Format a drive in MacOS with Disk Utility

Formatting a drive in MacOS with Disk Utility is simple. I want to use the drive for Time Machine, and I’m going to show you how to do it.

Steps

1: CMD + Space to open Spotlight Search and search for Disk Utility. Alternatively, you can dig into the “Other” folder in Mission Control and find Disk Utility.

2: Select the disk on the left side that you wish to format. In this case, ATA Samsung is the drive I’d like to format so select it and choose “Erase.” I want this drive formatted for use in Time Machine (and MacOS doesn’t support APFS for Time Machine just yet) so I set the format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled), and I will keep it as GUID.

Click Erase. You should end up with this:

If you run into a red ! that the erase failed, make sure the drive isn’t mounted. You can save yourself a headache by clicking the eject icon under the drive you’re looking to format. That is, click the eject icon next to “Untitled” NOT “ATA Samsung” because we don’t want to remove the drive itself, only the partition named “Untitled.”

Rerun the erase procedure and presto! Quit Disk Utility.

If you’re looking to use this drive for a Time Machine backup, check out this post.

Micropost: Bulletproof Photo Backup

Bulletproof Photo Backup

If you’re like me, photos are probably the most important data that’s worth holding on to. I’ve lost a lot of data over the years, but with each loss comes new lessons, and I think I’ve figured out a pretty good layering technique to keep everything accessible and safe. I use a hybrid of backing up and free/paid services for a bulletproof photo backup.

Google Photos: Free below 16 megapixels, Google Photos has become my trusted fourth copy of data. My use is slightly unconventional because I use Google Photos in two ways.

1: The Google Photos desktop app keeps all photos pre-2015 synced to my library.

2: The iOS Google Photos app syncs all 2015-onwards media. Note: you need to occasionally open the app to make sure it’s syncing your photos.

This allows for my full library to be accessible on the go. If I ever want to pull up a trip from 2006, or a birthday from last year I can.

New…er info: Google recently updated it’s Google Drive & Google Photos desktop apps into Google Backup & Sync. While I use this service for files, I stuck with the Google Photos desktop app because I use multiple Gmail accounts and Backup & Sync does not support that feature yet.

Google Photo backup

iCloud: For all photos from 2015 onwards iCloud is my main repository. I currently use the 200gb plan, but don’t think I’ll fill it until the end of next year at minimum.

This bulletproof plan combined with My Backup Triad allows me to have five copies of my data in addition to the computer it sits on. I especially want to stress the importance of Google Photos both in its ability to store unlimited photos, but also my system for keeping older photos at my fingertips. I love the system because I can easily pull up anything I need.

My Backup Triad

My Backup Triad

I tend to become the IT person of those around me, and if you’re anything like me, you can’t help but chime in with some knowledge when you hear about somebody’s backup woes. Much to my surprise it frequently turns from small tidbit into a deluge of other questions ranging from simple to complex. Since I’m a strong believer that you shouldn’t need to delete your stuff (aside from straight up hoarding cat gifs) I’ve decided to do a mini blog post showcasing my backup triad.

Six Years Going Strong

I’m a natural worrier, and part of that worry is that one day a bunch of my digital stuff will one day disappear. Unfortunately, I’m not immune to it either, and I’ve gone through several data crashes to learn that nothing in is permanent especially when it comes to digital storage. After losing my entire digital life several times over, I’m happy to state that I haven’t had a major data loss since before 2012 when I started using a hybrid of backup solutions. I’ve been through the pain so you don’t have to — the most important thing to remember is…

Everything in Threes

They say bad things happen in threes but sometimes it’s doing things in threes that turns out to be a good thing. Backup is no different because having three copies of your data at minimum is the cornerstone to overlapping your data in case disaster strikes. If your backup turns up corrupt, you always have two more copies somewhere.

P.S: My photos are my most prized possessions because it is, in essence, a running vault of where I am in my life. I don’t ever want to lose my photos again, so check out my bullet-proof photo backup guide.

Backup 1 & 2: Time Machine

Legs 1 & 2 of my triad is Time Machine. A little lame, maybe, but I think it’s so dang good because it’ll not only backup files but it also backs up the machine state. If you check out most guides they’ll call for a clone image, a data backup, and a third copy, but I’m a proponent of keeping things simple. I love Time Machine because the restore process is dead-simple, it’s fully automatic and incremental, and I’ve rarely run into problems.

Steps for setup:

1: Buy or dig out a decent external hard drive. Connect it to the computer and format itIf you’re looking for a decent drive that should last you a lifetime, check out this solid drive by WD.

2: CMD + Space should open Spotlight search “Time Machine” | Open System Preferences and find Time Machine.

Go go gadget Time Machine
The sweet sound of automatic and worry-free backups.

2: Click Select Disk and find your freshly formatted drive from the list. I like to encrypt my backups and use 1Password to securely save my key. If you’d like to encrypt your backup, check it off and click “Use Disk.”

Choose wisely.
Pick a drive, any drive.

Since I already have a Time Machine drive, I will click “Use Both.”

More is better (sometimes!)
Use both!

You’ll get a new window where you can set your encryption password for your backup. If you’d like a hand creating one, Disk Utility offers a password generator. Pick something secure with at least 22 characters, drop it in, and put in a hint. Click “Encrypt Disk.”

Time Machine encryption password
Time Machine encryption password input
Time Machine Encryption
Password Assistant

Time Machine will then begin the encryption process and will follow up with the initial backup. The initial backup takes a while to complete, but subsequent backups will be faster. I love it because it’s automatic, and I don’t need to remember to do anything.

Time Machine backing up
Time Machine doing its thing.

Second Time Machine Backup

If you noticed in the above heading I mentioned that this step will include both backup one and two. The beauty of Time Machine is that you can use multiple hard drives to backup your data, so while you might have a local backup running at all times it is smart to make your second backup a rotating backup that lives offsite.

To set up a second drive repeat the steps above. Be sure to keep selecting “Use Both” for any additional drive you back up to.

Tip: Remove Unnecessary Files To Save Space

If you’re like me, you have a lot of stuff. There are things I need and things I would be okay with losing. Since I do a lot of video editing the “Movies” folder on my machine frequently gets filled with temporary render files that I don’t want to keep. If you’re like me and want to save some space, you can set up file exclusions that will not get backed up. Otherwise, you might end up with gigabytes worth of stuff you never intended to keep.

Open Time Machine and click Options: Add files that you know exist elsewhere / will never ever need.

Bonus Tip: Verify, Verify, Verify

After Time Machine runs its first initial backup I like to run a verification to ensure everything will work when I need it. Yes, it will do it automatically and silently on occasion — but you don’t want to be caught with your pants down. Make sure you verify your backup at least once a month just in case.

Option+Click the Time Machine icon on the desktop. Select Verify Backups.

Backup 3: Cloud – Backblaze

Part of my triad is cloud backup because there is no substitute for unlimited storage and actionless backup. I like Backblaze because it’s dirt cheap, runs automatically, and offers a wide array of restore options. I trust Backblaze because their blog goes in-depth into how they run their operation. It’s important to me because I like to understand where my information is living, and I want to know who is holding onto it. Did I mention it’s dead simple to use?

If you’re looking to get started backing up with Backblaze, head over to their site to download the software. Open it up, install it, and follow the prompts. If you’re interested in a post detailing Backblaze, let me know feedback@mattfleischer.com

This website is entirely free to use. If you think you’d like to purchase Backblaze, please consider using my link for a small commission.