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Backing Up Your Data

Backing Up Your Data


In order to prevent data loss, it’s important to have a method of backing up your files. Data is “backed up” when it is saved in at least two locations. This can mean on the internal hard drive of your computer and on an external hard drive, or on a hard drive and a cloud service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Data saved on only one piece of storage media (such as a single hard drive) may be irrecoverably lost if that device fails. Additionally, if you are having your hardware replaced or getting an updated software build, it is essential that you make a full backup of your data beforehand.


Below is an overview of methods for backing up your data.


External hard drives

External hard drives are plugged into your computer’s USB port and provide extra storage space. They can be purchased online or at electronics stores and usually start at about $60 for 1 terabyte (1000GB). If you work with large amounts of data, it is wise to have at least one external hard drive if not multiple. If your external hard drive isn't recognize by your computer when plugged in, visit our article about external storage troubleshooting.



Once you’ve plugged in and initialized your external hard drive, you can simply drag and drop (copy and paste) the data from your user folder on your computer (a folder usually named after your MCAD username) to a folder on your external hard drive. This is an effective way to back up your files, but it requires more manual attention and will not back up data that is stored in hidden folders, such as bookmarks, stickies, Apple Notes and app preferences. This method may be preferred by users who don’t store very much data locally on their computer.


Time Machine

If you are on a Mac, you can use Apple’s Time Machine utility to make a full copy of all data on your computer’s hard drive, including hidden folders and other user accounts. This method is recommended for faculty who are upgrading to a new computer.


To use Time Machine, plug in your external hard drive, connect your computer to a power source, and open the “Time Machine” section of System Preferences.

Use the “Select Disk” button and find your external hard drive - if it does not show up, use Disk Utility to ensure it is formatted as “MacOS Extended Journaled.” You have the option of turning on automatic backups, or you can place the Time Machine icon in your top menu bar, which allows you to manually tell your computer to “Back Up Now.” For detailed instructions and screenshots, see this Apple Support article on Time Machine.


Backups are stored inside dated folders within a folder called Backups.backupdb on your external hard drive. To transfer data from a backup to your computer (for example, after having your computer reimaged or replaced), you usually do NOT want to Time Machine’s built-in “Restore” option. Instead, you should drag and drop your data from the user folder in your backup to the user folder on your computer.


File Servers

Students have some limited storage space on their studio server (found at afp:// and on the class server (afp:// Learn more about the class server here.


For Staff: MCAD's file servers provide a safe and secure location for MCAD data. Windows users primarily work off Maverick to store individual and departmental files. MacOS users can use their individual staff network home directory or a specially configured departmental share for file storage. Please contact the MCAD Technology department or your staff supervisor to determine which overall network storage solution is best for your office needs.


Cloud Backup Services


Google Drive

The MCAD institutional Google accounts provided to faculty, staff and students come with unlimited storage space in Google’s cloud storage service, Google Drive. This can be a great place to store copies of important files and works particularly well for sharing data between users. However, once you leave MCAD, your MCAD Google account will be deactivated (see Graduating or Leaving MCAD), and any data stored within the associated Google Drive must be transferred to a personal account before access is lost. As personal accounts only come with 15GB of free storage, we do not recommend Google Drive as a long-term backup option for large quantities of data.



Certain Faculty and Staff have the data on their MCAD computers backed up to our institutional backup service, Retrospect. This service is offered to department directors and chairs, and select others who handle large amounts of sensitive data. In order to back up to Retrospect, users must have the Retrospect client properly configured on their computer and must periodically connect their computer to Ethernet. For more information about Retrospect, please see the ITS Workstation Backup Policy.


As always, please contact the Help Desk with any questions about backup methods or data integrity.




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