For some people Time Machine will be more than adequate. Time Machine is part of OS X. There are two components:
1. A Time Machine preferences panel as part of System Preferences;
2. A Time Machine application located in the Applications folder. It is
used to manage backups and to restore backups. Time Machine
requires a backup drive that is at least twice the capacity of the
drive being backed up.
Alternatively, get an external drive at least equal in size to the internal hard drive and make (and maintain) a bootable clone/backup. You can make a bootable clone using the Restore option of Disk Utility. You can also make and maintain clones with good backup software. My personal recommendations are (order is not significant):
2. Data Backup
3. Deja Vu
5. Synk Pro
Visit The XLab FAQs and read the FAQ on backup and restore. Also read How to Back Up and Restore Your Files. For help with using Time Machine visit Pondini's Time Machine FAQ for help with all things Time Machine.
Although you can buy a complete external drive system, you can also put one together if you are so inclined. It's relatively easy and only requires a Phillips head screwdriver (typically.) You can purchase hard drives separately. This gives you an opportunity to shop for the best prices on a hard drive of your choice. Reliable brands include Seagate, Hitachi, Western Digital, Toshiba, and Fujitsu. You can find reviews and benchmarks on many drives at Storage Review.
Enclosures for FireWire and USB are readily available. You can find only FireWire enclosures, only USB enclosures, and enclosures that feature multiple ports. I would stress getting enclosures that use the Oxford chipsets especially for Firewire drives (911, 921, 922, for example.) You can find enclosures at places such as;
1. Cool Drives
All you need do is remove a case cover, mount the hard drive in the enclosure and connect the cables, then re-attach the case cover. Usually the only tool required is a small or medium Phillips screwdriver.
I second the recommendation of OWc external drives. Many of the "name-brand" externals that go on sale every weekend at the computer superstores do not play well with Macs.
Get one with both FireWire and USB. An Intel Mac is USB-bootable but, for routine files transfers and backups, FireWire is every so much faster.
If you are using the drive on a desktop computer and nothing else, get a drive with an independent power supply.
I have had very good experience over many years with these external hard drives:
If you are mechanically inclined, you could build your own with a hard drive + external enclosure. It's just a matter of mounting the drive inside the enclosure (typically 4 screws):
OWC Mercury Elite Pro enclosure (single or dual-drive)
Western Digital Caviar Black drive (1, 2 or 4 TB)
Thank you, but how do I know if the external drive is compatible with my computer? What are the requirements? This is the USB and Firewire info from my computer:
Maximum Speed: Up to 400 Mb/sec
Bluetooth USB Host Controller:
Bus Power (mA): 500
Speed: Up to 12 Mb/sec
Manufacturer: Apple, Inc.
Bus Power (mA): 500
Speed: Up to 12 Mb/sec
OK. You have a very early Intel iMac. Although you can install Lion 10.7.5, I would recommend upgrading no further than Snow Leopard. The maximum memory for the computer is 3 GBs. I would not recommend less than 4 GBs for Lion. So unless you need to upgrade to 10.7.5 for some reason, stick with Snow Leopard.
You have USB 2.0 and Firewire 400 ports on that model. I would use an external Firewire drive if possible as they will be somewhat faster than USB. But either will work. USB will be easier to find and less expensive. Speed is not an essential requirement for a backup drive. Reliability is far more important.
Upgrading to Snow Leopard
You can purchase Snow Leopard through the Apple Store: Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard - Apple Store (U.S.). The price is $19.99 plus tax. You will be sent physical media by mail after placing your order.
After you install Snow Leopard you will have to download and install the Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo v1.1 to update Snow Leopard to 10.6.8 and give you access to the App Store. Access to the App Store enables you to download Mountain Lion if your computer meets the requirements.
Snow Leopard General Requirements
1. Mac computer with an Intel processor
2. 1GB of memory
3. 5GB of available disk space
4. DVD drive for installation
5. Some features require a compatible Internet service provider;
fees may apply.
6. Some features require Apple’s iCloud services; fees and
huge storage, low cost, high quality, very small and portable.
BEST FOR THE COST, Toshiba "tiny giant" 15mm thick 2TB drive (have several of them, lots of storage in tiny package) $100
best options for the price, and high quality HD:
Quality 1TB drives are $50 per TB on 3.5" or $65 per TB on 2.5"
Perfect 1TB for $68
Nice 500gig for $50. ultraslim perfect for use with a notebook
*This one is the BEST portable external HD available that money can buy:
HGST Touro Mobile 1TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive $88
Most storage experts agree on the Hitachi 2.5"
Hitachi is the winner in hard drive reliability survey:
Hitachi manufacturers the safest and most reliable hard drives, according to the Storelab study. Of the hundreds of Hitachi hard drives received, not a single one had failed due to manufacturing or design errors. Adding the highest average lifespans and the best relationship between failures and market share, Hitachi can be regarded as the winner.
Well, since I have all of the drives that I mentioned earlier, and they have all worked for many years for me on muliple Macs with OS X Tiger (10.4.x), Leopard (10.5), Snow Leopard (10.6) and Lion (10.7) on them, experience would indicate they will work fine on a Mac that has OS X 10.4 installed.
I have seen the specs on the current Lacie and G-tech drives and yes they do indicate requirements for 10.5 or later or in some cases 10.6 or later. I suspect this has to do with the bundled software not the hard drive itself. I have never seen an OS X release-specific hard drive. I would question both Lacie & G-tech support about this.
I'll even connect my newest Lacie d2 Quadra drive to my old iMacG5 that has 10.4.11 on it to confirm that it works.
Thanks for replying. Sounds like you're having better luck than me! When I hooked up my LaCie for the first time, I got the icon on the desktop OK. When I clicked on it, however, I got a message saying "The device is not compatible with this computer" or something similar.
It was at that point that I saw the specs on the box saying that you need to have OS 10.5 or later.
When we took it back to the Apple Store, the guy (who was the owner) said that he didn't think there were any external HDs you could buy that could work with 10.4.11, since it's so old. He did say something about going to Disk Utility on this one and breaking it up into three sections as a workaround, but I wasn't quite sure what he was getting at. Anyway, I decided to return it and just come here for advice.