have your thousand-CD collection ripped to you computer, as well as the
hundred or so songs you've purchased from the iTunes
Music Store. Your CDs have now been given away or sold for a buck a
piece (if you're lucky) to a second-hand music
store. You're all digital, all the time—good
Until that massive hard drive decides to bite the dust, that is. All
that work converting your CDs and all those songs purchased are as
good as gone. This hack helps you prepare for that all but inevitable
day. Hard drives do crash, and when yours does, you want to be sure
you have your music backed up somewhere safe.
The first decision you need to make is what media to use. Backing up
to CDRs, DVDs, and a hard drive each have their advantages and
disadvantages. Blank CDs are great because they are cheap (only a few
cents a piece—if not free—if you bother to mail in that
rebate); however, they hold only approximately 650 MB (100 or so
songs). DVDs hold a lot more data (up to 4.5 GB, or around 450 songs,
give or take a couple dozen) but are more expensive and burn at a
much slower rate than CDs.
A typical CD burner can burn at 10-50 , whereas a
maxes out at 2 .
An external hard drive is super-fast but might be outgrown quickly
unless you go all out and get a whopping great one, at which point it
is much more costly. The best way to make your decision is to look at
the size of your music collection you are backing up. Only have 20 GB
on you computer? Then either blank CDs or DVDs are probably the way
to go. If your collection is 100 GB or larger, you might consider
purchasing an external
or USB 2.0 (slower)
hard drive. The time you save should more than make up for the cost
of the hard drive over that of a pile of cheap CDs.
Regardless of which media you choose, you have to figure out a way to
transfer all of your music. If you purchase a hard drive, this is
just a matter of plugging it in and drag-and-dropping your music
folder onto the new hard drive. Wait for the files to copy over, and
you're done! You might want to consider keeping the
hard drive at a location different than your computer (at work is
good, since you can listen to your tunes there too), just in case
physical damage happens to your computer (as a result of fire, flood,
child pouring juice over computer, etc.).
If you choose to back up to CDs or DVDs, it helps to use some kind of
backup software that automates some of the job for you. Yes, you can
back up to CDs using iTunes, but the task is an arduous one at best.
You have to create a playlist, drag the songs to that playlist, and
then hit burn for each and every CD. But what if you want to back up
a serious amount of music?
If you have one of the larger capacity iPods (the 40 GB model is nice),
it's useful to remember that you already have a
handy backup right there in your back pocket. Obviously, this works
only for any music in your iTunes library that you actually have
copied over to your iPod.
If you have the room, might I suggest you have
keep your iPod in sync with your entire library? You can always
change your mind later. With your iPod connected to your Mac, click
the iPod button (leftmost in ) in iTunes
to bring up the iPod Preferences.
Figure 1. Clicking the iPod button to reach the iPod Preferences pane
Select the "Automatically update all songs and
playlists" radio button and click OK, as shown in
. Both your Mac's hard
drive and your iPod should growl for a bit as all the music not yet
on your iPod is copied across. (This can take some time, depending on
the size of your music library.)
Figure 2. Automatically updating all songs and playlists for iPod backup
If you're not blessed with a sufficiently large
iPod, or if you are blessed with a sufficiently large music library,
you might need to choose either to "Automatically
update selected playlists only" or to
"Manually manage songs and
playlists" (both choices are located in the iPod
If you don't have an iPod but still have music to
back up, there are a few backup solutions available to you. Good
backup software does something called disk
This means that if you have 10 GB of music to back up to a handful of
CDs, the software automatically figures out how many CDs you need and
prompts you to feed each in turn throughout the burning process.
One such application is Apple's Backup
included with .Mac membership or Dantz's Retrospect
Apple's Backup, while downloadable even without a
.Mac account, unfortunately doesn't allow you to
back up to CD, DVD, or another drive without a .Mac account. If you
have a .Mac account, though, it's a rather friendly
app with some nice features. You'll find a tour of
Backup (and the rest of .Mac) at http://www.mac.com/1/iTour/tour_backup.html.
For the non-.Mac folk out there, let's take a look
at backing up with Dantz
you launch the app, the main window pops up, as shown in . You have four main options: Backup, Restore,
Duplicate, and Archive. To back up to a series of CDs or DVDs select
Figure 3. The main window in Retrospect
Here, you name your backup project and select a type. Since in this
case we are doing a straightforward backup, click the Backup button.
The Backup Set Creation dialog pops up, as shown in . Choose to back up to a hard drive or CD/DVD.
If you select CD/DVD, Retrospect figures out the number of CDs or
DVDs you need, based on the amount of data (in this case, music) you
have to back up.
Figure 4. The Backup Set Creation dialog
Retrospect then prompts you to select a source folder
(the folder from which it should copy files). By default,
iTunes keeps its music in an iTunes Music folder
within the Music folder in your home directory.
Even though you are backing up to CDs or DVDs, Retrospect needs to
create a document in which to keep data about your backup—not
your backup itself. Hit Save to let it save this backup
Click the Start button to get things rolling. Retrospect prompts you
to insert a disc, spends a few minutes burning and verifying the
disc, and then ejects the disc and asks for another. Shampoo, rinse,
and repeat until all your music is backed up.
While feeding Backup or Retrospect CD after CD or DVD after DVD (you
should be cursed with so much music!) might seem rather tedious, at
least the program takes care of all the rest for you.
Whether you use CDs, DVDs, or another hard drive,
make sure you back up. Those iTunes music purchases will be worthless
if anything should happen to your one and only copy.