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Archived - How to back up and restore your important Mac OS X 10.4 files

You can easily back up and restore Safari bookmarks, Address Book contacts, iCal calendars, and Keychains, as well as Mail accounts, rules, and Smart Mailboxes with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

Tip: iSync 2, included with Mac OS X 10.4, can be used to sync your calendars and contacts to many kinds of devices (but not Safari bookmarks, your keychains, or Mail preferences)

The instructions in this document tell you how to manually back up these important files, even if you also use .Mac Backup or iSync 2. When you manually create backup copies of your data, you should burn the backed up files to a CD or DVD, or copy them to another backup location (MobileMe's Backup can do this, too). It's a good idea to back up important data to a place other than your hard disk, such as a burnable disc, external hard disk, or network volume.

For information about backing up other files, see this document.

Types of files covered in this document:

 

Safari bookmarks

Safari bookmarks are all stored in a file called Bookmarks.plist, which is located at ~/Library/Safari/. To get to this file in the Finder, choose Home from the Go menu. Open the Library folder, then open the Safari folder.

  • To back up: Make a copy of the file in another location by holding down the Option key and dragging the Bookmarks.plist file to another location (such as the Desktop). The original file will remain (do not remove the original file from this location or your Safari bookmarks will be gone!).

    As an alternative, you can compress the file into an archive—select the Bookmarks.plist file, then from the File menu in the Finder, choose Create Archive. The original file will remain.

  • To restore: Simply move the backup copy of Bookmarks.plist to the ~/Library/Safari/ folder. If you're restoring from an archive, don't forget to decompress the file (just double-click it).

Note: The Bookmarks.plist file contains only the Safari bookmarks for the currently logged-in user. If other users on the same Mac have their own user accounts and personal bookmarks, their Bookmarks.plist files are located in their Home folders.

Address Book contacts

  • To back up: Open Address Book and choose Back up Address Book from the File menu. A dialog appears, asking you to choose a save location—it also adds the current date to the saved file name too. Choose where you want to save the backup, then click Save.

  • To restore: In Address Book, choose Revert to Address Book Backup from the File menu. In the resulting dialog, locate your backup file (it ends with a .abbu extension), select it, and click Open.

iCal calendars

  • To back up: Open iCal, then choose Back up Database from the File menu. In the resulting dialog, choose where you want to save the backup file (the current date also gets added to the name) and click Save.

  • To restore: Open iCal. From the File menu, choose Revert to Database Backup. In the resulting dialog, locate your backup file (it ends with a .icbu extension), select it, and click Open.

Keychains

Keychains are located in your ~/Library/Keychains/ folder. To get to this file in the Finder, choose Home from the Go menu. Open the Library folder, then open the Keychains folder.

Tip: Before you back up your keychains, use Keychain First Aid to repair any issues.

  • To back up: Make copies of your keychain files in a different location by Option-dragging each file to a desired location. Do not remove the originals. You can also use the Finder to create an archive as described in the Safari Bookmarks section, above.

  • To restore:
    1. In the Finder, from the Go menu, choose Utilities.
    2. Open Keychain Access.
    3. From the Edit menu, choose Keychain List. A dialog appears, listing all keychain files.
    4. Deselect the keychains that you wish to restore, then click OK.
    5. Quit Keychain Access.
    6. Move your keychain back up files back to ~/Library/Keychains/.
    7. Open Keychain Access again.
    8. From the Edit menu, choose Keychain List.
    9. Select the keychains that you wish to use, then click OK.

Mail preferences and messages

Your Mail accounts, rules, signatures, and Smart Mailboxes preference settings can easily be backed up. Tip: All Mail-related preference files should be backed up or restored as a group.

  • To back up:

    Note: These steps back up Mail preferences, but do not back up Mail messages (emails), although you can do that with the .Mac Backup utility. See below if you want to manually back up Mail messages (mailboxes).

    1. Create a uniquely-named folder on your desktop (or other favorite location). For example, you might call it "Mail Prefs Backups May_15_2005" (adding a date is a good idea).
    2. Quit Mail if it's running.
    3. In the Finder choose Home from the Go menu.
    4. Open the Library folder.
    5. Open the Preferences folder.
    6. Copy the "com.apple.mail.plist" file to the folder you made in step 1 by Option-dragging the file. Don't remove the original file from its current location (this file contains your Mail accounts information).
    7. Close the Preferences folder.
    8. Open the Mail folder.
    9. Copy the "MessageRules.plist" file to the folder you made in step 1 by Option-dragging the file (this file contains your Mail rules).
    10. Copy the "SmartMailboxes.plist" file to the folder you made in step 1 by Option-dragging the file (you guessed it, this file contains Smart Mailboxes information).
    11. Finally, copy the Signatures folder to the folder you made in step 1 by Option-dragging the folder. (Your custom signatures, if you use them, are stored here.)
  • To restore:

    Move all copies of the files and folders from your uniquely-named folder to the original locations from which they came, as listed above.

To manually back up Mail messages (emails)

You might wish to manually back up all your Mail messages from time-to-time. To back up entire mailboxes (where Mail stores messages), such as your Inbox, follow these steps:

  1. Quit Mail if it's open.
  2. From the Finder's Go menu, choose Home.
  3. Open the Library folder.
  4. Copy the folder "Mail" to your backup location, such as a different volume or burnable disc. Important: Do not remove the Mail folder from ~/Library. If you're backing up to the same volume, hold the Option key as you drag the folder to make a copy instead of moving it (a "+" cursor appears).

You can restore backed-up mailboxes at any time by quitting Mail and following the above steps, except for the last step where you copy your backed up Mail folder to ~/Library, instead of from it.

Additional Information

See also: Restoring from Backup after reinstalling Mac OS X.

Last Modified: Nov 28, 2011
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