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External Hard Drives Relationship - MacBook Pro and Mac mini (Backup Solution?)

Aron Stokes
Aron Stokes Member Posts: 24 Sine

I record on a Mac mini desktop setup in my studio and I use a MacBook Pro to record when I travel. Both computers use external drives to run sample libraries and DAW session files. The external drive called "Libraries" runs mostly all sample libraries I own. I use a drive for DAW sessions called "Recording" for the Mac mini desktop setup, but I also have another drive called "Recording 2" which is basically a copy of the "Recording" drive, to be used with my MacBook Pro. The data on my "Libraries" external drive rarely changes, so I use it universally between my Mac mini and MacBook Pro (so I have to use this drive on one computer or the other when I'm recording). The problem is... trying to keep both the "Recording" and "Recording 2" external drives updated to each other as the data grows for my sessions and audio files. I make a lot of changes to my sessions daily, and if I record on "Recording" I'd like to always have "Recording 2" updated to what's new and vice versa. Currently, I use a software called Carbon Copy Cloner to backup everything between different drives. It's a very useful software, but it's still tedious to think about what should be updated each time I use the MacBook Pro or Mac mini. I'm looking for a system to make my recording process simple/plug-and-play no matter which computer I'm using, while maintaining the data that gets updated between the two recording drives. Also... I know it might seem logical to just use the "Recording" drive for my Mac mini on the MacBook Pro when I need to, but the reason I have two recording drives that represent the same data is because the "Recording" drive is a bulkier, rugged drive used for the studio, but "Recording 2" is a smaller, more mobile drive that I can travel with. Sometimes even a small name change on data can cause reading issues between drives that essentially have the same data but each take updates from work from the other computer overtime.

So... with all of that said, does my backup method between the recording drives seem efficient, or is there an easier or better way to achieve what I'm trying to achieve? I need a process that doesn't cause me to overthink what's happening with my data. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


  • JesterMgee
    JesterMgee Member Posts: 1,207 Pulse

    I can't specifically suggest a mac solution but maybe handy for those that have access to a Windows machine or server, I have used a rock solid backup/sync/clone method for the last 20 years "Robocopy" which is a command line utility that will run on any windows system, I am sure macOS would have something comparable. Once you learn how to really use it the flexibility is pretty unbeatable.

    I run this on a simple windows server I have in a looped batch file that just loops and polls my machines every 5 minutes and will mirror any changed files (that are no in use) to the server drive and then optionally push changes out to any drive I need synched. I just create a function in the file for each computer on my network and what network access shares I want to sync. This can backup files from ANY OS (my mac included) as long as it can access the files over a network.

    I also have "incremental mirroring" for my music projects where the server will copy the files but generates a zip increment of changes so deleted files or updated files are done in daily increments so I can unzip justthe day where I need a backup, useful for when I may delete things accidentally or overwrite the wrong file or something stupid. My server is then backed up weekly to external drives but also live backup using BackBlaze to online also.

    My DJ laptop has a custom robocopy sync utility I created to backup my entire music library to my server which is then used to also serve music to all my amps and phones (using PlexAmp). I keep a synched library between my server and DJ laptop but the issue I have is similar to you in that I have things like playcounts and updated files and tags both on my server and on my laptop so I created a system that synchs things based on what I need:

    These options allow me to choose what kinds of things I need to sync so if I have added a heap of new music to my server and need to download that to my laptop I run option 4

    If I have been using my laptop and adding custom tags (to auto tag files into smart crates) and I want to backup these files I choose option 1

    If I have been out with my laptop and added some new files while I have been out and want to update my server with these new files I choose option 2

    These options can be used to only copy missing files, only copy files that exist in both locations but where one is newer than the other or to mirror source to destination

    I guess the reason I post this as a solution even tho it is not a direct solution for you is to demonstrate that sometimes a very simple method can work to solve a seemingly complicated problem, and in some cases at zero cost other than time to learn. I find Windows lends itself far better to this kind of solution since it's basically part of the OS but surely macOS would have something just as easy to use like this others could suggest

  • IvoryKeys88
    IvoryKeys88 Member Posts: 22 Sine

    I assume the OP has long since found a solution for his question.

    In case someone else is looking for a solution to a similar situation ... you could use Unison for this. It would provide a solution very similar to what JesterMgee suggested for Windows (although Unison is even simpler to implement).

    The easiest way to install Unison on macOS would be with Homebrew. Once Homebrew is installed, you can install Unison with the command, `brew install unison`.

    You would then use a simple command like the following to sync two drives: `unison -batch disk1 disk2` (-batch is used to prevent the need for user interaction. If you want user interaction then exclude that from the command.

    Here's a fairly decent write-up on Unison: https://revenni.com/keeping-multiple-devices-in-sync-via-unison/

    Here's the project's info on Github: https://github.com/bcpierce00/unison

  • zenluiz
    zenluiz Member Posts: 6 Sine

    For me there is a single and obvious solution to your problem: replace those 2 "Recording" external drives by a single one. Period. For mobility/portability and speed reasons, buy an external, portable SSD drive, big enough to accommodate your session files (and future needs).

    It seems you are over complicating it :)

    Having more than 1 external drive makes it more tedious, time consuming and even more error prone to have them in sync.

    I'd go even further: buy an external portable SSD and put everything in there, your samples plus your session files, plus your files that are rarely modified (like photos). Get rid of those several external drives. This would give you the most portable, easy, safe solution.

    Then, as a BACKUP solution (and this is REALLY important for safety):

    • Buy a big external HD (it doesn't need to be a SSD) that can accommodate both your internal and external drives (SSDs) contents.
    • Set TimeMachine to backup both your internal and external drives together, so when you run the backup task it will backup everything (TimeMachine creates one separate folder in the destination drive for each source drive). If you want to backup both your Mac Mini and Macbook Pro to the same external HD, I guess you will need to have one of the two internal disks renamed (eg.: Machintosh HD and the other Machintosh HD2... something like that, so that TimeMachine would create different folders).
    • As extra precaution I suggest using an online backup, like Backblaze, which can backup all your computers plus your external drives together.

    Hope it helps.

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