iDolly for iPhone and iPad

How did I miss this? Dolly Drive has released iDolly (free, universal) for iPhone and iPad. It lets you access the data you’ve backed up with Dolly Drive. I’ve been using Dolly Drive for years and love it. It truly is “Time Machine in the cloud.” I’m going to play with iDolly for a while and let you know what I think.

Restore with Apple’s Backup

This is the third and final post in my series on Apple’s Backup software for Mac OS X. The first offered a brief overview and the second described how to use Backup without a MobileMe account. In this article, I’ll explain how to restore your data with Backup.

Backup is a piece of software that Apple offers to MobileMe customers. A predecessor to Time Machine, Backup’s main purpose is to back up data in your home folder, though it can be customized to do more. Of course, even the most flexible backup solution is useless if the restoration process stinks. Fortunately, restoring with Backup is a breeze. Here’s how.

Typical Backup

First, launch Backup as you typically do. Then, select the plan that contains the data you’re after and click Restore. A new window appears. Here you’ll select the backup set you’d like to restore. Next, check the particular content of the restore set you want (see below).

Finally, click Restore Selection. You’re presented with two options. The first lets you restore only missing items. For example, if you’ve got a Backup plan that backs up your Documents folder and you only need a single document, choose this option. You’ll grab the single file and save yourself a lot of time.

Alternatively, if  the entire folder is gone (or even all or most of its contents), opt to replace the existing items. That will restore all files and folders to their original locations using data from that backup, replacing existing items. Here’s a look at the final screen before implementing the restore.

Confirming Activity

If a backup set is particularly large, it could be a bit taxing on Backup, especially on slower Macs. In fact, the app could appear inactive or frozen while processing the backup information. Fortunately, there’s a way to confirm that it’s actually working and not stuck. Here’s how.

First, launch Activity Monitor (it lives in you Utilities folder) and then double-click Backup. Next, click Open Files and Ports. You should see that files are being opened and read by Backup (see below).

Force a Manual Restore

If none of the above methods work, you may have to force a manual restore. First, right-click on the Backup file to reveal its contents and then open the Contents folder. Inside you’ll see another Contents folder. Open that one, too.

You’ll find a file called Backup.sparseimage. Double-click it. A new volume called “Backup” will mount on your desktop. Search inside for the data you want to restore, and simply drag it out of the volume and into the Finder.

Restore to an Alternate Location

Finally, you can opt to restore to a location other than that of the original file(s). To do this, select the Restore to an alternate location check box during the restoration process. A new window appears, asking where you’d like the restored files to be placed.

I’ll conclude my three-part look at Backup with one last trick. Like most contemporary backup solutions, Backup makes incremental backups. That is to say, the first backup of a given data set grabs everything, while subsequent backups only copy what has changed. You can, however, force a full backup at anytime by selecting the set to be backed up and then choosing Full Backup from the Plan menu.

I hope these posts have prompted you to take another look at this oft-neglected software from Apple. It’s actually very useful.

Use Apple’s Backup without MobileMe

Yesterday I wrote about using Apple’s Backup software for scheduling local and off-site backups. It’s a super tool that’s available to MobileMe customers. I neglected to point out that those without a MobileMe subscription can use Backup to copy up to 100 MB of data. Useless, you say? Come with me, Doubting Thomas, and I show you how to get the most out of those 100 MB.

First, let’s grab some important files to get an idea of how much data we’re talking about.

Address Book

For most of us, a full export of our Address Book data is well under 100 MB (I produced a 3.3 MB file across 418 contacts). Export your Address Book data by selecting File > Export > Address Book Archive to get a look.

3.3 MB gone, 96.7 MB to go.

iCal

Producing a proper iCal backup depends on how you’re using it. Those with the current MobileMe Calendar should launch iCal, select the calendar you’d like backed up and then select File > Export > Export.

It’s a bit tricker to get a backup from me.com, but it can be done. First, publicly share the calendar you’d like to back up (don’t worry, this is temporary). Paste the URL of the shared calendar into a browser.

DO NOT HIT RETURN.

That last step is important. Instead, change the “webcal” to “http”. For example, “webcal://www.me.com/ca/sharesubscribe/blahblah…” becomes “http://www.me.com/ca/sharesubscribe/blahblah…”

Now you may hit Return.

Your browser will download an .ICS file. Finally, turn off sharing for that calendar. My iCal file was 66 KB. 96 MB to go.

Mail

The simplest solution is to drag messages out of Mail and onto your Desktop/backup destination. Another option is to create an offline mailbox on your Mac. Here’s how.

First, launch Mail and select Mailbox > New Mailbox. A sheet appears. Choose On My Mac from the Location drop-down and give it a name (like “Local”). Then click OK.

To populate that new mailbox, open Mail, highlight the messages you’d like backed up and then select Message > Copy To and then your local mailbox (“Local” in our case). Make sure you copy these messages. Don’t move them. Now those messages will be available offline.

Finally, you’ll find the messages themselves by opening the Mail folder in your home directory’s Library folder and then navigating to Mailboxes > NameOfYourLocalMailbox. I grabbed 2 MB worth of messages to backup. 94 MB to go.

Safari Bookmarks

Here’s an easy one. With Safari running, select File > Export Bookmarks. I got a file 291 KB in size using this method.

As you can see, we’ve grabbed a lot of important information — contacts, calendar, critical email messages and Safari bookmarks — in well under the allotted 100 MB. Now let’s back it up.

Put it together with Backup

Launch Backup and create a custom Backup Plan by selecting Plan > New Plan. A new sheet appears. Click Custom. Next, click the “+” under Backup Items and then click the QuickPicks tab. Then select Address Book, iCal and Safari Settings. [1. For the record, this setup cost me only 29.9 MB. Yours may be different, but I bet it’s still under 100 MB.] Finally, identify a destination and schedule.

You’ll notice that Mail is missing from the above plan. That’s because the Mail QuickPick that ships with Backup will grab all of your messages, including sent, trashed, read and unread across all accounts. That would put most people over the 100 MB limit. Fortunately, we created that local mailbox. Here’s what to do with it.

Create another custom Backup Plan. This time, instead of selecting a QuickPick, click the Files & Folders tab, and navigate to the local mailbox we created in your home folder > Library > Mail > Mailboxes > NameOfYourLocalMailbox. From there, choose a destination [2. Use Dropbox to store your new backup off-site!] and schedule as described above. That way, you’ll only backup the messages you deliberately dragged into that mailbox.

Cool, no? Now you see how to get the most out of Backup even if you’re not a MobileMe customer. Is this the most comprehensive backup plan ever? Heck, no. Photos and music are excluded for starters. But that’s not the point. I wanted to illustrate that 100 MB will let you save some pretty important stuff. The fact that you get to do it with a nice piece of software from Apple makes it even better. Have fun.

Apple’s other backup software

Update: For ideas on how to use Backup without MobileMe, look here.

Backup is the backup software from Apple that’s available to MobileMe customers. It’s been around a lot longer than Time Machine. While not nearly as robust, it’s a useful piece of software. I still use it to back up smaller directories to an external disk, but it can also be used to back up to your iDisk, CDs and DVDs.

Scheduling is included as well as support for custom “Backup Plans.” These will target specific directories, schedules, destinations and more.

Since there’s no such thing as “too much backup,” here’s a brief look at Backup.

The first time it’s launched, Backup will suggest five Backup Plans: Home Folder, Personal Data & Settings, iLife, iTunes Library and Custom. The Home Folder plan will create a backup of your entire home folder to a disk weekly and to removable media, like a CD or DVD, monthly.

Personal Data & Settings is one I use. It grabs your Address Book contacts, Stickes, iCal calendars, Safari settings (bookmarks, preferences, history, etc.) and Keychain settings to your iDisk daily. I’ve found that, thanks to Dropbox, I wasn’t using my iDisk for much. The result was 18 GB free on my iDisk. [1. To allocate storage to your iDisk, log into me.com from a browser. Next, click Account and then Storage Settings. Finally, use the drop-down menu next to Mail to assign as much of your 20 GB of storage as you want to your mailbox. The rest is assigned to iDisk storage.] It’s a shame to waste that space, so now it holds off-site backups of that information.

The iLife Backup Plan grabs your iPhoto library, iMovie projects, GarageBand Projects and iDVD projects. This is potentially a massive backup, so have plenty of DVDs ready.[2. You can send those backups to an external disk instead of CDs/DVDs.] It backs up weekly.

iTunes Library will backup the contents of your iTunes folder to CD or DVD monthly.

Those don’t float your boat? Then make your own. Click Custom for a nice number of options. For instance, Backup ships with a number of custom Backup Plans, called “Quick Picks,” like backup Filemaker files, Numbers, Pages Keynote files or Microsoft Excel documents. Alternatively, you can specify certain files or folders and even the results of a Spotlight search.

Don’t feel like customizing? You’ll find some really nice ready-made Quick Picks from the likes of Scott Boms and MacUpdate.

MobileMe customers who are looking for a little extra piece of mind or even have under-used iDisk storage space should consider Apple’s Backup 3. At the very least, it’s an off-site supplement to Time Machine. Because it’s better to be safe than sorry.