What every Apple user should know about software updates

You use lots of software, and much of it is updated regularly. Updates to apps–and also to the operating system–can provide new features, performance improvements, and bug fixes, and those fixes often remedy security vulnerabilities to protect you from potential threats. All of these are important, and it’s a good idea to keep your software updated. (In most cases, at least.) Here’s how.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How to Use Time Machine Server in macOS High Sierra

Some Mac users have long run Mac OS X Server on a computer in their household to use as a file sharing repository, and to centralized backups of other Macs. The Server software had a Time Machine server feature, which allowed you to designate a folder that other Macs could select to store Time Machine backups. This is especially useful if you have laptops that you don’t often connect to hard drives to back up; Time Machine can do this automatically, in the background, even at night.

With macOS High Sierra, this feature is built into the operating system, and you no longer need to install and manage Server to use it. Here’s how.

Choose a folder on your Mac for backups. Go to System Preferences > Sharing, then check File Sharing to activate it. In the Shared Folders section, click the + button, then choose the folder you want to use for your backups.

Right-click that folder in the Shared Folders list and choose Advanced Options. Check Share as a Time Machine backup destination.

Time machine server

On the Mac you want to back up, mount the shared folder, then open the Time Machine pane of System Preferences. Click Select Disk, and choose that folder. That computer will shortly begin backing up to that remote folder. Note that you can limit how much storage will be used for backups in this dialog; if you don’t, I assume that all available space will be used, which could be a problem.

With a laptop, macOS keeps local snapshots that it stores every hour, so if you’re not connected to your network, it won’t back these up, but will do so some time after you’ve rejoined the network (when the next Time Machine backup runs).

Thanks to this new feature in macOS High Sierra, many people who set up a Mac using Server can now eschew this additional layer of software. This makes things a bit easier for those who don’t need the advanced features of a server.

Understanding RAID for Data Storage and Backups

Following my recent story on the Mac Security Blog, in which I discussed 4 Types of Backup Hard Drives for Mac, several readers have asked about RAID storage. This is a type of storage that offers a number of advantages, including faster speed, better data security, or a combination of both. But you may be wondering a few things, such as what the heck is RAID? Is it a backup in and of itself? And should you use RAID for data storage and backups? These are all good questions that I’ll clear up, making the complex easier to understand, so you can decide if RAID is right for you.

This article covers how RAID storage works, and also I’ll discuss whether you should use RAID devices for your data and for your backups. So let’s get started!

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Get Organized: How to Store and Archive Backups Securely

We talk a lot about backups here, because it’s so important to make sure that you don’t lose your data. Not only should you always back up your files, but you need to store and archive these backups securely. You need to think about where you store the drives, and whether they are protected from theft or disaster.

In a recent article, I discussed four types of hard drives you can use to back up your files. Today I’ll discuss how you can manage these backups, in full security. Below are 9 tips for keeping your backups organized and secure. You may not want or need to use them all, but if you use several of these tips, you can ensure that your data is safe.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.


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4 Types of Backup Hard Drives for Mac

Backups are a lot like insurance: it’s imperative to have it, and you hope you never have to use it. Likewise, if you need to use a backup hard drive to restore your data, it can save you hours of time, money and headaches. We often remind you how important it is to back up your files, but it’s not just the backup that matters. The media you use to store your data is critical!

There are different types of backup hard drives available for Mac. You can use external hard drives connected to your Mac, portable hard drives that you connect when needed, or network devices. You have lots of choice, but each of these devices works best in specific situations. So how can you tell which type of hard drive is best for you?

Choosing a hard drive to back up your data can be a quest in and of itself. This post highlights the different types of hard drives for Mac that you can use, and how to choose the best backup hardware for your needs.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How to Back Up Your Mac to Multiple Time Machine Disks

Time Machine is a useful feature in OS X that lets you back up your Mac to an external hard drive, or to a network drive. It works automatically, every hour, backing up your Mac so you don’t have to think about it.

But sometimes Time Machine can go wrong, and your backups can get corrupted. To guard against this, it’s a good idea to back up to two different disks. These disks can both be connected to your Mac, or can both be network volumes, or you can use one of each, as I do.

To add another disk to Time Machine, open the Time Machine pane of System Preferences. Click Select Disk, and choose the second disk you want to use. When you do this, you’ll see a dialog asking if you want to replace the existing disk or use both. Click Use Both to tell Time Machine that you want to use the second disk along with the first.

When you do this, Time Machine alternates which disk it uses each time it runs a backup. In the Time Machine preference pane, you’ll see something like this:

Time machine two disks

The top disk, with the green icon, is a local hard drive; the bottom disk is a network drive. In the above screenshot, I’ve just started a new backup to a network drive, and, as you can imagine, it’s going to take quite a long time to send all that data over the network.

Since you really do want hourly backups – at least if you’re working on important files – you might want to stop the backup every now and then. Click the x to do this. When you stop the backup to the network drive, Time Machine will pick up in an hour, sending the backup to the other drive (in this case, the local hard drive). An hour later, it will continue the backup to the network drive. You can also click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar, if it’s visible, and choose Backup Now to restart the network backup.

How to Back Up Your iTunes Library and Other Media Files

If you’ve got a large iTunes library–and even if yours isn’t of epic scale–you’ve probably spent a lot of time buying music, ripping CDs, tagging files, and organizing playlists. It’s essential that you back up all this content. If your hard disk goes belly up, you’ll lose a lot of music and videos, as well as other content.

You can re-download some purchased content from the iTunes Store (but not all; see below). You may be able to re-download content purchased from other online music vendors, such as Amazon, or if you purchase directly from label sites. But if you’ve ripped a thousand CDs, remember how long it took for each one of them? This takes even longer if you rip DVDs or Blu-Rays. If need to rip them again, that would take weeks.

So, to make sure you never lose any of this content, you need to back up your iTunes library and other media files regularly. Here’s how to do it.

Read the rest of the article on the Mac Security Blog.

iWant: Time Machine for iOS

I wrote yesterday how I lost data stored in iCloud, and had to get geeky to retrieve it. This shouldn’t happen. Ever. With Dropbox, for example, if you have two files with the same name, Dropbox saves both of them, showing, in the file names, that there is a conflict. And back in the days of pre-iCloud syncing, Apple showed you when there were conflicts and let you resolve them. But now, iCloud, in an attempt to be as transparent as possible, has eliminated such features.

Data is important; data integrity is essential. There is simply no situation where losing data is acceptable. Yet, for many people who use iCloud, this is the case.

The data loss I described is not uncommon. I’ve heard from lots of people who’ve had similar problems with Apple’s app and with third-party apps. The best Apple can do is tell you how to find missing information in iCloud after restoring an iOS device; they talk about apps, media, messages, but not data that has been lost. About two years ago, a number of app developers spoke out about this, and some app developers have given up on iCloud because of its lack of reliability.

iOS can back up to iCloud automatically. But this isn’t a real backup; it only stores some settings, but not most data. It stores pointers to apps and purchased content, but not content that you’ve synced to the device that Apple doesn’t sell. It’s not a backup, it’s not even a clone; it’s a selective backup of what Apple is concerned about. Apple’s logic is probably that iCloud will still have your app data: your contacts, calendars, notes and more. But as I, and many others have seen, iCloud can lose data. Also, you may have apps that store data locally; that don’t sync to the cloud, that don’t store files on Dropbox. In that case, it’s very hard to recover lost data.

Apple created Time Machine for the Mac so users would be protected. It’s still users’ responsibility to turn it on, and to purchase an external hard drive for the backups, but it’s not Apple’s fault any more if users don’t back up their data.

Apple needs to create Time Machine for iOS. This would back up what is backed up now, but also all the data that Apple’s apps and third-party apps store. You should be able to go back and see previous versions of this data and restore it, as you can with Time Machine.

There is no excuse for iCloud losing data. Apple needs to create a safety net so this never happens.