This method’s advantage is that you do not have to install the Dropbox app. The disadvantage is that it does not sync directly to your computer.
  2. Make a copy of files you want to backup and move the copies into your computer’s Dropbox folder (This requires installing the Dropbox app:https://www.dropbox.com). The copy will be synced to dropbox.com when your computer connects to the Internet. This method’s advantage is that you are not changing the way you are using other folders on your computer. The disadvantage: you have to make a copy and move it into the Dropbox folder for it to be backed up.
  3. Move the files you want backed up directly into your computer’s Dropbox folder. You can move entire folders into the Dropbox folder. This method’s advantage: Every time you save a file, it is automatically synced to drive.google.com. The disadvantage: Moving files into the Dropbox folder may not match how you have your computer files organized. We do not recommend this because of the storage size limitations of Dropbox.

If you require further assistance with the instructions or information on this page, contact the HelpDesk at 608-789-8811.

Updated on September 28, 2016

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