How to Back Up Your Mac’s Photos
So you have a hard drive full of family photos, lovingly curated over years and years. Awesome!
But, uh… what happens if your computer dies?
Personally, I’m paranoid.
- Hard drives fail—if not from a power surge, or being destroyed by virus, then eventually by the slow march of time
- Houses burn down, basements get flooded, kids chuck hammers at sensitive equipment (ask me how I know!)
- Cloud backup companies go out of business
- Cloud syncing tools (Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Photos, etc.) are prone to user error—you accidentally delete stuff, that deletion gets synced everywhere, you don’t realize for awhile, and it’s gone
There’s a saying when it comes to backups: two is one, and one is none. The idea here is that if you have just a single backup (say, the files live on your primary computer, plus an external hard drive), and something goes wrong, you could be in deep trouble, because (surprise!) that backup drive that you haven’t tried to read from in a year is actually failing.
Redundant backups protect you from unexpected problems compounding on one another.
So, if every backup method is prone to problems of one sort of another, what’s a person to do?
My solution is to use all 3 of:
- A physical copy of my photos on a spare hard drive (this gets written to in “backup” mode—no files ever get deleted off it, like they would if I were just syncing). You can use Time Machine, or if you’re as nerdy as me, rsync. This gets backed up to at least once a week. (If the unthinkable happens, how much data are you willing to lose?)
- A cloud sync (like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive). Cloud backup like CrashPlan or Backblaze would work here as well.
- A second physical copy, on a second hard drive (also written to in backup mode), stored at somebody else’s house, or a safety deposit box. You may want to encrypt these backups—macOS makes this easy when you’re setting up the disk in Disk Utility.
Hard drives are cheap—at the time of this writing, you can get a pair of external 4 TB drives (enough for a lifetime of photos & videos for most people) for under $200. Cloud Storage is the same—Backblaze charges $6/month. I’d be devastated if I lost any substantial portion of our family photos. I consider this to be trivial pricing for the peace of mind it delivers.
Oh, and one more thing—if you’ve got your own backup plan squared away, check in on your friends & family. There’s a good chance they haven’t thought about this stuff, and you can save them a lot of heartache down the road.
Let me know what you think—find me on Twitter @TylerAYoung or email me at my first name at unboundapp.com.