Cleaning up Your Time Capsule Backup

Erasing a Single Computer from a Time Capsule Drive

Many people use the same hard disk to backup multiple Macs.  This is great particularly when the disk is network attached such as a time capsule.  But over time as you replace machines, sometimes your old backup gets left behind and your drive fills up.  It is easy to remove old machines from the time capsule backup done with time machine.

First you need to mount the drive from your time capsule to your computer.  In the finder sidebar, scroll down to Shared Devices and select the time capsule.

If you have never connected this way to the time capsule, it may ask for a password.

Once connected you should see the Time capsule drive.

Open the folder you see and you will see individual machine icons listed as drive container (Disk) icons.

Now, you can drag any of these containers to the trash and empty the trash.  This might be a good time to go get a cup of coffee because it often takes quite a while to delete.

You may need to unplug the time capsule and plug it back in to get it to recognize the additional space has been cleaned up,

Erasing the entire Time Capsule Drive

If all else fails you may need to completely erase the time capsule drive.  This will of course delete the backups from all the machines using it and require you to reconfigure the backup for those machines.  Start by opening Airport Utility and selecting the Time Capsule.

Click Edit and select the Disks tab.

Press Erase and confirm you want to erase the disk.  Now take that coffee break as the disk is being erased.  You can close Airport utility and the Time Capsule will finish on it’s own but will still take some time.

Pruning old backups from your Time Machine Drive

If you want to delete olde backup files from your Time machine drive, take a look at this article.  The first portion tells how to do it with the time machine interface.  The second part might not be advised since it requires using terminal commands.

How to Backup your Critical iCloud Information

icloud-experiencing-issuesIn the early days of iCloud, it was very common for something to go drastically wrong and iCloud and delete or scramble your data. After seeing this happen many times, I had gotten into a routine where I would back up my critical information by hand from iCloud.  For the last few years I haven’t seen this problem and have become quite complacent about it. Unfortunately, complacency generally feeds disaster, and in my case that almost happened.

The great thing about iCloud is that you can change something one time and it synchronizes around to all of your devices keeping them all up-to-date. Unfortunately that’s also the Achilles’ heel. If something goes wrong on anyone device or if you accidentally delete something from one device it synchronizes to all your devices and the information that you had before may be permanently lost. Such was my recent case with iCloud.

Somewhere along the line in updating to iOS 9.0 or 9.1, and updating my Mac to El Capitan, I came to notice that my Safari bookmarks or not the same as they used to be. Looking at them closely I saw that many of my bookmark categories had been duplicated, others had been rearranged, and if you were missing entirely. It seems that one of those upgrades did something nasty to my bookmarks. And since I had gotten out of the habit of backing up my critical information by hand, my only choice was to go back and fix them all by hand and let them sync again. So that’s exactly what I had to do. I set down at my Mac and made all my changes to get my bookmarks back as nearly as they had looked before the problem.

While investing a couple hours and cleaning up my bookmarks was probably not devastating, it did point out to me that continuing the routine of backing up your critical iCloud information makes good sense.

So what information do you consider critical? For me, that would be my contacts, calendars, Safari bookmarks, and my notes. Apple provides a method to back up by hand the first three but unfortunately the new notes application lacks that ability. So here’s how to handle a back up of the first three pieces of critical information that iCloud stores:

Open the contacts application on a mac and go to the file menu and select export. Next select export archive from the menu. Pick a location to store your back up, and name it something that has the date included. This way you’ll be able to tell the newest one if you need to recover.

Again on a Mac, open your calendars application go to the file menu, select export, and export a calendar archive. If you’ve been keeping track of calendars for a long time this may take a few minutes. It will again ask a location and I typically use the same naming convention I did with my contacts.

Safari bookmarks
Open Safari on your Mac, and select File and then Export Bookmarks. Pick the same location to store your back up, and name it something that has the date included.

When it comes to notes that’s another story. You can export individual notes as a PDF file but backing up hundreds of notes that way would be difficult.  If you want to dig down into the bowels of your computer, your notes file is actually stored in…

~/Users/<username>/Library/Group Containers/

Once you selected that folder, you can simply go to the edit menu and say copy. Then paste that file into your backup location. If you can’t find it from the path you probably don’t need to be down in these folders in the first place.

Next I set a calendar alarm to remind me to do this once a month. By doing this monthly I am sure myself but for some reason iCloud has a hiccup, my information will be easily recoverable and reloadable.

Top 10 reasons people don’t have a backup

imageAt this time of year many of you will be taking photographs of your family at Christmas. When people gather around you and you click your phone or your camera to take those photos you have to realize that some of the people in those photos and in those situations may not be with us next year. How tragic it would be to not have their memory available to you in the photograph you so thoughtfully took this year. But even when you consider those things many people don’t think that they can have a loss of data on their computer.

Computers today are amazingly reliable. They can run continuously for years and never had a problem. They can store massive amounts of information and never have a problem recalling it. But computers today are still electronic devices that are susceptible to the same things seen been in the past. Electrical surges, loss due to theft, a simple drop off the table, a failing piece of hardware, are all real world problems that I see all the time. In the past having a backup may have been difficult. Backup software was hard to use or expensive to purchase. External drives to store your back up data were expensive. But none of those things should’ve stopped you then and none of those things should stop me now.

Your memories are too valuable to you to risk their loss. Hard drives are inexpensive for backup, costing less than $100 and lasting for years. But I hear all the time great reasons for not backing up your data. So if you’re one of the few people that I’ve talked with who have decided not to back up due to one of these reasons, take a minute and reflect on how silly some of the sound.

The top 10 reasons you don’t have a backup

10.  I have my important files on a thumb drive

Thumb drives are handy particularly for moving files from one place to another. But the cost of thumb drives today don’t make sense for backing up your data. Many people have hundreds if not thousands of gigabytes of data and to have enough thumb Drive storage for all of this would be prohibitive.  Plus what’s easier to lose Van a small thumb drive? Backing up your files and making this your only storage for back up is not a smart way to go.

9.  I can always use drive savers to recover my data if I have a problem.

Drive savers is a wonderful company that has saved many people by restoring unreadable and failed hard drives. They’re extremely good at what they do and unless there’s been a catastrophic drive failure can usually get the data back. But expect to pay. And pay through the nose you will.

Data recovery companies know they have you over a barrel and charge for it  The kind of clean room it takes to be able to do this kind of data recovery is expensive. I once had a client who lost their entire business due to a raid system drive failure. 14 drives RAIDed together and none of the drives failed, but the RAID controller did. The files were mission-critical and he sent them off to drive savers. Drive savers recovered every bit of data. And send him a bill for over $27,000.

So yes data recovery companies can save you. But you have to really need the data you be willing to spend that money. Many people ask me about this option in times of a loss. But only one has ever been willing to pay the cost.

8.  Backing up is too complicated

All of the commercial operating systems today have built-in backup. It’s all easy to set up and does it for you once it’s set up. It may be complicated for you to set it up but I can help you with that for 30 minutes worth of my time. And once it’s set up it does it for you. I just can’t see this as an excuse.

7.  I’ll forget to do it anyway

See item 8 above.  Once it’s set up backup can be automatic.

6.  It’s not going to happen to me

Famous last words. You may have used computers for 20 years now and never had one fail but you also now have 20 years worth of data to lose if yours fails today. Computer components are electronics. Spinning hard drives still have bearings that go out.  If you really believe it’s not going to happen to you you’re just fooling yourself. The law of averages says one day you’ll have a data loss and if you’re not prepared for it think house silly you’ll feel if this was your excuse.

5.  My data is just not that important

Some people don’t believe they create anything on the computer. They just use it for email and web surfing. They may store a few pictures but nothing really important. But thoughts change when you’ve lost data. You remember the taxes that you have stored. You remember the pictures of uncle Gus who’s no longer with us. You remember your business papers. You remember just how important your date is to you.

4.  Running a back up slows down my computer

If your backup software is set up correctly it can back up in the middle of the night when you’re not using your computer. If you’re backup is incremental you’re only copying files that have changed since the last back up. Sure, the first backup takes a long time but after that backups can happen in minutes. In the time it takes you to grab a coffee your computer could be completely backed up.

3.  Managing back up files takes time

Today’s backup systems manage their data automatically. When the drive fills up it deletes the oldest copies of the files in the back up. You never have to touch it and you never have to sort it. If you use a laptop you just have to plug the drive in periodically and let it back up.

2.  Backing up cost too much

For the cost of an external hard drive you can be completely backed up. You don’t need any expensive software because your operating system already include software to do the back up. External hard drive can be purchased for less than $100. Aren’t your memories worth that?

1.  I was going to run a back up tomorrow

How many times of I heard someone tell me that they don’t have a back up but they planned to run one tomorrow. Some people still believe tomorrow never comes. The time to back up is today not tomorrow.

So where do you fall in this list of reasons?  Do any of these sound familiar? I hear them all the time. I tweeted out about two weeks ago to people that follow me “backup backup backup” but unfortunately this week I ran into another situation where a hard drive failed and there was no backup. Don’t let this happen to you.

Take advantage of the after Christmas sales to buy a backup drive. If your backup drive is over three years old maybe it’s time to replace it with a larger one. If your date is truly important to you maybe you need two copies of a backup with one stored off site.

Perhaps a Christmas gift for yourself this year should be sitting down with me for an hour and discussing your backup plan.  It could be the best hour of consulting you’ve ever spent.

Backing Up your iOS Device

iPhone BackupHow important is your data? Most of us realize that a good backup is worth it’s weight in gold. Many of us have backup methods are we back up our computer data and even sometimes take that data offsite. But more and more we are finding our most important computing device these days to be our smart phone or tablet. These devices are with us all the time. We store information in them that’s extremely personal to us but critical for us to have available. Having a good method to backup your handheld device is extremely important. If you have an iOS device, there are typically two methods to choose for backup. 

Backing up to iCloud

A wireless backup in the cloud. How perfect could that be. Seems like a no-brainer to use this method for backing up our device. There are problems associated with a cloud-based backup strategy. The biggest problem is the limited amount of storage space Apple provides us on iCloud. Sure iCloud is a free service and you can add additional storage space for a cost. Unfortunately these costs are not trivial. Many of us have iPhones or iPads with a relatively large storage capacity.

iCloud Storage OptionsWhen you sign up for iCloud, you automatically get 5GB of free storage. That may be plenty of room, particularly if you only have one device, because of the way iCloud stores your content. Your purchased music, movies, apps, books, and TV shows — as well as your Photo Stream — don’t count against your free storage. That 5GB goes a long way for your mail, documents, account information, settings, and other app data. And if you need more storage you can easily purchase an upgrade right from your device. But many people have a single issue that causes them to run out of space very quickly.

Photos you take on your device go into the Camera Roll. All these photos get backed up to iCloud and DO use part of the storage that iCloud provides you. People who routinely keep hundreds of photos in the camera roll will quickly exhaust the 5GB of space Apple provides and not realize why they have done so. If you sync your photos to your computer, or be sure you have saved them there from your Photo Stream, you should be able to remove these photos from the Camera Roll.

Many people believe they need to leave them there to keep them on the phone. But, you have to keep in mind that if you have Photo Stream turned on, they will be copied to the stream and available from that selection on your device.

Another way to deal with this is to sync your photos to your computer. This is in my opinion a preferred method for ensuring those photos are backed up. In general, I recommend people keep no more than 100 photos in the Camera Roll. With that many photos, a standard iCloud account should provide enough storage for two iOS devices.

Backing up to your computer

In the early days of iOS backing up your computer was the only option. Your computer typically has larger amounts of storage has the ability to keep copies of the backup. But even this can cause a space problem in the attic. If you have a new machine with an SSD drive, you may have limited storage space available. Backing up your device to your computer will make a copy of everything on it so it’s much larger than the storage space that iCloud uses for it’s backups. Since iCloud storage eliminates the need to copy anything you’ve purchased from Apple, it is able to store more information in a smaller space. When backing up to your computer though all information gets copied and takes much more space.

If you have storage space on your computer, backing up to get may be a good solution for you. By plugging your device into your computer, you not only can back it up, but you can download those photos out of the camera roll too.

But just like backing up to iCloud, there are things you need to be aware of when backing up to your computer. When you back up your computer it keeps a full copy of the device. If you change devices often, you may have full copies of older devices you no longer own still stored on your computer.

iOS Backups If you want to delete a backup created by iTunes, follow these steps:

  1. Open iTunes Preferences:
    • Windows: Choose Edit > Preferences
    • Mac: Choose iTunes > Preferences
  2. Click Devices (the iOS device does not need to be connected).
  3. iTunes will show the phone number, IMEI, and serial number of the backed up iPhone when you position your mouse pointer over a backup (iTunes shows only the serial number for iPad and iPod touch). Use this to locate the backup for the iOS device you want to delete. Select the backup you want to remove and click Delete Backup.
  4. Confirm you wish to remove the selected backup by clicking Delete Backup.
  5. Click OK to close the iTunes Preferences Window.

Deleting extra copies of old devices can save significant storage on your computer.

George’s Recommendation

Because backing up is something that needs to be seamless, I recommend using iCloud is your main backup process. In doing this, you must keep in mind that you need to sync your photos once in a while to your computer to reduce the number of images that are stored in your camera roll. As long as you do that, iCloud storage is usually sufficient to be able to backup both your iPhone and your iPad if you have one.

[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Turning on iCloud for Backup”]

iCloud automatically backs up the most important data on your device using iOS 5 or later. After you have enabled Backup on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in Settings > iCloud > Backup & Storage, it will run on a daily basis as long as your device is:

  • Connected to the Internet over Wi-Fi
  • Connected to a power source
  • Screen locked

You can also back up manually whenever your device is connected to the Internet over Wi-Fi by choosing Back Up Now from Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup