Time Machine for unsupported setups

My current backup setup consists of a 160GB external hard drive hooked up to a G4/400 Cube. I’m using a combination of ChronoSync and some shell scripts to create a nice archival backup of my home folder. (I don’t bother with apps and stuff because I’m too cheap to get a larger drive.)

Now there’s Time Machine in Leopard, and I’d really rather use it. It’s fully supported, so there’s no need for scripts and hacks, plus it has some nice features with iPhoto, etc.

But here’s the problem: Time Machine will only permit back ups to external hard disks attached to the backing-up Mac, or to other Macs with Leopard installed. Since my Cube can’t run Leopard, I’m stuck! (And an external HDD is out of the question – a backup that isn’t automated isn’t a back up at all, and I’ve lost the files to prove it!)

So here’s a couple tricks I’ve found that might work:

  1. Use Time Machine on any disk: This method involves creating an invisible file that flags the network drive as OK for Time Machine. It has to be an HFS+ disk (no problem), and it has to be mounted over AFP. The down side appears to be that it isn’t an automated backup; you have to manually mount the drive so that Time Machine can start using it. Hardly a deal breaker, as a script attached to Proxi (triggered when I connect to my home wifi network) can automatically mount the disk.

  2. Install Leopard on my Cube: As with other MacOS X installers, the Leopard DVD can be hacked so as to allow it to attempt an installation on any Mac, regardless of its configuration. Users report that people who don’t support the fancy new graphics in Leopard will find certain applications useless. (e.g. Time Machine shows up as a featureless black screen) Still, since my Cube’s really just a cheap server, I don’t see that as a big problem. Provided I can back up to it and it can run a few always-on applications, it ought to work just fine.

I don’t have Leopard yet, so I can’t try these tricks, but we’ll see how they come out. I’m kind of leaning toward #2, since that should give me the most ideal Time Machine experience and automate the whole deal. On the other hand, #1 would let me get going immediately, which is not without certain appeal.

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Written on October 27, 2007