General Question

zina's avatar

What's NOT in the 'Home' folder on a Mac? How can I make sure I'm backing everything up?

Asked by zina (1638 points ) February 1st, 2009

I’m backing up my laptop to an external LaCie HD. It automatically backs up the Home folder, which is mine as the only User on the computer. I know the Home folder leaves out Applications and Systems things… But I notice a big discrepancy in size between what’s being backed up and the total files on my computer not including applications.

I noticed that files in my HD folder weren’t there in the Home folder, so I moved them to Documents, which is. But there’s still a 15GB difference between the Home folder (as appearing in the backup software) and the size of my computer hard drive minus space available and applications (in other words, space used). So what’s the 15GB of stuff that’s not getting backed up? Where should I look? Or am I missing something? I remember hearing that the Systems take up around 10GB, although the System folder only shows as 2GB… but could that explain it?

Just want to be sure that if my computer dies I’ll lose as little as possible!

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6 Answers

StellarAirman's avatar

If you have the space on your external hard drive, I recommend using some backup software such as SuperDuper! which will make an exact mirror of your primary hard drive and also make it bootable so that if your primary hard drive dies, you can just plug-in your external, boot from it by holding the Option key when your computer boots up, and you’ll be right back in business exactly like your computer was the last time it was backed up.

You could also just use Time Machine (included in Leopard) to back up your system, it would find everything you needed and back it up automatically.

But that said, the missing information is probably system files, yes. Also library files, things like the music for Garageband loops, etc. Most of the data you are probably concerned with losing will be in your Home folder. But I highly recommend using either SuperDuper! or Time Machine, which will automate the process, make it easier on you, and make sure you get all of the info you need.

zina's avatar

I have the version right before TimeMachine (10.4)—so I don’t have that. SuperDuper! looks cool, but instead of spending $30 on that I think I can use the LaCie and its backup software. It has plenty of space. I can add whatever I want to backup to the list, although I can’t find out how to add the HD itself. So where else should I check for files/folders that wouldn’t be in the Home folder?

jrpowell's avatar

The free version of SuperDuper! will do what you want. It is super simple.

Paying for it only unlocks certain features most people will never need. I use it to do all my backups and it works great.

And the Library and System folder at the root of the hard drive is about 15 Gigs.

And please don’t use the backup software that came with the drive. The Macintosh versions of those always suck. Just use SuperDuper!.

And here is a pic of how simple it is to make a bootable copy of your entire hard drive.

zina's avatar

ok, thanks for the tips!

aaronbeekay's avatar

Just to answer the original question, in case anybody’s looking:

In the ideal OS X world, everything that you need as a user is located in your Home folder. This means your documents, your System Preference panes that are only available to you, your personal fonts, and your personal applications (this last one isn’t very well followed.) This means that outside of your home folder, some things that you might care about are:

- Applications available to everyone on the system (this will probably be all the applications you have installed, in /Applications).
– Fonts available to everyone on the system, located in /Library/Fonts.
– Application Support files for applications available to everyone, in /Library/Application Support.
– The network and service configuration of your system, in /Library/Preferences and /System/Library/Preferences, as well as launchd configuration in (/System)/Library/LaunchDaemons and (/System)/Library/LaunchAgents.

SuperDuper is awesome, and if you rely on it I’d recommend kicking the author the $20 for a license. He’s a good guy. Of course, if you have Leopard, Time Machine is an excellent, worry-free option.

jpasq03's avatar

Time Machine.
Super Duper.
Done.

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