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Would backing up my home directory be enough or does OS X saves important files outside of it I should be aware of? This is not supposed to be a full OS backup, I only want my data. Applications' configuration details can be re-created and so on but other things such as bookmarks I do consider important.

Currently backing up:

  • /Users/Crocodile (except for Trash & Library)
  • /Users/Crocodile/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles (FF bookmarks)
  • /Users/Crocodile/Library/Fonts (user-specific fonts)

I use CalDAV for calendar and IMAP for email so no need to backup Mail/Calendar directories, right?


[edit] Added the user-specific Fonts directory. The system-wide directory, located at /Library/Fonts, is not needed IMO since a OS reinstall will include (most of) them; plus these can easily be copied from another machine.

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A lot of applications store critical information in ~/Library so you might be better off with backing up your whole user folder (with the exception of Trash of course). If you use incremental backups the size will not be too big after the first run. And you can at least exclude ~/Library/Caches anyway. You also may want to back up any registration codes for applications (by keeping them in separate file for instance) you've bought so you can reinstall them easily.

OTOH you might want to consider the time required to rebuild all your configurations and installations from scratch and compare this to the price of an external USB drive.

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  • I didn't want to be transferring files located in ~\Library because the backup is done between machines located in different sites (via Internet). In the source machine, the ~\Library directory is half the size of the rest of my home directory; so that's a large overhead for my simple requirements. __I'll still consider that option since w/ incremental backups it may end up not making that much of a difference after the first time (and following that line of thought might as well do it for the entire HD...). Where can I find the registration codes of applications? – user3371321 Mar 31 '14 at 17:10
  • Try Disk Inventory X and take a look at the library. In most cases it is just one or two folders which cointain large amounts of data (e.g Adobe). You can exclude these folders but you should consider backing up the whole Library folder. – Kevin Woblick Apr 1 '14 at 5:40
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Generally speaking your /users/USERNAME folder should be sufficient. Many backup utilities automatically exclude the cache and trash directories, so depending on the program you use you may not have to manually exclude them.

Although there are some application and system-specific files stored in the /Library (as opposed to ~/Library which is in your user folder) it is usually safe to not back that folder up. The things there are specific to the system itself and any universal settings for applications.

Be aware though that programs like Garageband store loops and samples in that folder and some applications store registration (serial number) info there too. And if you add 3rd party loops and samples they will usually go there. If you want to be safe I would also backup

/Library/Application Support /Library/Preferences

But if you keep all your installers on external media and a record of all your serial numbers re-installing should be pretty painless without those folders.

But it should not be necessary to sync those folders between two Macs. In fact I would only sync ~/Documents, ~/Desktop and the folders that contain Mail and browser files and settings.

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  • I checked /Library and ~/Library and the only settings of applications I feel worth saving are the Firefox ones because of bookmarks. I did notice the Fonts directories so I'm adding these to the list; at least the user-specific one may be useful. – user3371321 Apr 1 '14 at 8:16

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