I’m somewhat paranoid about backing up my data files. And by “somewhat paranoid,” I mean “petrified.” If you’re not of a similar mindset, you should be. Consider what it would mean to lose some irreplaceable photos, for instance. Or the please-let-me-keep-my-job presentation that you’ve been pulling together for months. Or your financial data. Being paranoid in every waking hour isn’t a great way to get through life, but when it comes to backing up your data it’s nearly impossible to go too far. Here’s the multi-level plan I use to keep my paranoia at bay.

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Level 0: System Setup

My backup plan begins with my basic system setup, which may be different from yours. I keep very little data on the internal boot drive. My user’s folder is on that drive, along with my most-used applications. But that’s it; everything else is saved elsewhere. I even go so far as to use aliases (or symbolic links, if necessary) to move large data files off the boot drive for programs that don’t let me specify a storage location. As a result, my boot drive is typically fairly empty—I’m using just 75GB of the 256GB SSD in my Retina iMac, for example.

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