Make .Mac backups start immediately

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As you may be aware, Apple used to offer a free service called iTools. Five years ago, “free” went the way of the dinosaurs, and iTools was replaced with the $99 per year .Mac.

At first, Apple’s .Mac service didn’t offer much more than did iTools. But over time, things changed. Subscribers got more disk space, an online learning center, discounts on software, occasional free software, a great online webmail client (as webmail clients go), the ability to synchronize data from multiple Macs, and many other features. While it can still be argued (quite well) that the .Mac service is overpriced and other free services can match many of its capabilities, the main benefit of using .Mac is its high degree of integration with your other Macs.

One example of that is the Backup application, which helps with that most dreaded of daily duties. (You do back up daily, right?) You just tell Backup what files and folders to back up, and set a scheduled start time, and you’re done. As long as the machine is awake and on the net, the backup will happen automatically, sending your most precious files out to the .Mac servers. In my case, I have it back up a disk image file (encrypted) that contains key personal files, as well as other less critical stuff (such as my Macworld writing, which exists online but I’d rather not lose). I like the piece of mind that comes from knowing these files are safely backed up outside the home, and that it happens without my intervention.

Well, almost without intervention. When Backup kicks off its daily task, it launches in the background, then drops this dialog box, as seen at right, directly on top of whatever you’re doing. The dialog will dismiss itself after two minutes (and then the backup launches), but it’s quite annoying to have it onscreen, so I always click the OK button. The idea is, of course, that you get a chance to cancel the backup if you happen to be doing something else at the time. However, in two years of using Backup, I have yet to cancel it. Thankfully, a simple Terminal command will make the dialog box much less intrusive. Open Terminal (make sure Backup isn’t running—you’ll see the Backup icon in the Dock if it is) and enter this command:

defaults write 'Backup Timer' -int '1'

This sets the timeout delay for the dialog box to one second, instead of 120 seconds. So while the dialog box will still appear, it will then quickly vanish and your backup will start—much nicer! If you ever decide you want the delay again, repeat the above command, but replace the 1 with the number of seconds you’d like to use instead (with 120 being the default).

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