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HOW TO: Back in a Flash

February 8, 2017

Savvy engineers store their audio applications, audio files, and sample libraries on separate magnetic or solid-state drives for fastest data retrieval and glitch-free studio sessions. By distributing the workload among three drives, different types of data can be accessed simultaneously, keeping your DAW humming along at a brisk clip.

Unfortunately, the same data is vulnerable to loss or corruption from a hard drive failure, an operating system malfunction, or a malware attack. It’s essential you develop and use a robust backup routine before the Grim Reaper pays your precious data a visit.

If you use the ideal three-drive approach to data storage, you’ll want to back up each drive discretely so it can be quickly and precisely restored without you first having to manually segregate three types of data merged together. Your backup software should also let you restore your data instantly when loss or corruption occurs, so you can get back to work in a flash. This article will show you a super-easy way to accomplish these goals on your Mac.

In my article “Protect Your Mac from Ransomware” (visit emusician.com/ransomware), I detailed how to clone and instantly restore a Mac boot drive using Bombich Software’s Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC). This article shows how to use CCC to back up your non-bootable Mac drives—the ones containing your audio files and sample libraries—to separate folders on an external drive for instant recovery.

Fig. 1. Carbon Copy Cloner backs up audio files on a 1TB internal drive (named Audio1) to a folder on a 2TB external hard drive (Data BUs>Audio1 BU).

Using CCC, you can back up multiple hard drives to respective folders stored on one large external hard drive (Figure 1). If you have all your sample libraries stored on one 1TB drive and all audio files for your current projects stored on another 1TB drive, you can back up each 1TB drive to a separate folder on a single external drive that’s 2 TB in size or larger.

If a drive containing your sample libraries or audio files fails, connect your backup drive and open the folder containing the relevant backup data. All your files will be instantly available and organized with the same folder hierarchy as they were on the original drive before it failed. You can continue to work with the backup drive (as long as it’s connected to a fast enough data bus) until you have time to transfer its data to a new hard drive.

Having your hard drive backups stored in folders gives you another important benefit besides great organization and instant access: It requires no extra data-restoration steps that can potentially fail. I recently had Time Machine fail to restore data—from any of its three most recent backups—after one of my boot drives died. Luckily, I had an alternate CCC backup. I now use CCC to back up all my data.

Michael Cooper is a recording, mix, mastering, and post-production engineer, and a contributing editor for Mix magazine. You can reach Michael at michaelcooper@bendbroadband.com and hear some of his mixes at soundcloud.com/michael-cooper-recording.

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