Leopard to Spur External Hard Drive Sales

Prediction: Hard drive manufacturers will love Apple for boosting external hard drive sales. Apple's upcoming operating system, OS X Leopard, contains a powerful system backup tool that makes use of an external hard drive rather than using a portion of the main hard drive's space, as Windows Vista and XP do for "System Restore" points.

It's called Time Machine and Apple's guided tour walks you through the basics of using it. Once activated, Time Machine initially backs up everything on your Mac to an external hard drive. Then, it checks your disk for changes every hour of every day and creates incremental backups on the external disk. Power users and Unix nuts alike might go so far as to call Time Machine an interface for rsync, but I digress. The real draw of Time Machine is being able to easily browse through the state of various folders and files on your Mac at different points of time.

Leopard - Time Machine
The Time Machine interface in Leopard.

Never has it been so easy for the end user to safely backup their files. As such, I'm thinking that many Leopard users will take this to heart and actively make use of Time Machine. In times past, the closest users could get to backing up their files would be:

  • a) dealing with Windows' archaic System Restore points, where if the main disk goes down you're SOL,
  • b) installing and making sense of 3rd party backup software such as Retrospect, SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner, or
  • c) manually saving important files or directories to CDs, DVDs, emailing them or putting them on another hard drive.

None of those are intuitive and easy processes for the basic user; even manual backups become tedious and lead to infrequent backups. Time Machine is yet another reason for anxious Windows users to switch over. With Time Machine, all you really need to do is plug in an easily accessible external hard drive via USB or FireWire and then set it as a Time Machine backup disk.

Here is my external hard drive suggestion: the 500GB Western Digital My Book Pro with USB 2.0, IEEE1394a/FW400 and IEEE1394b/FW800 connections. If your Mac has a FireWire 800 port, you'll definitely want to spring for this drive. While the hard drive's throughput rates won't even come close to taking advantage of FW800, you can tell your friends you have a FireWire 800 device, not to mention spare a FireWire 400 port for another device. This Pro version carries a 5 year warranty.

If you don't need so much grunt or FireWire 800, any of the Seagate FreeAgent Pro external hard drives should do just fine and they carry a 5 year warranty as well. Whichever hard drive you choose, make sure it is a 7200RPM, 3.5-inch drive for reliability and performance. Then again, since it is just a backup drive speed isn't terribly important so you could opt for a slower 5400RPM model to save power, especially considering it will be spun up every hour by Time Machine. I've said it before and I'll say it again: 2.5-inch disks are not nearly as reliable as their larger and more rugged counterparts, with the exception of the IBM/Hitachi DeathStar drives of yesteryear.

If you're planning on upgrading to Leopard, will you be using Time Machine? If so, with what drive?

Paul StamatiouPaul Stamatiou

Paul Stamatiou is a designer, developer and photographer living in New York. He has been a product designer at Twitter since 2013. More »

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"Leopard to Spur External Hard Drive Sales" by @Stammy