A Reality Check…

Our Macs make all our lives easier – except when they don’t. With that in mind, there are a few simple things you can do twice a year (February & August) to minimize your risk of data loss and data theft. February is ideal, because you’re safely away from the busy holidays and can secure all your personal memories and important data from the prior year. Do this preventative work again in August, before September arrives and you’re too busy to bother with data protection. These two tips are so easy, everyone is more than capable of doing them – and everybody should do them.

So here goes…

Purchase A New Backup Drive

This one is super easy. Go out and buy a new backup drive to replace your current backup drive, then store your current backup drive at a completely different location from where the new backup drive will be used. Why? Because having a complete TimeMachine backup at home doesn’t do you any good if your house burns down with both your Mac and your backup inside it – unlikely, but it happens.

Here’s the step by step:

  1. Buy a new backup drive. Hard drives are cheap these days, and with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt options available, large backups take less time than ever to complete on properly equipped computers.
  2. Run one final backup to your current backup drive.
  3. Unplug your current backup drive and store it in a different location from where your new backup drive will be used. This means leave it in your desk at work (or bring an office backup drive home), mail it to a friend out of state, put it in a safe deposit box – it doesn’t matter where, you just don’t want it stored where your other backup drive is.
  4. Hook up your new drive and run a complete backup of your data. Simply plug in the new drive, and when prompted to use the new drive as a TimeMachine backup, say yes, and let the backup run its course.
  5. In six months, take your then-current TimeMachine backup drive and swap it with the one you’re storing offsite. Absolute worst case, you’ll be out six months of data, which beats losing everything.

Tip: make sure the backup drive you buy is large enough to backup your entire hard drive. A 1TB (terabyte) drive should be adequate for all but the newest (and most expensive) MacBooks, and a 2TB or 3TB drive will cover your iMac (but is likely overkill unless you’ve got a ton of movies, photos or music on your Mac). We’re big fans of the LaCie “Rugged” line of hard drives because they’re fast, spacious and physically durable – three important qualities in a hard drive.

Change Your Passwords

Next up is changing your passwords. With the recent spate of security breaches at both traditional brick & mortar stores (Target, Neiman Marcus) and high profile Internet sites (Yahoo, LinkedIn) it’s imperative to change your passwords now and then. If you’ve never done it before, you’re long overdue; because while it’s mathematically unlikely your passwords will get hacked, there’s no reason not to play it safe. Clearly the more often you change your passwords, the safer you are, but we think changing passwords twice a year (February & August) is adequate for those with average security concerns.

If you have hundreds of passwords this may prove to be a daunting task, so only update passwords on the sites need to be the most secure (banking, email, social media, online shopping, etc.) and ignore the ones that don’t necessitate the same degree of security (blogs you comment on, music sites, recipe sites, etc.). Choose a secure password with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols that isn’t pronounceable and you’re on your way to secured bliss.

Keep in mind that you never want to use identical login information across numerous sites, because if one site gets breached, savvy hackers will often use the pilfered password data to attempt entry into other sites. You certainly wouldn’t want your CNN account getting hacked, and the hacker then using the identical login credentials to access your checking account, so best vary your passwords and logins.

With all these new passwords to create and remember, once again we find ourselves recommending 1Password. Truly our favorite and most indispensable Mac app, it’s the ultimate password and secure data manager; 1Password stores all your passwords, logs into websites automatically and can even create new secure passwords. It’s a bit pricey, but we believe it’s money exceptionally well spent.

Breathe Easy

With these two tasks complete, you’re well on your way to having your personal data secure.

Need More Help?

If you’re not comfortable tackling these projects yourself, or need other services, Tech Haven covers all aspects of Mac, iPhone and iPad care. From the mundane to the esoteric, from down the street to across the globe, we’re the one phone call or email you need to make, to get the assistance you need.