Backup from a desktop and a laptop


I’m facing an inevitable change in my studio, for which some hints would be really welcome. I’ve always worked on a desktop, with a notebook used just as a satellite machine. Documents created or edited on the notebook have always immediately been transferred to the desktop, as soon as I had been back at the studio.

Since most of my technical writing job is based on FrameMaker, and Apple removed the Classic environment needed to run it from Leopard, I will probably (and sadly) no longer buy a new desktop/tower Mac in my life. The PowerMac G5 with Tiger will always remain my main machine.

At the same time, Leopard is going to be the only way to run some important softwares for my creative/academic writing. Some features of modern softwares are only available on Leopard, and Scrivener itself is going to rely on the newer OS more and more. Some apps are alreay only available on Leopard.

So, I must change my mind and my habits, and get acquainted to a split system. Tech writing, Midi/audio recording, mail, invoicing, task planning, will stay with the G5. Creative and academic writing, music notation, and video, will be moved to the notebook. All considered, maybe splitting these different tasks is not a bad idea to change my approach to different tasks in different hours of the day.

The problem is: how to backup the data from both systems? Currently, I have an external USB drive where I backup the internal disks of the G5; another USB drive is only devoted to the video drive. All data from the notebook are merged to the desktop via an internet connection of a USB stick.

With the change I’m facing, the notebook will no longer be a satellite, but one of the two main machines. So I must backup it with the same care as well. I see two different options:

a) creating a dedicated folder for the notebook on the backup drive, that will still be connected to the G5. The backup drive will be accessed as a shared volume via wi-fi or ethernet. This would probably make backups easier, but also separate the data in the two systems. I cannot foresee if I would often need data from the other system; I guess the reference materials archive could be stored in the desktop, and accessed from the notebook as a shared folder.

b) copying all notebook data to the internal drives of the desktop, and only do a backup from there. This would require twice backup operations and keeping track of different versions, but also give me a common archive in the desktop’s disks.

How would you do? Collected, or separate?


You’re in the completely wrong place for this kind of question.
I’m guessing Amber or somebody else will move this to the Technical support area.
Where there’s so many threads and answers and inputs on this that you’ll get more than you can chew. :wink:


Well, it isn’t a Scrivener topic per se, and is really more about process than any particular piece of third-party software, so it doesn’t fit there either. Unless the OP wants it moved, I’ll leave it here. This area needn’t be entirely about ingestible poison and Ms. Sylvia Blaithe. :slight_smile:

Well, I see the thread on the remote backup has some similarities with this one. I don’t know, maybe this, despite not strictly related to Scrivener, has some affinity with that forum? I cannot say.


if you are splitting the uses, then split the backups. I would go with 2 separate external RAID 1 arrays (mirror, not stripe). I would implement a weekly full, daily incremental via either a custom script or purchased package. I would connect the backup drive to the laptop only for backup purposes at the end of my day and disconnect at the start of my day. I would not trust timemachine exclusively.

Same for the desktop.

If you MUST use a common drive, I would look to create 2 slices on the drive. One to dedicate for the laptop, one for the desktop. same strategy. This will get messy due to the need to plug/unplug frequently.

Let me know if I need to clarify anything.


I understand your suggestion regarding the split backup. In particular, I guess it makes sense using a 2.5" external disk that can take power from the notebook itself, and can be used to do backups when away from my studio.

At the same time, I’m not yet sure if I must keep two separate archives (before backup), or collect everything in a central place, that is the disks inside my tower/desktop Mac.

Just to give an example of why I have this kind of doubts: this morning I did some researches about ethnic music styles of the Balkan area. I did this for an academic paper. But this would also be useful for my work as a musical instrument designer. Should I keep the research file in the main archive, or duplicate it for use in both my ‘workstations’?

Another example: theories on the music of Xenakis could be useful when writing electronic music (on the desktop) and acoustic music (on the notebook). What to do with these reference texts?

I guess duplicating all the reference material would do no harm. All considered, storage space is less and less expensive.


Seems the issue is collecting research info in different places for use in potentially more than one project. Have you thought of using an online repository for the research you collect on the go? DropBox gives you 5Gb for free and will back up to a number of desktops/notebooks

these are 2 different problems. One is “data backup integrity” and the other is “shared storage optimization”. I answered the first point. Answering the second is a bit more complicated. We could discuss usage theory, local vs remote storage methods (including network attached), and even get into complex issues of data integrity (look at the threads on using dropbox, mobile me, network disks and the like).

In reality the only thing that matter is “will you need it on the laptop when you are not in the office?” If you answer this yes, then you need to copy everything to the laptop drive. Make sense?

The next question is how do you achieve data copy efficiently. I would suggest a dropbox like facility, but with a ton of caveats as I note many times in the thread I mention above.

Does that help?


I think what’s actually needed in this case is a server. It could be an NAS, I suppose.



Actually, my experience with a NAS has not been very good. The access was more complicate than needed, and it kept disconnecting everytime and give troubles to my ADSL router (they were probably both trying to take control over the net).

Since support by Maxtor was non-existant on this issue, I returned it. Maybe other NAS act better, maybe these were probles inherent to any network storage devices.

But a NAS is needed when you cannot keep both computers turned on. I guess I can keep the desktop/tower turned on each time I need my central-archived reference materials located in its internal disks or disk connected to it, and access it via ethernet or wi-fi. Working on shared disks this way seems to me effortless.


Different NAS have different experiences. Dramatically different. For the record, when you use your desktop to share a directory your are effectively making it a NAS. Just like with a desktop share, a commercial NAS product requires a bit of care when being set up to eliminate the types of errors you experienced.

All in all, I am leaning toward the “dedicated backup with automated sync” method. This will eliminate the share set up efforts and allow you flexibility for both backup and what files to share.

(1) Take an older desktop, say a G5, slap a few large SATA HDs in it (500-750GB) into it, a fast ethernet card if it does not have a 1000GB network card.
(2) Set up drive partitions for each environment. (1 Drive or partition for Desktop and one for Laptop)
(3) Turn sharing on and enable Appletalk on this older machine. (Server)
(4) Make sure your switch supports 1000GB wired connections. (Optional WiFi available but is much slower than wired connection).
(5) Leave this machine on in a corner. (Don’t need a monitor really).
(6) If you put Leopard on the G5 “server” you can remote access it via the laptop with Screen Share for admin.
(7) All your machines on the network can see this “server” and back up to it or use it as a base for sharing portable drives.
(8) Get a fire wire HD (or 2) to back up the large HDS manually or by software for additional backups that you can take off site.

Wock, clever idea, in case I don’t want to use the main G5 as the server (something I guess I can do with no particular problems). With an OS X-based server, I’ll be sure my mostly-Mac-based network will work with no trouble. Much safer than a generic NAS.

Space is not a concern: I’ve a Magma box for a UAD-1 effect box giving all kind of problems when installed in a Mac that you like to put in deep sleep. Since the server would be always on, it would do no harm installing it in the server, and remotely access it from the laptop.


Just an additional note to Wock’s idea: a Dual G5 has a consumption of 500 Watt (maybe a little less in slow mode), while a stand-alone LaCie NAS has a 44 Watt consumption.

So, yes to a Mac used as a NAS, but only with a moderate use.