Backups on a Macintosh

ET 605

Dr. Marcovitz

Electronic media are unreliable. Disks can get physically damaged. Disks can get lost. Disks can stop working for no reason. Computers can crash and wipe out your data. That is why it is important to make backups of everything you do.

Sometimes data from damaged disks can be recovered with special programs, such as Norton Utilities, but sometimes it can't. If your files are important, back them up.

When I taught high school, at least once a semester a teacher would come to me and say, "HELP!!!! All my grades are on this disk, and the computer won't read it!" At that point, it is not necessary to give a long speech about backups; simply asking the teacher if he/she made a backup is sufficient. Sometimes, I was able to recover the lost files, and sometimes I wasn't. Don't put yourself in a position where you might lose your work.

When you create something on the computer, ask yourself, "how would I feel if I lost this project?" Sometimes the answer is that you wouldn't care because you could recreate it in 5 minutes. If, however, you would feel horrible, it is time to make a backup copy. The more important the computer files, the more important it is to make backups.

For very important things, you probably want to have more than one backup in more than one location. I keep backups of all my files in my office and at home. If my office burns down, I would still have all my files in the backup copies at home. Some files are that important.

Backing Up a Hard Drive
For this class, you probably will not be backing up an entire hard drive. If you own your own computer, you should back up your hard drive. You can buy programs (such as Diskfit Direct, DataSaver, Retrospect, etc.). These programs will allow you to copy the contents of your hard drive to floppy disks or removable cartridges (such as Zip disks). If you own a computer, you should do this once a month or more, depending upon how often you create new and important things on your computer.

Backing Up a Single File to the Hard Drive

To a back up a single file on the Macintosh, you simply drag that file from one disk to another. When you drag a file from one place to another place on the same disk, the Macintosh moves the file. When you drag a file from one place to some place on another disk, the Macintosh copies the file so the file ends up in both places.

The easiest way to copy a single file that is on a floppy disk, is to copy it to the hard drive. In Beatty 115, you should drag your files to the folder named "Temporary Student Work," which is on the hard drive. In order to do this, you should double-click on your disk to open it and locate your file (if the file is in a folder, open the folder). Next, double click on the hard drive to open it. Look for the Temporary Student Work folder (use the scroll bars if necessary). Hopefully, you now see both your file and the Temporary Student Work folder. If you don't, you will need to move some windows (by dragging from the title bar), close some unnecessary windows (by clicking in the close box of the windows), or shrink some windows (by dragging in from the bottom right corner of the windows). Once you see both the file and the Temporary Student Work folder, drag the file to the folder. When the folder highlights, let go of the mouse, and the computer will copy it to the folder.

Backing Up a Single File from Floppy to Floppy via the Hard Drive

The Macintosh is not very good at copying from one floppy to another. Sometimes the easiest way to copy a single file from one floppy to another is to first copy the file to the hard drive (by following the above directions), eject the floppy disk (by dragging it to the Trash), insert the second floppy disk, and drag the file from the hard drive to the second floppy disk. If you do this, you will probably want to delete the copy of the file from the hard drive (by dragging the file to the Trash and choosing Empty Trash from the Special menu).

Backing Up a Single File from Floppy to Floppy Directly

The problem with copying a file from one floppy to another is that the computer only has one floppy drive, so you can only have one floppy disk in the computer at one time. Fortunately, you don't need to have both disks in the computer at the same time, you just need to have images of both disks on your screen at the same time.

In almost all cases, you should eject a disk from the computer by dragging it to the Trash. When you do this, the computer forgets about the disk and erases the icon of the disk on the screen (this does not erase the disk). If and only if you want the computer to remember the disk and leave an icon on the screen, you should eject the disk by clicking once on the disk and choosing Eject Disk from the Special menu. The computer will spit the disk out, but it will remember the disk and keep a grayed-out icon of the disk on the screen. Occasionally, the computer will ask you to insert the disk after you have done this. When this happens, put the disk back in the computer and eject it again.
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Once you have ejected the disk, you can put another disk in the disk drive. When you do this, you will have a grayed out icon of the first disk and a regular icon of the second disk on your screen. The trick is to pay attention to what is on the screen and not what is in your hand. Keep track, on the screen, of which disk icon contains the good version of the file you want to copy. This could be a serious issue if you have a copy of a file on both disks, but you have updated one copy of the file. In that case, one disk contains the new (good) version of the file, and the other disk contains the old (bad) version of the file. You do not want to copy the bad version over the good version (thus, erasing the good version). So, be sure that you know which icon on the screen represents the good version.

Remember, do not pay attention to what disk is in your hand; pay attention to what disk icon on the screen has the good version of the file. This will be important because, at times, the computer might ask you to insert the disk that is in your hand. You should always give the computer what it wants and not be confused by what physical disk is where.

Once you have the two disk icons on your screen, you need to find the good copy of the file you want to backup. Open the disk containing this file (by double-clicking on its icon). If the file is in a folder, open the folder as well. Once you see the good file's icon, you need to find the place on the other disk where you want the file to go. If you simply want to put it on the disk, you only need to find the disk icon. If you want to put it in a folder on the disk, you will need to open the disk icon and find the appropriate folder.

Now, you should see the file you want to backup, and the destination location (either the backup disk or the folder within the disk). If you can't see both of these things, you will need to move some windows (by dragging from the title bar), close some unnecessary windows (by clicking in the close box of the windows), or shrink some windows (by dragging in from the bottom right corner of the windows). Once you see both things, drag the file to its destination. When the destination highlights, let go of the mouse.

The computer will now ask you to swap disks several times, so it can read a little from one disk and write a little to the other disk over and over until the file is copied. Always give it the disk it wants.


Backing Up Two or More Files

If you have two or more files that you want to back up, you can follow the above procedures twice (once for each file), but that would be a waste of time. Instead, what you can do is locate both of the files and copy them simultaneously. To do this, follow the instructions above, making sure you can see both files. When you are ready to drag one file to its destination, just click on the file so it is highlighted. Now, hold down the Shift key and click on the other file. Both files should now be highlighted. You can continue to hold down the Shift key and click on additional files. When all the files you want to copy are highlighted, let go of the shift key. Now, when you drag any single file to copy it to a new location, all the highlighted files will be copied as well.

Backing Up an Entire Floppy Disk

In order to backup an entire floppy disk, you simply drag one disk icon to another disk icon. Follow the instructions above (under "Backing Up a Single File from Floppy to Floppy Directly") to get two floppy disk icons onto the computer. Once you see both icons, simply drag the icon of the first disk to the icon of the second disk. When the icon of the second disk highlights let go of the mouse. The computer will first ask you if you are sure you want to erase the contents of the second disk. If you are sure, click OK. Then, you will have to swap disks several times. After a couple of minutes of whizzing and whirring and swapping, your disk will be copied.

Be careful! Make sure you drag the correct disk icon because everything on the second disk will be lost. This process completely erases floppy disk 2, and replaces it with what was on floppy disk 1. As always, pay attention to the icons on the screen and not the disks in your hand (know which icon represents the good disk).

Conclusion: BACKUPS BACKUPS BACKUPS BACKUPS BACKUPS

Backing up your files takes a little getting used to, but the consequences of not backing up your files can be devastating. Once you've lost an important document, you will always backup your files, but it is better never to lose that important document in the first place. Always make backups of all your important work.


1 If the computer ever asks you for a disk that you do not have (or do not want to give it), hold down the Command key (the one with the apple on it, next to the Space Bar) and hit the period key a few times.


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This page was prepared by Dr. David M. Marcovitz.

Last Updated: September 25, 1998