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My very first computer was a Mac SE. It had one whole megabyte of RAM and two floppy drives. It sat atop an external Jasmine 20 MB hard disk that was the biggest drive that the University Computer store carried for Macs and when I bought it I was sure it would be years before I could begin to approach filling it. Needless to say, it was more like a matter of a few months.

Back then hard drives were mighty expensive and those of us on limited budgets resorted to some desperate measures to fit all of our stuff in a fixed amount of space. Compression programs like Stuffit were vital for helping reduce file sizes, not only to fit more on a drive but to make transmission over our 2400 baud dial up modems possible. When drive space ran low it was time to hunt for files that could be archived onto floppy disks, and Stuffit was a lifesaver for finding ways to fit more files into the space available

DiskDoubler was another piece of software that would compress files on your hard disk in the background and automatically decompress them when you double-clicked them. I still run across files on floppy disks that I know are Word or MacWrite documents, but their icons indicate they are compressed with DiskDoubler. If I ever want to know what they are I will need to locate my copy of Disk Doubler Expander.

All of that is a long introduction to the reality of hard disks. Even though you may upgrade to a hard disk that’s larger than you ever imagined, it won’t be long before you discover that you don’t have enough space. Especially since our Macs now store music and photos that take up gigabytes of space.

And even if you can afford to upgrade the drive or attach an external you’ll soon realize that you must face the reality of drive housekeeping. Chances are you don’t need a larger or additional hard disk, you need to clean out the one you have, deleting unused files, archiving rarely used ones, and backing up everything you don’t want to lose.

When I have to squeeze every available megabyte out of my PowerBook drive I am able to save a little space using compression. No, I don’t use Disk Doubler or Stuffit! – just the “create archive” menu item under the File menu in the finder that creates a ZIP archive. But far more rewarding is finding the enormous files lurking in the depths of your disk that you can delete. Sometimes they are temporary files that didn’t get deleted properly.

The best tool I’ve found for discovering exactly what’s taking up all your drive space used to be Omni Disk Sweeper. I tried it once and paid the reasonable license fee an hour later. Recently I discovered WhatSize – a free application that appears to offer the same features. If you need to see what’s taking up all the space on your hard disk I recommend it highly.

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Yesterday I discovered that you can expand the storage capacity of a Series 3 TiVo as simply as plugging in an external eSATA drive and pressing a couple of buttons on your TiVo remote. This is amazing in comparison to the steps required to expand a Series 1 or Series 2 TiVo, which required swapping out the internal drive with one that has been “blessed” with special TiVo formatting software. Formatting the disk can’t be done on a Mac so you had to find a Windows machine to do it, or buy a preformatted drive  from a place like weaknees.com.

Now all I need to do is get a Series 3! Wasn’t there a special deal on those recently? No way I can get away with spending $799 on a new TiVo, even if it does record in glorious high definition and expanding the capacity is plug and play. My Series 2 is overflowing with American Girl movies, Saddle Club and Suite Life of Zack and Cody episodes, and more that my daughter won’t allow to be deleted.

Doggone it! The super-special deal to buy a Series 3 TiVo for $499 expired April 30!

Mozy

Making a backup of your important data is step 1 of any disaster recovery plan. Step 2 is making a copy of that backup and storing it offsite so if something happens to your computer or where it is residing the data is not lost forever. Now that our computers and hard disks are repositories for precious irreplaceable files like digital photos, videos, and correspondence it is more important than ever to follow through on those backup plans that you’ve been putting off for ages.

Mozy has been available for PC users for awhile now and has received many positive reviews. Their Mozy for Mac beta program just launched and I must admit that I am quite impressed. Mozy allows you to download a small application that will upload the files you want to backup to their servers for safe, secure offsite storage. The files are encrypted in transmission and on their servers, and restoring them is done through a very straightforward web-based interface. You simply select the files you want to retrieve from your backups from a hierarchy that mirrors the folder structure of your hard disk, click a button, and Mozy goes to work copying them to a disk image for you to download. Once the image is ready an email notifies you. If you have lots of files and can’t wait for the download to complete you can opt for a DVD delivered via FedEx for a fee.

I tried it out today and although there are a few places where the user interface could be improved to be more intuitive it’s really a very nice Mac application that works smoothly and efficiently. It scans the files on your hard disk and presents a selection window of options for files that most people are interested in backing up (ie, email, photographs, music) as well as file types like “all Excel files.” If you don’t see the file or folder you want to backup in this list you can click on a tab and browse to select them in a standard dialog box. Mozy also incorporates the power of Spotlight, allowing you to create a set that is comprised of files that result from a spotlight search.

The best part about Mozy is the affordable price. You can backup 2 gigabytes of files absolutely free. If you need to back up more data you pay just $4.95 per month for unlimited files. Several other online backup services that I’ve checked charge higher fees based upon each additional gigabyte which provides a disincentive to backing up your data.

Give it a try. If you use this link we’ll both get a little more drive space to store our stuff: https://mozy.com/?ref=DHRG78

Be sure to send feedback to the development team and thank them for bringing Mozy to Mac users.