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Time Machine Backup - HDD

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Mac Users,

I would like to purchase an external HDD to be used as a Time Machine backup of my MBP. I have a couple of questions as below:

(1) Can I buy any HDD and use that for Time Machine backup? I find the Time Capsule from Apple to be a bit expensive and big in size. I would buy a smaller HDD, the 2.5 inch models.
(2) What sort of backup is this? I'm under the impression that I can backup my entire machine and this would mean that if my current MBP dies out in say 2 years time from now and I buy a new one, I can restore everything on my new one with the backup just by plugging it to the MBP. I do now want to go through the process of setting up my Java home, IDE and everything else on my new machine again.
(3) What features in the external HDD should I look for? USB or Firewire? 1 TB or 2 TB?
(4) Any recommendations on a 2.5 inch HDD for the Mac?
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1) Yes.
2) Yes. But the more common scenario is finding that you need a file 5 minutes after you delete it. Time Machine has saved my ass more times than I can count.
3) Either. USB is easier to find. A bigger size will mean a backup that extends further back in time.
4) Any reputable one should do.
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I just went through this. Ended up getting a Seagate GoFlex that was setup for USB3 (which my MBP does not do) and then Seagate's Thunderbolt adaptor. Its not all that clear, but the GoFlex drives have a one-inch thick platform on the bottom of the drive, this can snap off (taking the USB3 connection with it) and the Thunderbolt adaptor snaps on. You can switch back if you want.

Thunderbolt is wicked fast. But the adaptor is fairly expensive.

I got a 3TB disk, as I need a lot of storage. And with the huge disk, I decided that I was not willing to go at USB 2 speeds, as it would take weeks to do anything.

Firewire seems to be quickly becoming obsolete, or at least there are not many commercial drives for it.

I think the whole setup ended up being about $400, which seems expensive compared to internal disks (i.e. 6GB SATA speed @ 2TB size for $120) I assume its partly the Apple tax, and partially my need for big and fast.
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One thing to think about with the Time Capsule is that it isn't just a Hard Drive. It is also an Airport Extreme router. So for many people that want an Airport Extreme and a Hard drive find that the Time Capsule is very very cheap.

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