Sunday, March 31, is World Backup Day! Fortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s a day when some higher power tries to back up the entire planet, because even at Thunderbolt speeds, that would take a seriously long time. Rather, World Backup Day is—like Mother’s Day, Earth Day, and Groundhog Day—a somewhat arbitrary, made-up date to help people become more aware of something important. Instead of calling attention to Mom, the environment, or prognosticating rodents, World Backup Day stands as an annual reminder of a simple fact: If you don’t have good backups, you will inevitably lose data.
Christopher Breen went into great detail about determining what you need to back up in his 2011 piece “How to make a solid Mac backup plan.” It’s just as relevant today as it was two years ago.
You can get away without backing up a surprising number of files—namely, apps from the Mac App Store, apps that you can easily redownload from elsewhere on the Web, and iOS apps. You can also skip backing up your email, so long as you use an IMAP email account (or a Web service such as Gmail) where your messages remain stored on a remote server. Ditto for your music, if you use iTunes Match or a similar service.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to back up such files—and doing so certainly makes restoring your data faster in the event of catastrophic failure—but if you’re looking to save time or hard-drive space, you can reasonably avoid them. So what’s left? Your irreplaceable documents (Word, Pages, and text docs and the like), photographs, and home movies are musts. Life gets much easier after a restore if you back up key settings and preferences, too.
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