Blog — Tips and Tricks from the Mac Zen Team

How I learned to stop worrying and love Time Machine

or, why backups are more than an insurance policy

If there's one thing tech geeks like us are known for, it's harping on the fact that everyone should have a backup. Keeping a second (or third!) copy of the important files on our computers, phones and iPads is second nature to us — but the reasons for doing so are something I think we sometimes take for granted.

I'm a member of that generation privileged to grow up around computers, and as a coach I'm always working to figure out how younger people learn and explore new situations. It's one of the major reasons I'm such a fan of the Mac and iOS devices — it's always been inspiring for me to watch people of all ages pick up an iPad and figure out how to browse the web or play a game, thanks to gentle cues and intuitive design.

Of course, it's not always that easy.

The most fundamental difference I've found in learning between kids and adults is the fear of failure. I remember sitting down in front of my dad's computer (it's not mine!), pressing buttons (i want something to happen!) and studying the results (now I can show my dad!)

Even now, when I run across a problem I've never seen before, I follow the same instincts. What happens if I do this? Where might the settings for this be? It's the process of indulging my curiosity and experimenting that has taught me so much about how these systems work — not any kind of formal training.

If I'm being honest, I think computer design in the last few decades has done us a lot of harm. Warnings pop up all the time, scaring the dickens out of us and refusing to explain themselves in any useful way. System administrators at our jobs and schools have warned us away from the Preferences Panel and told us not to ask questions. And it's really robbed us of the opportunity to learn by trial and error, which builds your confidence and brings you and your Mac closer.

All this to say: backing up your devices is one of the best ways to give you back that freedom. If you know anything you break can be fixed, anything you delete can be brought back, and there'll never be any lasting damage, it's much easier to feel comfortable investigating a problem or discovering a new setting. And most of all, it gives you the opportunity to explore your Mac, whether it's how to make a photo calendar, install a new program or set up a shared calendar. And if you ask me, learning something new is one resolution well worth keeping.

Making sure your files are backed up doesn't need to be hard, especially with your Mac's built-in Time Machine app, and iCloud Backups on your phone and iPad. There's some helpful how-to's on Apple's Support site, and as always, just send us an email back if there's anything we can do to help you out!