As time goes by, most of us accumulate an increasing number of media files. Music, videos, and audiobooks add up to make an iTunes library that expands regularly. An iTunes Plus album takes up 150MB of so; a 42-minute TV show is closer to 200MB (or much more in HD); and a TV full season can take up more than 4GB.
Of course it's a good idea to back up purchased content--hard disks fail eventually and Apple, unlike eMusic, doesn't let you re-download your content--but it's also important to back up music you've ripped from CDs, or videos they've ripped from DVDs. Yes, you can always rip the discs again, but that ignores the amount of time you spend ripping the discs, and how much work is needed to tag the files, add album art, and otherwise manage them. So of you lose the content on your Mac, you'd not only lose any purchased music, but you'd need to spend a lot of time rebuilding your library.
It's pretty easy to back up your iTunes library: iTunes includes a backup feature in the program, and you may have noticed dialog boxes asking if you want to back up your music or other content after downloading items from the iTunes Store. If you choose File: Library: Back Up To Disc, a dialog box asks if you want to back up your entire iTunes library or only iTunes Store purchases; in either case, you can choose to only back up items that have been added or have changed since your last backup.
But this feature only lets you back up to optical discs. If you have a large library, you'll need a lot of DVDs to back up your media. And remember that DVDs are not eternal either: they can get scratched, and you risk losing some of your songs or videos.
Another option, if you are a subscriber to Apple's MobileMe, is to use Backup, a program that is provided for MobileMe users. One of the "plans" it offers is to back up your iTunes library, to optical discs, and to do so monthly. But this plan only works if your iTunes media are stored in your home folder; you'll have to choose a custom plan if your music and videos are, say, on their own hard drive.
MobileMe users can perform backups with Backup, and run subsequent backups on a schedule.For some users, the best type of storage is an external hard drive. If you have a large library, you can be assured of having enough space, and backups to hard drives are much faster than those to optical discs. Any of the numerous backup programs available for Mac--including Apple's Backup--can handle this task.
I've recently changed my backup routine. I bought a new 1TB internal hard drive for my media. (My iTunes library contains about 250GB of music, 20GB of audiobooks, and a bunch of movies, videos and, TV shows. I also have some 150GB of live Grateful Dead concerts, another 50 GB of other live music, and plenty of music that I've ripped that resides outside of my library.) In order to ensure that I never lose any of the bits and bytes in my media library, I've decided to make redundant backups: I bought a hard drive dock (similar to the NewerTech Voyager Q), and I also purchased two 1TB disks to use as rotating backups. This may sound obsessive, but when I think of all the time and effort I've spent over the years ripping and tagging music, I really don't want to have to do it again.
What about you? Do you back up your iTunes library regularly? If so, how do you do your backups? Chime in and tell us your strategy.
This story, "Back up Media Files" was originally published by Macworld.