In our Technology Office we regularly see technical glitches, like hard drive failures, or user mistakes that result in users losing all or most of their files.  These disasters are ABSOLUTELY AVOIDABLE providing the user does regular file backup!

Step 1) Buy an external hard drive if you don’t already have one (FYI, it’s on the student’s list of required items to bring to Brewster).  Your backup drive should ONLY be used for automated backups – don’t use it in any other way.  If you need more storage, buy a second external hard drive, but then you will have to back that one up too!   If you need recommendations for backup drives, or help erasing older ones please contact our friendly ITD staff for assistance!

Here’s one of the ones we issue faculty here at Brewster:


Step 2) Plug your external hard drive into your laptop.
Note:  The first time you backup your computer may take 1-3 hours, so don’t plug it in for the first time unless you can let your computer sit in one place for a while.
You CAN still work on your computer as it backs up!


It will initially look like this on your desktop (Though it could be named anything)

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.39.14 PM

Step 3) Your computer will ask you if you want to use this for Time Machine Backup. Please click the button labeled “Use as Backup Disk”

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.39.08 PM marked

A new preference window will pop up on your screen and it will start counting down (120 seconds) until it begins to backup your entire computer.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.39.38 PM markup

Step 4) Let your computer backup fully, the first time. If you continue to watch that same window you will see a progress bar appear.Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.40.55 PM

Also, the icon for your backup drive will change to look like this once the backup starts:

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.40.03 PM

Step 5) Plug your backup drive into your computer regularly! Time Machine backups are completely automated but the drive needs to be connected to your computer in order for that to happen. We recommend plugging your drive in EVERY NIGHT (or day) and checking to make sure it backs up. When your backups are finished, or you are ready to unplug your backup drive, please make sure to properly ‘eject’ it before you disconnect it. This will prevent any backup in progress from getting corrupted. You can eject the drive simply by dragging it to the ‘trash can’ in your dock. As a note, when you start to drag the backup drive to the ‘trash’, the trashcan icon will change into an eject symbol!


How can you be sure that your computer is backing up?

There is an icon placed in upper right hand corner of your menu bar. It looks like this:

Screenshot 2015-04-08 17.33.00

If you click on it you will see the status of your current backup, or a message telling you when the last backup completed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.40.19 PM

Further Advice

Only the first backup should take a bit of time (1-3 hours). Each daily backup after that should be quite fast. Usually under five minutes. However, if you go a long time between backups or suddenly download or create a large volume of files, it may take more than just a few minutes!  You CAN still work on your computer as it backs up!

If you have any questions please contact us down here in the ITD!