MacMost Now 700: List Of Things Every Mac User Should Do

There are many things you should be doing with your Mac. But one is the most important of all: backing up. Any computer can have a hard drive failure, suffer from a user mistake or simply be stolen. Backing up is the most important thing that every Mac user should do.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary and welcome to episode number 700 of MacMost Now. On today's episode let me share with you a list of things that I believe all Mac users must do. So I thought a lot about what a list like this would look like, what items should all Mac users do, and I went through various different ideas. What it really came down to, is the number one item was so important, so big that I decided that a list really should have only one item on it. So what is that item? Well it's simply backing up your Mac. It' so easy with time machine to make a backup of you hard drive and keep that back up current. But yet so many Mac users don't do it. And if you don't do it your data is only in one place, it is so easy for you to lose your data through a hard drive failure, through an accidental deletion of a file or having your Mac simply stolen or lost in some disaster. Perhaps a lot of Mac users are making mistake of thinking because their machine was manufactured by Apple that it is better than their PCs, but in fact the hardware's basically the same. Matter of fact, look at this brand new IMac, the specs here, If you look at the bottom right you'll see the model number . That's the model number for the hard drive, the hard drive inside of the new IMac. Now do a quick search for that model number online, and you'll see very easily that that's actually the hard drive manufactured by Segate, a good hard drive manufacturer, but it's the same hard drive that could be found in PC, could be found in the server and even a cable-box and satellite box.
So, if you believe a cheap PC bought at an electronic store can have a hard drive failure you should believe that your Mac can also have a hard drive failure. They manufacture millions of these things and not everyone's perfect. And also even if it doesn't have a failure you can simply make a mistake, throw away a file you didn't mean to or if you have a laptop, and most Mac users do, you can have it stolen from you and all your data's gone. Think of the photos on your hard drive, think of the documents , think of the items from work, the items from home, the list you've created, the emails that you saved, anything else that you got on your hard drive , imagine if that was all just instantly gone.
Now, it isn't a sort of a problem you can solve after the problem occurs, you have to think ahead, you have to start backing up now. You can go the route of having the time capsules set up in your house and having laptops backing up to a wirelessly or if you're on the budget you can simply have an external USB hard drive.
Just a quick search online for external USB hard drives. It comes with all sorts of buying options. You can get them from well known sites, from Amazon you can get 1TB drives for under a hundred dollars. I recommend for best results getting a hard drive that's twice the size of the amount of data you have stored on your hard drive. So if you have about 500GB of stuff on your hard drive get a 1TB drive, if you have a TB stuff get 2 TB drive. Now you need to do is hook up the drive, go to your system preferences and the time machine and turn the time machine on and it'll walk you through setting up the hard drive as the time machine backup and you've got it going. First backup's going to take a while, just let it run over the night and after that leave the drive plugged in, and quietly, silently in the background it will back up all of your files over time and you'll have complete archive of everything kept up to date within the last hour.
It's the type of process you set up and then you can forget about it. And if you have a laptop and you're using external USB drive, just make sure at some point during the day or every couple of days you plug in USB drive and it will automatically recognize your time machine drive and do a backup. This is my one item list of what every Mac user should do. Don't full yourself into thinking it can never happen to you. Don't wait till next week, don't wait till next month, get an external hard drive, start backing up. It's a smart thing to do no matter what brand of computer you use. Till next time, this is Gary for MacMost Now.

Comments: 68 Responses to “MacMost Now 700: List Of Things Every Mac User Should Do”

    Tom Abbott
    4/23/12 @ 10:31 am

    Congratulations on your 700th videocast, Gary. You have taught me a boat load of information. Thank you very much!!

      Scott A Smith
      7/10/12 @ 9:32 pm

      I also thank you very much Gary, your awesome!

        Ivan Murcia
        1/22/13 @ 8:07 am

        Thanks a lot Gary, I’ve learned a lot with your videos!
        Looking forward to do the same one day in my youtube channel in spanish or french

        We are located in Montreal, Toronto and Colombia

    4/23/12 @ 10:42 am

    Gary, I started out using Time Machine but it seemed like even when I edited what was to be backed up, it still used a huge amount of space on my external drive. And that was a one-time backup, never mind a regular pattern of ongoing backups. Is there a way to limit the space taken even more? Or, system-wise, are there things you can exclude that take up a lot of space, but aren’t critical files? thanks

      4/23/12 @ 11:08 am

      You should use the ENTIRE drive for your backup. Don’t try to use that drive for anything else — that’s important. Time Machine should have the entire drive to itself so it can manage what is there. And yes, it should use a huge amount of space. It should fill the drive over time — then it removes older versions of things and it backs up newer versions. Don’t worry about how much space is used on the drive. Let TM do its thing.

        4/23/12 @ 4:39 pm

        Well, I do have a lot of space partitioned for it, but you are right – I don’t have an external that is fully dedicated to backup/TM. I’ll get on that – thanks!

        On one of the other posts, someone mentioned losing an external drive. I’ve lost two and was told by several salespeople that it wasn’t good to leave the externals on continuously because they have no mechanism for self cooling.

          4/23/12 @ 5:05 pm

          Some do, some don’t. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. It would be like saying that sometimes seat belts don’t work, so don’t bother using them at all.

    4/23/12 @ 11:18 am

    First of all, thank you for all your videos. I have a question regarding backups. I have a 1TB external hard drive which is formatted for windows. Is there a way I can use the same drive for Windows and Mac? Also, if I save a jpeg in Mac, can I access on Windows PC and vice versa? Please let me know. Thanks

      4/23/12 @ 11:42 am

      No. A Time Machine drive should be only used for Time Machine. So continue to use your 1TB drive for what you use it for, and get a new one to use for Time Machine. JPEG is a universal format — image software on both Macs and Windows use it.

    4/23/12 @ 2:00 pm

    Hi Gary
    My first post but I have visited your site many times over the years and have found it to be very helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.

    Now, on to time machine. I stopped using it after about 6 months when it first came out, and here’s why. It cooked my external hard drive and I lost all my back up, fortunatly all my data was still on my Mac so it wasn’t a big deal the problem with it was that the external drive not having a built in fan couldn’t handle the hourly back ups . So now I just back up weekly or immediately if I have something super important by dragging and dropping files to the hard drive , I then turn it off when finished. Have things improved with ex hard drives and should I try again with time machine or is there some settings that I could set to do it weekly. Once again many thanks for your help

      4/23/12 @ 2:33 pm

      I think you just got unlucky with that drive. I never had that happen to me. I’d try again and get TM backups going for you.

    4/23/12 @ 8:16 pm

    Congrats Gary. Love your podcasts and book. Hope another 700

    4/23/12 @ 9:11 pm

    Congratulations Gary! I came across your website and videos last year when I switched from PC to Mac and have found them most helpful. I look forward to each new video and always go to MacMostNow first whenever I have a Mac related question. I refer all my friends and family to your site, especially those new to Mac. Thanks, you’re awesome!

    G. James
    4/24/12 @ 11:01 am

    I wish I could do regular backups, but my primary machine at home is a Mac Pro with 9 TB of HDD storage, and that’s just the internal drive bays. Most of it is of material I can reacquire or won’t miss if lost (digital video, mostly broadcast). On-line backups of that much data takes too long and I’d likely need to buy a DroboPro or better for backup purposes alone. That’s just not in my budget right now. I’d be more likely to replace the three 2 TB drives with three 3 TB and only backup my boot drive.

    What I really need is for the Mac OS to be more proactive in informing me of impending drive failure. I was able to save my boot drive last year just because I was running Disk Utility trying to burn a purchase of SpinRite to a CD to run on a PC to try to recover a TiVo Series3 (it failed) and just happened to notice the S.M.A.R.T. status of my Mac’s boot drive indicating impending failure. I’m so glad I was using the Mac to burn the CD or I might not have noticed until it was too late!

    My tip would be to run Disk Utility monthly and pay attention to the S.M.A.R.T. status of your drives, especially if you aren’t running regular backups. And use it to check the integrity of your backup drives, too!

    Not that Disk Utility is great for everything. I still can’t restore my Boot Camp NTFS partition imaged with it to a new drive.

      4/24/12 @ 11:37 am

      A tip for everyone: You can go into System Preferences, Time Machine and exclude folders. So if you have a huge folder of backed up DVDs or downloaded video or ripped music (stuff you didn’t create) you can exclude it to make your backup more manageable. Installed games is another good one to exclude: sometimes games have gigs of graphics stored on your drive and you don’t need to back it up because you can always reinstall the game.

        Dave Faczan
        8/9/12 @ 10:06 am

        If you have Parallels, make sure the you set the VM settins to not back up in Time Machine.

        What initially killed my external TM drive space years ago was Tech Tools Pro. Once I excluded its folder and deteled all the saved versions of whatever it was backing up it cut my TM backup file size in half. I’m currently using a Seagate 3 TB Thunderbolt external drive for my TM and individual drive backups which I do daily with Super Duper. I use the old external FW800 drive it replaced once a month and back up my internal drives to it. Having been a Windows user prior to my first Mac in 2009, I always make sure I have good backups.

    4/26/12 @ 5:36 am

    Congrats Gary! Excelent work!

    4/26/12 @ 7:22 am

    Thanks Gary. Good to note that the drive should be dedicated to Time Machine and nothing else. I didn’t know that.

    I was using Time Machince for backups and it just simply stopped one day. Any thoughts on why that happened?

    Also it might get complicated. I have so many files that I have 4 terabytes in two external drives. The Mac fills up fats and i have to move files constantly. What backs THEM up? This backup business could become full time job.

    You’re the best, Gary, and have taught me so much. So many valuable pieces of advice.

      4/26/12 @ 7:35 am

      Hard to say what could have caused TM to stop — that’s the sort of thing where you need a first-hand look to see.
      TM would back up everything you have. But if you have 4 TB you may want to exclude some stuff. How do you have 4 TB (even I don’t have that much and I produced 3 videos per week for 4+ years). Maybe you have something that takes up a lot of space that you can exclude (movies, lots of music, etc)

        4/26/12 @ 4:53 pm

        Scanning documents. Important ones, need to be able to retain (legal requirements, etc.). It’s also helpful to have them electronically to sort and search for easy access. Beats boxes and boxes of paper and having to manually search. That’s why the TB fill up. But I do worry that if those records are lost my goose is cooked. If there were a fire, of course, the paper records would be destroyed. I’ll try to arrange the TM as you suggest, thanks.

          4/26/12 @ 5:18 pm

          Ah, I see. I do the same. But mine don’t take up nearly as much space — about 15 years of biz and personal docs. Maybe I’m using higher compression. Have you thought of compressing them into zip files? If you are using low compression, then zipping them could give you great results.
          For documents like that, ones that never change, they just sit there, you might want to consider not backing them up to TM, but creating a duplicate on another hard drive and storing it in another location.

    4/26/12 @ 7:24 am

    Thank you for your helpful videos. I have used TM for some time now but don’t leave my external hooked up as I have this recurring problem: The back up runs fine, but subsequent back ups (when external is left connected) eventually result in the TM wheel just spinning and my external held hostage. I have to just unplug the external, get scolded for not ejecting it, and then plug it back in next time I do a back up. Any ideas? Thanks.

      4/26/12 @ 7:35 am

      Hard to say without being there. I would leave it running overnight and see what happens. Or, start fresh. Or, have an expert come and look.

    Tony Cirocco
    4/26/12 @ 7:57 am

    Thanks for what you do.

    Talking in a way that is understandable seems to be really hard, but you do it!



    Tony Cirocco
    4/26/12 @ 7:58 am

    Keep it up!

    At LEAST 700 more times!


    4/26/12 @ 8:15 am

    Thank you Gary, you always bring us wonderful tips. I can’t stress how important your advice is regarding backup. I had my IMac27 for almost a year and a half now. The only problem I had, was losing my internal HDD, I managed to restore it, but it was a pain in the back, since then, I bought an external 2TB, and use time machine as much as possible, thank you once again Gary,

    4/26/12 @ 9:25 am

    I have learned a bunch from your blog. Thanks for creating all the videos/tutorials and books. I use TM on a daily basis and can’t do without. I may consider going to cloud based back up. When I travel I don’t take my back up drive with me. It doesn’t happen often but did cause a problem once when my disk died and there was a week’s worth of work that wasn’t backed up. Sometimes we learn the hard way. I did for sure. I love cloud based apps because someone else gets to worry about my backups. In case anyone is interested there are several cloud based that are free upto a certain amount of storage. It’s well worth it, even if you have something for them. Saves the trouble of having to take your back up drive when you travel, back up is continuous (if that is what you select) and no chance of hard drive being stolen or going bad, which could also happen. You don’t need a back up of the back up.

    Hey, every now and then can you include some more iPad and/or iPhone tips. I’ve seen some occasionally and would love to see more. I love all my Apple gadgets and can always learn about better ways to use them. They definitely have made my life easier since iCloud came out. I am in sync all over, except in my head!

    4/26/12 @ 9:57 am

    what is the difference between using the TM and the SuperDuper? I’ve been using SuperDuper for years.

    Mr Anthony Cotton
    4/26/12 @ 10:37 am

    I think i got onto your site from a site that i was going to register,and he had a link to your website. I was hooked straight away,but the other guy was a bit peeved i did not register on his site. The thing i like about your site, you understand people what they are talking about,evan Apple does not. I will just mention Preview App. You were the only person that knew what understood me. Even Google,Apple,Yahoo,and Ask Jeeves did not come up with the answer. You evan had a video about it,and you have even emailed me,and gave me an answer. THANKS for the personal touch Gary.

    4/26/12 @ 11:46 am

    i have a 2t hard drive and it is already full with video’s etc.. i am told a raid 5 system is the way to go.. can you suggest a product and what back up strategy is best for this.. i am also thinking about thunderbolt but that is expensive.. Should I wait.. great site.. thanks for your help.. paul

      4/26/12 @ 12:23 pm

      I don’t see the point in using a RAID for backups. RAIDs are great because they kind of back up their own data internally across drives — and they are fast for things like video editing. So you’d be backing up a backup using an expensive drive solution with speed you don’t need. Just get a good hard drive and back up to that.

    4/26/12 @ 2:23 pm

    Hi Gary, Is there an index to all of your (now 700 and moving on) Tips, or a list of titles or any meaningful way to refer back to them and read them? If so, could you give a link to it? Thanks a lot. (Your site is one of, if not -the-, best for Mac users who may not be super-tech people. Much appreciated).

      4/26/12 @ 2:37 pm

      Right at the top of every page at MacMost. The link “Videos.”

    4/26/12 @ 4:22 pm

    Thank you SO much for the way you explain stuff for us. I too have learned “a boat load” of information from you. Congrats on number 700! And thanks to CleverMedia for making this free.
    Have a Mac day everyone (it’s the best kind.)

    Michael A Cedeno
    4/27/12 @ 12:37 pm

    What is the difference between backing up your hard drive and simply saving all your documents on an external drive?

    4/29/12 @ 3:15 am

    Hi Gary, thanks so much for that… very informative. One question: in the video you said you should get an external HD that is TWICE the size of the what’s on your HD. How do you find out that number?

      4/29/12 @ 8:54 am

      There are many ways to do it. One in Lion is to go to the Apple menu, About this Mac Then More Info. Then “Storage.”
      In your case (MacBook Air) get one twice the size of the drive. My drive is 128GB on my MacBook Air, so I would not bother trying to find a small 256GB drive. I would just go with a 500GB or 1TB drive since they are cheap.
      But if you had, say an iMac with a 1TB drive, I would look at what you USE, not the size of the drive. Some iMac users only need a small portion of their drive. So if only 200GB of the drive are in use, I would also get a 1TB backup drive since there is no need for a 2TB one to back up 200GB of data.

    4/29/12 @ 6:25 pm

    Thanks so much, Gary. Very helpful!

    4/30/12 @ 8:45 am


    Thanks for this video.

    For decades I have been banging the drum for better computer backup with clients and friends, always running into resistance, too often with the reply:

    “but my computer is new”

    then explaining that ANY electronic device can be like a light bulb – it might last 10 years but it also might last 10 minutes.

    And, forgive me, but Mac users are worst (for the very reason you mention in the video “it’s a Mac, it’s perfect!).

    I will be embedding this video at my PCRoger website and my OnlineBackupSpot site.


    James McEwan
    5/4/12 @ 1:32 pm

    I took heed of your advice Gary. Got myself a 1TB LaCie drive, Time machine was really fast backing up over USB2.

    Can’t think why I never did this before…thanks!

    5/7/12 @ 9:12 am

    Congrats on 700+. Your knowledge is a stress reliever to many of us!

    My iMac was blinking to a black screen and instantly coming back on to the screen it left and after 2 years of of apple tech phone, home & replacement of various parts, apple decided to replace my iMac (10.7.3) – they could not figure it out.

    Everything is saved to TM and when I booted up my ‘new’ iMac I used TM to import my data. My system worked fine for weeks… then it started the mysterious blinking. I’ve deleted programs that I thought would be the culprit, but it just blinks w/o a pattern it isolate this.
    Other than taking it in to a genius bar and starting everything over from scratch, what should I do and how can I import select data and not the entire TM – which may contain the program/file that is causing a problem?
    Thanks for your advice.

      5/7/12 @ 9:19 am

      Bizarre. I would just keep digging in your applications and extensions to figure out what it is. Or, maybe try just using TM to restore the drive but only with documents, no apps. Then install apps one-by-one from original sources (installers, new downloads, etc). I’d suspect things that install with video and graphics apps — drivers and video codecs and things like that.

    5/15/12 @ 2:29 pm

    Gary, save me, please!! I’m doing all you say. Especially about back ups. Than, thanks a lot.
    Unfortunately today my Mac get freeze in grey screen with the spinning wheel and I need to restore my MAC. But my desktop folder simply doesn’t exist and never existed in Time Machine!!! There is my most important documents!!! Why the hell my time machine just exclude the only important thing? I can use anything to restore my data (Disk Utility?)
    Thanks a lot again.

      5/15/12 @ 2:31 pm

      Your Time Machine backup will include everything — including your documents. Desktop folder too. Both are in your user folder. It sounds like you have a pretty serious issue so I would seek the help of someone who can give you first-hand assistance.

        5/17/12 @ 10:26 pm

        Hello Gary. These days have been stressful.
        I ran DiskWarrior but, as you said, this didn’t do nothing for me. In resume, I gave up, but learned the lesson and I left my external hard drive in Firewire with Time Machine backing up hourly. Now I’m wondering some issues. Should I don’t let my MBP sleep? Because every time I wake up the MBP I’m having problems with “improper device removal” warnings. This may because I partitioned my HD?
        Thanks Gary…

          5/17/12 @ 11:05 pm

          You should be able to let it sleep normally. Not sure why you are getting those warnings.

    5/18/12 @ 7:14 pm

    Gary, I just got rid of wife’s older Mac and added a her account to my Mac. Been using Time Machine all along for mine. Does Time Machine backup all accounts automatically or is there something I need to do to have it back up another user account? thanks.

      5/18/12 @ 7:40 pm

      It should backup all accounts. Easy to check. Just log into her account and run Time Machine. See if there are some backups.

    5/18/12 @ 7:45 pm

    Yep, they’re all there. Thanks.

    5/22/12 @ 11:47 pm

    Gary, would have some explanation of why it is advisable to leave the hdd just for Time Machine?
    I spent a good money on my 1TB external hdd and not feel the need to have a backup from the last year. Nor would like to have to spend buying another hdd. But there are files that I don’t have the need to keep on my Mac and I don’t know if it’s true that a hard disk with free space is faster than a full one. The question is: would this best to partition hdd or may I create folders inside the HD for Time Machine?

      5/23/12 @ 6:22 am

      If you partition it, what will you use the other partition for? Whatever it is, how will you back that up? To the other partition? So the backup and the original will be on the SAME DRIVE. See?
      Do not create folders! Time Machine needs to manage the drive completely — it is removing old versions of backup files as it stores new ones. If you start messing with the drive by putting files there yourself, it wont be able to manage the drive correctly and you could corrupt your whole backup at some point.
      It isn’t worth it. Drives are cheap — your photos, video documents, messages and projects are priceless.

    5/23/12 @ 5:40 pm

    Ok, you’ve convinced me…
    I am considering buying an MBA and sure enough space will be a problem for me. If I buy a new HDD to leave what I don’t need in the SSD, is there a way to back up that external HDD in the time machine HDD?
    And now, I’m with my current HDD partitioned. May I merge the parts without losing time machine backups?

      5/23/12 @ 6:49 pm

      Time Machine should back up all of your drives — internal and external. Just check to make sure it is.
      So your internal drive is partitioned? Not sure what havok that will bring to it.

        5/23/12 @ 10:24 pm

        I’m sorry Gary. I was not clear.
        It is my external HDD that has been partionated with Time Machine and 3 other partitions.

          5/24/12 @ 6:38 am

          Bad idea. If those 3 partitions are on the same drive, then backing them up to the 4th partition is useless — if you lose the drive you lose the original and the backup. Get a separate drive and use it only for backups.
          Start fresh with that new drive.

    6/7/12 @ 10:52 am

    A window just popped up saying: “Time Machine completed a verification of your backups. To improve reliability, Time Machine must create a new backup for you.” It goes on to say, “Click Start New Backup to create a new backup. This will remove your existing backup history. This could take several hours.”

    How as this happened and how can I remedy? I backup wirelessly to my Time Capsule via my router. The size of my existing backup is 300gb. Thank you

      6/7/12 @ 10:59 am

      Nothing to do but to start the new backup.

        6/7/12 @ 11:36 am

        Is there a reason for this failure? Thank you.

          6/7/12 @ 11:47 am

          Impossible to say without having an expert take a look at your system and that drive.

    6/22/12 @ 12:38 pm

    Hi Gary,

    I am a new Mac convert and I can’t begin to tell you how much I value your website. It has been the #1 go to place for me to learn how to use my Mac.

    OK, here’s what I have found on using Time Machine. I have a 2 TB Western Digital My Book Live connected to my Apple Airport Extreme Wireless Router. I have been using this since before my Mac to backup and wirelessly share all my photos, videos, music, and files between all my computers in the home. My new Mac automatically sees the drive and I am able to access all the Shared Folders and everything on the drive.

    After watching your videos on how important it is to back up my Mac I saw where if I used this drive as my backup that it would reformat that drive and I thought it would erase the drive completely. So I backed up all the shared folders and started Time Machine. It took 6 hours to wirelessly back up my Mac for the first time and now it runs in the background and I don’t even notice it running.

    Well the good news is that not only did it fully back up my Mac but it preserved all the shared folders with all of my files! All of the computers including my Mac and the PC’s still see all the shared files.

    After much research I just bought a WD TV Live streaming media player and I am now able to stream my home movies, photos, and music to my TV. I was trying to connect to the WD TV live through my Mac and even though I could see it listed in Finder I couldn’t connect. Then I plugged in a thumb drive to the WD TV Live and Bingo – it saw the media player / thumb drive with the files on the thumb drive.

    I am thrilled with this set up and just thought I would share this with you and your viewers.

    Again, thanks for all of the information you provide on your website!!!!

    8/9/12 @ 4:03 pm

    Hey Gary

    Great stuff here you have helped me heaps over my transition to Mac and you are the first place I go to discover anything to do with mac.
    You are invaluable, so don’t die on me ok!!

    1/9/13 @ 2:30 pm

    I installed a Seagate back up drive for my iMac using Time Machine, about one month ago. How do I find the backed up files on it? Thx.

    Dave Muirheid
    3/9/13 @ 3:44 pm

    I recommend using an external drive that spins slower because they stay cooler and run longer as Time Machine. Avoid the 7200RPM, stick with 5400 – They usually cost less as well.

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