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Posted at 7:15 AM ET, 12/27/2010

PostPoints tip: Time Machine works with flash drives too

By Rob Pegoraro

Apple's Time Machine backup software is one of Mac OS X's biggest selling points: It's automatic, simple and even somewhat fun, an adjective not normally applied to this type of program. But Apple's own descriptions of Time Machine can understate its utility. Although the company consistently says Time Machine requires a second, internal or external hard drive--see, for example, its page advertising Time Machine, a tech-support intro and another tech-support note--you can use a cheap USB flash drive instead.

True, flash drives probably can't fit all of your data. But one can certainly accommodate such critical information as your e-mail, your calendar and address book and your work documents. And if a lack of funds or general indecision has held up your purchase of an external hard drive, what else are you going to do? Grab the biggest-capacity USB flash drive you have handy, plug it into your Mac and let Time Machine use it while you figure out that purchase.

(About the "PostPoints tip" title: Since July, I've been archiving each tip-of-the-week e-mail we send to PostPoints members under this blog's "Tips" category. Today's item went out on Dec. 21; since writing it, I've realized that I should have linked to my 2007 and 2009 Help File items on picking an external hard drive.)

Meanwhile, in case you missed it:

* Sunday's column was the 2010 version of my "how to set up your new PC or Mac" column. An accompanying blog post notes what's changed between this and five earlier versions, while a video has me demonstrating some of these tips.

* Help File relates one way to wipe your data from a Windows or Mac OS X machine you're planning to retire, sell, donate, recycle or otherwise dispose of.

Finally: My understanding is that some of you may have received computing- or electronics-related gifts in the past few days. If so, why not use the comments to talk about your present? Did you have to break out the manual? Have you had to call tech support yet? Have you had to buy a cable/charger/battery for it? Or has the gadget in question, you know, worked as advertised?

By Rob Pegoraro  | December 27, 2010; 7:15 AM ET
Categories:  Tips  
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Next: Dell tablet gets nod from FCC, on track to debut at Consumer Electronics Show

Comments

You're right, I did receive some electronics for Christmas. Toshiba BDX2700 Blu-Ray player. It didn't want to find my wireless network that had SSID turned off. After I decided to enable the SSID, it worked fine, even after I re-disabled SSID. Do you have any idea how to name the unit so it doesn't show up as an 'unknown device' in my router device table? Since this is internet capable, what kind of security issues might I run into?

The one complaint so far, Toshiba sent a CHEAP video cable (yellow, red, and white connectors) with a 1080p capable player. At least, they should have included a set of component cables. I was replacing an up-scaling DVD player, so i had component cables available, no big deal. I didn't notice anything on the box that indicated that hi-def capable cables were not included.

Other than that, it works great with a super picture.

Posted by: blasher | December 27, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I bought my wife an iPOD Touch and so far works pretty well as advertised. Had a bit of a problem to set up e-mail and contacts etc. but seems ok now. Still don't understand what mobileme is for? Thanks love your column.
Bill

Posted by: wggubbe | December 27, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I like the Rebit SaveMe backup hard drive - http://rebit.com/products - similar to Time Machine for Mac, but is a Windows backup. It is intuitive and worked out of the box. All I had to do was click OK a couple times and enter a license key.

Posted by: dennisb5454 | December 27, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

@dennisb5454

The Time Machine works for both Macs and Windows Machines. Macs have a built in software interface but anything CAN send backup info to it. The REAL beauty of the time machine is that it happens to sit on top of the best wireless access point made IMHO Its an Airport Extreme with a hard-disk backup built in. The antennas in this little package work better than anything I have used in the past.

Posted by: HTech | December 28, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

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