Today’s Question: If I am going to be away from home for a period of time (possibly a month or more), and I use Time Machine as one of my backups on an external HD (not SSD), what is your suggestion if I don’t want to take that 10TB drive with me? I have read that those drives don’t like to be left idle.
Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend ensuring you have a good backup left at home for any hard drives you won’t bring with you. For hard drives you will bring with you I recommend having a backup drive for each in addition to a backup left at home.
More Detail: There is nothing wrong with leaving a hard drive idle for a month or more. For traditional (non-solid state) drives there is a risk of leaving the hard drive disconnected for a very long time (such as a year or more) with no activity. But for shorter durations it is not a problem for the drive to be idle. For a Time Machine backup drive you’ll get alerts about the fact that a backup hasn’t been conducted in a while, but that isn’t a problem as long as you’re maintaining at least one ongoing backup for data security.
For an internal hard drive on a Macintosh computer the Time Machine backup is a great option. If you’ll be leaving a primary Time Machine backup drive at home you can simply travel with a smaller drive used only for backing up the internal hard drive on your laptop.
If you’ll be traveling with any external hard drives, I recommend traveling with a backup drive for each of those. I personally use GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to maintain a backup for these drives, where the backup is an exact copy of the primary drive.
For drives left at home I simply recommend making sure you have a good backup (or two) for those drives, along with leaving behind at least one backup drive for each drive you’ll be traveling with.
Another good supplement to a backup workflow is to maintain an online backup so you’ll have an additional offsite backup to recover from should there be a significant issue that causes you to lose multiple hard drives, including primary and backup drives. I use Backblaze (https://timgrey.me/onlinebackup) for this purpose.
The key is to make sure that you are backing up the data you’re traveling with, and that you have additional backup copies of that data left behind. In addition, you want to ensure that all drives left behind also have a good backup in place, ideally with an online backup as a supplement to local backup copies.