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Saturday, 30 March 2019


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I'm not sure exactly how CarbonCopyCloner works, but here's a possible glitch. Suppose that CCC tries to make both your local backup disks exact copies of Passport One. If there's been any file corruption on PP1, that corruption will then be faithfully replicated to the two backups. I don't know whether there's a commercial solution available, but with three copies of most files, it would be really a good idea to do a three-way comparison of everything to look for corruption, since any of the three copies could have become corrupt over time.

Just recovering from the crash of the hard disk on my laptop.

No loss of any pictures as they were all backed up on external drives.

What the crash has thrown up is that after a clean install of High Sierra on to a new SSD my copy of Lightroom 4 is unstable to the point of being unusable. Strangely I had no problem before the crash.
Not really wanting to pay subscription for CC I am now looking at other programs.

Currently for my data I have 2x 4TB drives with everything on them. Not set up as a raid but manually backed up every day or so. I also have 2x 2TB drives that I filled last year. These are now kept off site. Then a 1TB portable drive. This has all my new work in the past year, and backed up to at the same time as my 2x4TB drives. giving 3 copies of everything and 4 of some.

Planning to add some more drives and programmes as per your post.

I had two "Passport" external discs fail within a few days some weeks ago. Luckily enough I had three back-ups, but I got a bit nervous.

SSDs have recently gotten less pricey and I now have all my back-ups on SSDs. No moving parts, and they are sooo small.

(Before my Passports failed, they got slightly more noisy and my MacBook Pro ejected them without me asking for it. Look out for these signs if you use Passports.)

Hi Mike,
Nice plan. Be sure that your Akitio box is in a UPS. I know it's not as fast, but having a NAS makes it easy to have another UPS. If your circuit breaker breaks or you have a power outage UPS will save your day.
Regards, rfeg

[It's curious that we think of digital as EASIER. --Mike]

Now you have a backup plan can I ask, do you have a Restore Plan?

What happens if the Mac Mini stops working? Are you out of business until it is repaired or replaced?

I used to have two computers -- a desktop and a laptop -- that were more or less interchangeable. They had the same software and all files less than a year old were on both computers. One breaks and I'm still in business.

A couple of years ago I bought a super-zoomie laptop with the objective of making it my only computer. The desktop stayed in place, though turned off, for a year before I finally moved it to the basement. With all of this "what if" conversation I'm wondering if I should turn the old desktop on and refresh all the files and applications … just in case.

(I have on-site and off-site backups for all my files independent of the computers)

Single point of failure …

Then the panic ... The two missing bags were carry-ons …

One bag contained my computer, along with two cameras and about eight hundred dollars in foreign currency. My work files were backed up on Dropbox, but I had never been able to synch my photos and videos, because of some problem with our Internet. So I had copied everything twice onto portable hard drives. Leslie had recently made two long research trips, filling a set of notebooks with material for the book about Egypt that she planned to write. Usually, she would have transcribed her notes immediately, but things had been too hectic. I had packed the backup drives and the notebooks in the second carry-on, so that they would be separate from the computer.

First carry-on, second carry-on—it made no difference now.

The Refugee and the Thief.

Approve. Sanity returns to TOP. Glad the TOP geeks provided such sage advice, because I too have RAID stories. I also have a great SCSI story if you can remember that far back. I won't relate it, it's not for the squeamish.

Sounds good to me. I use SuperDuper instead of Carbon Copy Cloner but from what I’ve read they’re interchangeable. It sounds like your data is well backed up. My only suggestion, if you haven’t already done this, is that you set up at least one backup drive as a bootable drive with your applications, so that should something happen to your ssd in the Mini that you can still start up and use your Mini.

I don’t see the point in an independent drive rotated and kept off site as BackBlaze solves that problem.

Still do the top images on DVD, soon to be BluRay disks as well as Hard Drive backups.
Reason is the DVD/BluRay disks are not wiped out by a major solar storm - such as the Carrington Event from the 1850's. Yes, a big storm or EMP will wipe out all the machinery but when we rebuild I'll still have the images on the disks.

So far the Delkin Gold disks are looking good as I review the oldest I have.

Seems like you're covered. I do some of the same sorts of things, just in the Windows world.

Back in my early corporate IT career, I got bit by a backup that wasn't. Unknown until I needed to do a restore. Back then, mainframes were more than just IBM. RCA, Univac, Burroughs, GE, Honeywell, NCR, and one more that I don't recall the name of. IBM and the Seven Dwarfs.

Every OS had it's own language. I misinterpreted the system backup report.

Sounds like a good and easy to manage solution! Having a bootable clone in the enclosure is also a good way to mitigate SSD failure. However, I wouldn't go the extra step and put your 'passport 1' data in a fourth drive in the enclosure. If the enclosure electronics (including the power supply) were to fail, you would have access to nothing in the enclosure, until a new and compatible enclosure could be delivered.

All bases covered!

We all have our own particular risk exposure ratio.

Solid solution.

Did you read Backblaze's privacy policy? Here is a quote of part of it:

We may share and disclose your personally identifiable information only in the limited circumstances described below:

To vendors and other third party service providers who require access to your personal information to assist in providing and improving our products. The third parties that access and use your information only on our behalf include companies such as Stripe, Salesforce, Google Analytics, Freshbooks, Facebook, Twitter, Hubspot, MailChimp, Plivo, Slack, SurveyMonkey, SendGrid, Twillio, and ZenDesk. For example, we partner with Stripe and Freshbooks to assist us in processing your payment; Hubspot enables us to send you marketing emails, subject to your preferences; SendGrid is used to communicate service emails to you; Twillio and Plivo are used to send SMS messages to you when you use our 2-factor authentication feature; and Zendesk is used to facilitate our customer support and online Chat service.

Unless I am not understanding something here, that makes Backblaze a nonstarter for me.

Mike, one minor detail! If you are making a disaster recovery plan for yourself only, its looks to me like you've done good. However, if you want to pass any digital assets on to the next generation, you need to make it part of your estate planning. That means identifying your heir(s), giving them a hard copy of all your computer passwords (what good are functional drives if they are encrypted and nobody knows the password?), writing out an index explaining your digital collection's organizational structure, and most importantly offering personal guidance to your heirs on what it all means.

BTW, physical prints of my favorite images are a key part of my personal collection to be handed down to children, and their significance is usually easy for even strangers to assess, but computer records? Oh boy. I think that's a big can of worms, but as discussed above, unless you wish to go the route of Bret Weston and burn your camera originals before you die, then giving at least a little guidance to your family and friends should be an important consideration in one's digital archiving endeavors

Mike, what I'd really love to see here is more of your photos! How important is all this backing up (or printing for that matter) if we hardly ever get to see them?

Backup plans are only as good as they are followed and executable.

1. Create a SIMPLE plan you will REALLY follow indefinitely with rabid devotion.

2. Always ensure the integrity of the source material. It’s common to have someone backing-up corrupted file systems ad nauseum, only to discover it months too late. The fact is that logical corruption is going to be the most likely data “disaster” you’ll encounter these days.

3. Drill a full recovery before you’re completely committed and BEFORE you need to recover.

Mike, Backing up is such a "personal" endeavor that we pursue our own way, often without a solid ability to explain why we did it one way or the other. But basically I feel you've done well.

Some reservations are based a little in not knowing some details. I find it important to also have a "boot" backup - a drive containing a copy of what's on the internal SSD and which can boot in replace of the internal drive if it were to fail. I don't know if "Time Machine" does that - if so you are covered there. You imply the contents of your internal drive are backed up but one needs to be bootable. In my previous iMac, I had a failure and simply rolled the external boot drive back onto the replacement. Until I could do that, the external boot drive acted as the main drive for a couple days.

You choose to use a USB drive (C or 3, you don't say) as your "first" file access point, if I understand you correctly. Thunderbolt is way faster, so why not use one of the two 3-1/2" 4TB drives in your "gift" enclosure as the "main" drive - then backup to the other 4TB and to the Passport. The Passport could also be an "off-campus" backup. You are now using an on-line system for that - good luck but I just can't solidly feel good about on-line backups just yet, and death may come first before I do :-)

FYI, I am using Chronosync as my backup software and find it excellent. That is not a statement regarding Carbon Copy, of which I've heard good things.

Just go back to film, it's simpler! Only half joking.

Paranoia knows no bounds! For a few bucks more you can buy a low capacity thumb-drive for macOS Recovery. Down-load Recovery from your Mac for FREE.

"macOS Recovery is part of the built-in recovery system of your Mac. You can start up from macOS Recovery and use its utilities to recover from certain software issues or take other actions on your Mac." https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201314

As others have noted…

  • Boot Disk and misc personal data

    • Locally (in-house)

      1. One Time Machine backup

      2. At least one clone (CCC or SuperDuper!)

    • Offsite on a disk you own and control

      1. At least one clone.

  • Photos
    • Locally (in-house)

      1. At least one clone

    • Offsite on a disk you own and control

      1. At least one clone

If you want to use cloud as a third copy, that's fine, but it does not satisfy the offsite clone requirement by itself. This is for the simple reason that cloud="someone else's computer", and that someone else can have bad backup practices themselves (see where MySpace lost all data prior to 2015? ALL DATA prior to 2015), can have bad management (unexpectedly OOB), can have bad access (can't get to backup when you need it), and so forth. (Note that bad access could apply to you as well — if your internet is down when you need your offsite backup, e.g. after a bad weather event, then you can't get to your data when you need it.) They can also have bad privacy policies or bad security policies, and your data can end up places you don't want it to be.

In short, nothing about a cloud is under your control, and that makes for a bad backup plan.

(Totally off-topic, your ul/ol CSS is awfully white-spacey, it could use some tightening up IMO. I know, priorities, etc. :) )

Not sure about CCC, but some of these backup programs (including BackBlaze) copy the changes you made to your main drives. This means that if you mess up the files on your main drives without noticing it, after a while they’re also gone on your backup drives.

Thinking out of the box. A road less traveled (a choice that leads one in a different direction than most people) is often the best choice. No need to be a lemming, there are many ways to skin-a-cat.

As a minimalist I'm always looking for ways to do more with less. So here is My latest harebrained idea 8-) Getting rid of my macOS computer, and replacing it with iOS devices. Every thing I need on an iPhone, iPod Touch and an iPad Pro. Using iCloud for syncing and storage, plus maybe a portable SSD.

Here's what I have installed on my iPhone Xs: LumaFusion (video editing), Kindle (reader), Radio Paradise (internet radio), iMPC Pro 2 (music making), iA Writer, and Pixelmator (image editing). All of preceding will also work on an iPad Pro. iPad only are Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo and Garage Band.

Just a side note: do not confuse backup with archiving. Backups help you stay operational. No one is able to read a computer backup after twenty years. For most photography work, archiving is what counts. So don't forget those prints and film negatives!

And: do not think for a minute that having "raw" photo files means that anyone in the future will be able to cook images from that data. So keep those JPEG files around.

I believe this will help you find the way.


As long as the system makes sense to you -- and is something you do regularly -- it seems fine. It mirrors my understanding of contemporary computer set ups: that is, one has a small, fast boot disk with the OS and programs, connected to larger but slower data storage, in our case photos, that use conventional Winchester drives. So each side of that thunderbolt connection needs a back up strategy. But a few notes/tweaks:

1. On the boot side of things:
• I agree with others who think you should have a bootable clone of your Mini's internal drive. Carbon Copy Cloner (essentially a nice GUI wrapper for the UNIX "rsync" command, but with customizations) is terrific for this. So one "task" the left-hand pane would be a clone of your boot drive. I might suggest you spring for one of those Samsung SSDs on sale today. Plug it in, and schedule the task to run every night at 2 am or so. Now you're really covered if the Mini's internal fails, and if you bought the SSD, the boot from the clone is fairly speedy (whereas a boot from a 5400 rpm external drive is painfully slow). Best of all, it's set and forget
• The first CCC clone takes awhile, but subsequent clones compare what files have changed and only copy the newer stuff, cutting back up times dramatically
• Keep using the Time Capsule and Time Machine, but think of this more as a system for recovering files accidentally deleted or corrupted. In back-up jargon this is "versioning," and it's nice to be able to "go back" and fetch something from before a user-error. However, whole system restores from Time Capsule back ups are flakey and/or time-consuming enough to not be worth it, except as a fallback, in my opinion

2. On the data side of things:
• I think you'll need a TB3 --> TB2 dongle to hook up that AKiTiO to your new Mini
• you will probably need to "exclude" your new drives in the AKiTiO from your Time Capsule, or it will fill up prematurely (depending on how much data you have, of course)
• the thunderbolt "pipe" between your new 5400 drives and the Mini is really fast, such that the drive platter speed in your new drives will be the limiting factor in terms of speed
• I personally find the copy-to-two-drives a bit of overkill for one problem (drive failure) but less-than-ideal with regards to human error. I might change the copying such that one of your new WDs is a copy of the passport photo/music drive, and the other WD is a trailing copy -- something only done weekly. (And one can use CCC to schedule this weekly copy.) So, if you muck up something on your music/photo drive, and inadvertently (or automatically) copy that muck-up to one AKiTiO back up, you still have an older version to recover a file or three from.
• I learned from kind of crazy reddit threads about "shucking" -- essentially buying cheapish Best Buy-branded external hard drives, and "shucking" them out of their enclosures in order to use the drive inside in your own enclosure. The advantage is cost, and, as your benefactor who put drives in his AKiTiO noted, it's also good not to have to rely on the commodity-price drive controller bundled with the external drives on sale. At any rate these drives in external enclosures often go on sale for prices 1/2 or less of bare drives (but also with less warranty.)


I have enough data that I like to RAID-together disks. In one instance I use two AKiTiO boxes, with four drives each, RAID'd together using SoftRAID, a great-if-pricey utility. I get three benefits: first, the space for my files is just one volume, which simplifies my back up routine. Second, the slowness of individual drives is greatly mitigated in a RAID scenario, such that 8 slow drives start to function at speeds like an SSD over USB. Finally SoftRAID keeps watch over drive health, though of course there are other utilities that do something similar. And Backblaze is happy enough to upload the RAID enclosure contents since they are directly attached to my mac (of course, recovering that amount of data from Backblaze is another question, but it is really a last line for me, as I keep a backup of everything offsite.)

It's a little complicated in terms of wires, but conceptually the idea stays with the simple arrangement of boot data on one side of the wire, and user data on the other, with in turn each data set backed up (as versions and/or clones), as appropriate.

To MikeR: I'm pretty sure that seventh dwarf was Control Data. (Remember CDC?)

Sometimes it pays to be an old geezer.


Seems reasonable, but I'm always a bit suspicious of USB portable drives. I'd consider using your enclosure as the primary drive and portable USB drives for cold backups. These would need to be plugged in only for the backups and then plugged off.

One advantage with enclosures and drives over any kind of ready-made boxed setup is that if the controller of the enclosure dies, it's pretty straightforward to plug the drive into anything else. With prepackaged portable drives who know before actually trying it.

I wouldn't have my primary local copy stored without redundancy. And look at what the time and cost on full-disk restoration is. I'm also afraid of forests of external drives; I've seen too many people buried in them (yes, I do see that your plan does not call for a forest).

Mike, Your 'NEW' plan sounds MUCH better.
There is Lots of very good information in the comments.

I would reinforce points made in several excellent comments:
Keep it as simple as you can so that it doesn't become onerous over time.
Don't save money on cheap hard drives like passports because cheap controllers and hot plastic cases increase risk of failure.
Metal drive enclosures with premium chipsets and fans to keep drives cool really works.
Same goes for your computer, good air flow and passive cooling help.
Many companies make laptop 'trays' out of aluminum which acts as an additional heat sink .

5400 Rpm drives will be a bottleneck
Make a plan to replace spinning drives with SSD's over time.

Good luck

Carbon Copy Cloner is great and works just as advertised, and a local clone will save you from a VERY long download from Backblaze. (PS their privacy policy scares me too)

This ain't rocket science, it's more akin to brain surgery 8-) As one of my MDs says: medicine is as much art as science.

You can use any external drive as a startup disk from which to install the Mac operating system. A thumb-drive, a portable SSD, a CD, whatever https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201372

There are several cloud services that won't lose your info. Amazon, Apple, Google. Steal it maybe, lose it never.

CSS is personal. Live Modern isn't in Mike's vocabulary. Consistency is. Whatever floats his boat—his choice, not ours.

Unless you have offline (and possibly offsite) backup, you DO NOT HAVE backup. Check Ransomware.

Unless you have accessed those backup to confirm they are accessible, you also DO NOT HAVE backup. Check Toy story II.

It would hit you one day. It is not if but when.

For those of us with PCs, is there an alternative to CCC?

Two unexpected “issues” with the Mac Mini.

Just setting up a new Mac Mini (2018) as a replacement for my finally too old MacPro (early 2008). I used drives from the MacPro in external cases for photograph file storage, Mac mini’s SSD holds everything else. I back up locally to separate drives (copied with Super Duper) and made a couple of “bootable” copies of the Mac mini SSD. (My off Site backUp is to an existing iDrive account).

The first “issue” is new to me and involves the use of an external boot drive. My MacPro stopped being upgradeable at OS El Capitan but it was always able to start from an external drive if I wanted it to (holding down the option key on startup). Other Macs with OS up to High Sierra also acted the same way. I periodically test the boot drive copy to be sure it can act as a functional boot drive. However, when I tried it with the Mac Mini, I was told by the OS that the security settings (which I did not actively set or change) did not allow the computer to be started from a boot drive. The same warning did tell how to change the security settings which was to restart is recovery mode (command and R keys pressed at restart) and find the security utility choice in the Utility menu to make the change. I have no idea if the unchanged setting would have prevented my trying to resurrect the computer from an external boot drive if the internal drive was truly unreadable but it did stop the computer from using an external boot drive during my test of the boot drive copy. After changing the setting, things worked as I expected them to and there was no issue with starting up from the external drive. Since your backup plan is similar to mine and included an external boot drive copy I thought I would mention my experience.

The second “issue” is interference with the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse connections. Most of the time the wireless connections are fine but every now and then there are periods where the connections are frequently dropped and reconnected. This was not a noticeable issue with the Mac Pro and any wireless mouse or keyboard I used with it. The Mac Mini is in the same room, and nearly in the same location as the MacPro was. A bit of research suggests the this is a known issue with the 2018 Mac Mini and it seems the likely culprit is interference from the WiFi router, probably when it is using 2.4 ghz. When things get a bit out of hand I can use the new Apple wireless keyboard as a wired keyboard when the charging cable is plugged into an active USB port and use an older wired mouse. I have put the external drives as far from the computer as possible and experimented a bit with different cables to try to reduce the chance they cause interference. Hopefully this gremlin will not visit you.

Overall the Mac Mini is much faster than my older, near 11 year old computer and does well with all the up-to-date photographic applications I use. I opted for the Mac Mini because I only have room for one monitor and I wanted to be able to use my trusty calibratable, matte screen unit as that single monitor.

Lots of good advice here for OS users....can anyone point me to PC equivalent regarding software to control all these drives. Concerning offsite backup, would it be feasible to pre-load a NAS drive with all current work, then set it up online at a family members house a few miles away for transferring new files as needed?

"is there any risk of having all my local drives in one non-RAID enclosure?"

Not much, as long as it's a good enclosure with a fan. A RAID setup used for video every day would put much more stress on the enclosure than what you plan to do. I use an enclosure with two drives for some of my backup needs.

I also use an earlier model of this Drive Dock from macsales.com


It's nice to be able to make a backup and then store the bare drive unconnected to any power source. It also makes it easy to periodically rotate the drives through my safe deposit box.

Just did a quick file count... over 250K (mostly jpgs so just under 2TB) in my photos folder(s) and I'm a film photographer! That what being the unofficial photographer for your kids sporting teams does for you.

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