Automatic iTunes backup

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Reader Jamie Brust questions the limitations of iTunes’ backup functionality. He writes:

I am wondering why iTunes’ backup function will only let you burn a CD or DVD and not allow backup to an external HD. OK, it may not be that big a deal to just copy your library to another HD (although incremental backups get a little tiresome), but if Apple bothered to include a backup function within iTunes, I can’t for the life of me understand why it would only allow for burning to CD or DVD. Can you shed some light on the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind this? Or maybe there is a way to automatically backup iTunes to an external drive instead of manually copying files? I was hoping iTunes 7 would have addressed this but, nope.

I can’t pretend to know the details of Apple’s reasoning, but my best guess is that the iTunes’ engineers wanted to keep the program as simple to use as possible. Junking up the backup dialog box with multiple options when a great many iTunes users rely on a single hard drive could lead to confusion.

Thankfully, there are other ways to back up your iTunes’ library without having to rely on iTunes’ backup function. Better yet (at least from this lazy writer’s perspective), Mathew Honan has penned Back Up Your iTunes Library, a terrific article available from the Playlist site that provides five ways to go about it. I’ll provide a couple of highlights.

Highlight 1 is that if you have a .Mac account your membership includes a copy of Apple’s Backup application. Within Backup you’ll find a template (called a QuickPick ) that will back up the contents of your iTunes library. You can create a schedule for this as well as choose a destination—including an external drive, your .Mac account, or optical media.

Highlight 2, which happens to be my favorite, is Automator. Mat nicely details how to set up Automator to do your bidding but the gist is that you’ll create an action that backs up media you’ve added to your iTunes library within a certain period of time—Date Added is the key condition (Date Added This Month, for example). Using a Copy Finder Items action you can then direct Automator to back up newly added music and movies to a destination on an external drive. To configure it so it triggers automatically, save it as an iCal Alarm plug-in and have it fire at an interval that matches the Date Added condition you created.

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