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Mac OS X: Backing up files

The IT Services iMac cluster does not have third party backup software installed. This is because your unix home directory is mounted at login. Unix Home directories are backed up centrally each night.

On personal Macintoshes where you are not mounting a network volume as your home directory, you will have a local account on the Mac. You therefore need specialist software to do regular backups of your work. We recommend CrashPlan Pro for this purpose. This is software that ITS has installed onto your Mac, if you have recently received a new computer. It is located in the Applications folder. 

CrashPlan Pro allows your Mac to be backed up to a remote server, which ITS manage. Usually the only area of your Mac that will be backed up is your home directory and desktop. This is why it is important for you to only use these locations to store your work. All the other files - the System folder and Applications and Utilities can be restored from original media or by an image update but we are not able to restore your unique personal files unless they are backed up regularly to a backup server. 

To set up your Mac for regular backups via CrashPlan Pro you need to follow these instructions. 

You need to do a few things to set up your initial backup. Once you have done this then subsequent backups will take place automatically, in the background, whenever your mac is switched on and connected to the University network. 

Go to the Crashplan Pro application in your Applications folder and launch it. At launch you need to type your first-name and surname, and then login with your University username and password. This is the password you use for email.

Once you have done this it then connects to the backup server and will backup the files that are in your home directory on the Mac. You can change this by clicking on the Change button under your username, in the Backup section. It is important that you check that it is your own home directory that is selected otherwise the server will only backup the “its” account and not your own, so please un-tick the account “its” and ensure your username is selected.

Click on the grey triangles to expand the folder listing so you can see which folders are being backed up. If you want to deselect any folders then just un-tick the box next to the folder name, for example, if you store any personal files on the Mac that you don't want to be copied to the University backup server - i.e. personal documents or music files that you have put into iTunes.

It will also allow you to restore files to your own Mac that you may have accidentally deleted. Launch the CrashPlan Pro application, and click on Restore. You will see a list of files that are in your home directory on the Mac, that have been backed up to the backup server. If you have a file that you are regularly editing, that changes over time, then you can see older versions by clicking on the expand tab next to the filename. You can then select that file, then select one that has an older creation date, and then click on the restore button. By default it will restore it to your Desktop.


The other alternative method for backup on personal Macs is to use Time Machine. This is software that is supplied by Apple as part of your Macintosh application set. It allows you to backup to TimeCapsules, or directly attached storage devices e.g. hard drives, USB sticks etc.

created on 2010-01-01 by Soo Lyth
last updated on 2011-10-10 by Suzanne Lyth