Time Machine will back all the items you mentioned up on an hourly basis.
As for the hard drive size there is no way we can predict how many files you have, etc. To start I would probably recommend a 2 TB hard drive. They are around USD$100 and reasonably priced. You can always go larger if you need to do so.
Time Machine will walk you through the process automatically, even asking if you want to use the Hard Drive for Time Machine, once the new hard drive is connected to the Mac.
Just a little more clarification on Time Machine. Time Machine creates a back up, which is equivalent to a system restore point. This means that, it doesn't actually save all your files. If you save data to Time Machine and delete it from your computer, then restore your computer to a previous point in time using Time Machine that data is lost. This is the reason I don't use Time Machine. Even if you do use it you still have to manually manage your data, therefor, you are better off just keeping your data manually backed up on a series of drives. I never trust my back up data one one drive.
Hope this sheds a bit more light for you.
Actually, it does save data, I checked many times and your post prompted me to check again, yes my files are there. I have not yet tired restoring from TM, so I don't know the specifics, but you might want to use the TM interface by launching the Time Machine app to copy your archived documents into your restored computer.
If you merely want to archive and the hardware does not need to be mobile, then you could get a Hard Drive Docking station, where you can swap harddisks quite easily or go for a Networked Attached Storage (NAS).
If you buy a NAS enclosure with multiple hard disk bays, you can set it so that each disk mirrors the saved data, meaning you back up once and data is written to two disks, or disk spanning mode where multiple disks are joined and you just see one large HD, or just have it act normally, 2 disks you see 2 drives. The benefit of NAS is that you can write to it from both PC and Mac.
A more bare bones setup is an external USB hd, a docking station is of this type except it doesn't have a full enclosure, you slot in a hd to the dock to use it. Because the drive is connected directly to your Mac, its best to format the hd in the native Mac format (Lion supports reading Windows NTFS but not writing to it).
Launch Time Machine from within System Preferences, Within the System Preferences TIme Machine window, where you can see a large TM icon with On Off switch, there is a "?" icon at the lower right corner of the window, that will bring up information about what is TIme Machine and how to use it.
You will also see a "Options..." button in the middle of the TM window, where you can set any folders you don't want to be saved and other settings.
There are multiple ways to set up a backup schedule
- by time
- whenever you connect the designated Time Machine drive
- or invoking manually
It backs up everything, for every user, but leaves out data like web browser cache and other temporary files.
First, if you wish to share the external drive across platforms, it cannot be formatted for Mac (HFS+) or Windows (NTFS).
Common formats are FAT32 and exFAT (aka FAT64).
FAT32 will work with Mac and Windows systems back into the mists of time. However, the format has a limit of around 4GB per file, which may be a problem.
exFAT works with later versions of Snow Leopard and subsequent, and with current Windows systems (I believe it can be added to XP too). There is no file size limit (for all practical purposes).
In your case I would suggest a minimum 2TB drive formatted exFAT if both your systems support it. (NOTE; format the drive on the Windows machine and check it works satisfactorily on both before commiting important files to it).
Getting the files there will require third-party software if you wish to do scheduled incremental backups, but there could be problems there if the contents are modified on Windows and the drive subsequently backed up from the Mac.
I would endorse the idea of using a multiple drive station either directly connected or NAT, with a mirrored pair of drives. I wouldn't use a striped array.
Time machine cannot be used in this way - it needs to be formatted for Mac only. It will back up selected categories, including the entire drive if you so specify, but it's not intended for use as a storage drive - restoring files from TM should be done within the TM environment.
Read Pondini's FAQ on TM; http://pondini.org/TM/FAQ.html
Note that you'll need a HD at least twice the size of the internal for best results with TM.
I too am kind of new to iMacs, and had similar situation, with music files of shows Ive recorded. I found the Seagate GoFlex to work perfectly for this situation. It is dual formatted, and I can go between machines no problem...its great that I can load concerts onto it with my mac, and share the drive with pc owners....I bought it at BestBuy..
Thank you so much for the info everyone.
I am a little confused though...with time machine will ALL of my files from finder/iphoto/aperture be saved into the new external hard drive? if they won't then I might as well continue to save everything manually.
I am looking at the seagate drives right now and about to buy it!
Will something like this work for both mac and pc's?
Im trying to get a 2tb or 3tb.
Using a cross platform drive formatted as FAT32 does have its problems. You will find you are limited by the size of data dumps to around 4-5GB making it quite a laborious task to move large amounts of data from one platform to another.
Possibly my previous post about Time Machine was not clear enough. Time Machine creates a system restore point containing all the data on your machine at that point in time. If, over the course of a year you create many back ups and your drive becomes full it will delete the older back ups to create space on the drive. If you have deleted that data from your internal hard drive it is gone. Which means, regardless of how well Time Machine works you still have to manually back up your data.
As for external hard drives: An external hard drive is no more secure than an internal hard drive and can fail at any time. Keeping your data on a series of hard drives is the best option to minimize the chances of losing data.