Catherine’s Guide to Backups, Part 1

Posted by & filed under Apple, Catherine, Gadgets, Learning is fun!.

So there I was at Best Buy, finally taking care of that “backups” business.1

Since Apple added their super-convenient Time Machine app to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, I’d been meaning to get around to using it. A year later, I bought a simple external USB drive, a Western Digital MyPassport. Easy. Tiny. USB-powered.2

So I finally made it to the counter to pay for the thing. No, I hadn’t shopped there before. Would I like to sign up for the Best Buy blah blah card thing? I sure would! And I proceeded to do so. Take that, people behind me in line.

“Oh, my email address? Certainly. It’s ‘catherine’…”

*tap tap tap*


*tap tap tap*



“Uh…no. I mean, yes, my name is Catherine. You spelled that correctly. My email address is Catherine at”

*tap tap tap*

“Catherine with a ‘C’.”

And so on and so forth. So that was pretty fun.

Protip: Once Best Buy security agrees not to call the police if you promise never to set foot in the store again, you can partition your external drive as half Time Machine and half storage, formatting it for convenience’s sake as NTFS, not MacOSX-native HFS+. The NTFS 3G driver for OSX allows you to both read and write NTFS-formatted drives, and you’ll still be able to connect to Windows PCs should need arise.

If you do this, however, you have to be really careful about ejecting the stupid thing properly. If any files get damaged, you’ll lose write access to the NTFS partition and the resulting error message will in no way be helpful. If you suddenly find that you can’t write to an NTFS-formatted disk, plug the thing into a Windows PC and run chkdsk on it to fix the errors.

Congratulations, I just saved you three hours of Googling.

Next Time: In Case of Fire.

  1. Yeah, you know that time that your computer died and you lost everything and you said, “next time, I’m going to do regular backups” and then you didn’t? I’m marginally smarter than you. []
  2. Unfortunately, my 5-year-old Dell 24″ monitor has a crappy, crappy USB hub that causes my MacBook Pro to kernel panic whenever Time Machine starts–Windows users: that’s the OSX version of a bluescreen. There’s an app for that. So I lose a USB port; no hub for you, WD My Passport! This is actually a good reason to use Firewire, come to think of it. []

5 Responses to “Catherine’s Guide to Backups, Part 1”

  1. Gregory Marler

    I liked the WD Passport, until I bought it and used it with Linux the first few times. I’ve learnt to eject every time. I thought it was WD being funny, I didn’t think it could be an NTFS thing. I also hate the WD pretending to be a CD drive with stuff I don’t care about on it.

    Last week I went to the doctor’s and didn’t have a phone number to give. I was surprised they happily asked for an e-mail address instead and I got the first simple and first positive response to my ‘at No More Grapes .com’ address ever. Normally people go, what? why?
    I’ve seen a fair few confusing ones. http_bob@… and I had to expand input tests at work when someone said they couldn’t register (previously it complained if after the last dot was more than 3 characters).

  2. Jon Desmoulins (SL)

    Personally, I keep all my stuff in off-site storage. I don’t need to backup much, but that in which I do, keeping it online keeps me sane.

    Not to sound like a salesman, but if you need something cheap, but with enterprise quality, I actually resell the service I use. $5 a month gets you 10 Gigs then after it’s about $0.15 a GB / Month.

    So… 50 GB is roughly 11 bucks a month with the $5 plus storage which is $6. Cheap way to backup your SL or Music Library.

    End Shameless Plug…

    In any case, my philosophy is: I can spend X dollars on an external hard drive which can break or get caught on fire or ~$60 / year to know all my data is safe regardless of how many times my house burns down.