How do you backup to DVD?

One of my external drives failed yesterday and for an hour I thought I had lost a lot of family videos and other stuff. My photos are backed up on to another drive with backuppc, but there simply isn’t room to backup everything there. Luckily the drive came back after I unplugged it and let it cool down but I don’t trust it now. I think I need a RAID server with at least 1TB of space to be future proof for the next 2 or 3 years.

I would love an application that you could point at a directory or a list of files and directories and it would burn them onto multiple DVDs, filling each disk to it’s maximum. Backing up my photo archive has always been a bit painful, trying to find and remember which directories I had just burned, comparing file listings, etc.

Tar doesn’t cut it however. I want to be able to restore a single file or directory by looking at the DVD contents in a file manager.

I used to have a DOS app that did this. I can’t remember what it was called, but point it at a directory of stuff and it would prompt for a floppy disk, write to it, prompt again, write, and so on until finished. Simple.

Is there a Linux or Mac app that will do that? I think I’ll write a shell script to do it if nobody else knows of an alternative.


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19 thoughts on “How do you backup to DVD?


  1. If you want to buy a second hard drive, you can use Timemachine for MacOS X… I don’t think you can use it to write DVDs though.


  2. You need a RAID protected home NAS server (Both Tom R. Conor O. and myself have looked into these) and you’ll need more than 1TB of space depending on your raid scheme.

    Consider also mirroring those “If the house burned down and we lost everything the wife would kill me if these were gone” moments out into the cloud. I use Mozy but then I would since it’s owner pays my wages.

    http://mozy.com/home


  3. There is a Linux package called “multicd” that creates compressed archives of the desired size, then burns them to disc.

    However, when I did this a while ago, all I did was split the files into groups of roughly the right size (4.5GB) and burned them. They were JPEG images, so there was no point in an extra layer of compression. I just used a standard format, so anything can read them from disc. Even my standalone DVD player sees the backups as “JPEG discs” and displays the photos on TV. 8)


  4. A very good piece of advice I picked up when archiving off/backing up to multiple disks was to keep a browsable fairly low res “index” on the primary active disk – say web resolution or 50-100kB jpeg only – makes you more likely to use old stuff and it’s easier to know which disk to pull out of the library. I did this when the archive consisted of 10s of CDs then and later 10s of DVDs, and now a couple of external hard disks. I feel it’s worth a couple of GB on my laptop to have every picture available all the time.


  5. a create app for cataloging backup archives (be it on dvd, cd or hard disk) is CD Finder. Works for Mac and Windows.

    http://www.cdfinder.de/

    I haven’t tried Timemachine yet as I’m still roaring with Tiger. Retrospect is a good solution (comes from with some WD external drives) but I haven’t used it much.

    My personal backup system is a bit all over the place. I prefer do do it manually and do dvd backups ad hoc to save space on drives. Cd finder makes it easy then to find what i am looking for.


  6. Is there a Linux or Mac app that will do that?

    Roxio Toast can create ‘spanning’ DVD backups which are reconstructible on bot PC and Mac.


  7. Brian t – I found multicd and used it to create 14 DVD images of the rest of my 2007 photos. Works great, if a little clunky. I’ll have to smooth out it’s operation with a few scripts I think.

    I then bought 2 1TB Iomega external drives. I’ll use one for storage (already used half of it) and I’ll rsync from that to the other one at night. They’re very noisy beasts though so I’m thinking of getting one of those timed power plugs so the backup drive only comes on at night, is unmounted in the morning and then shut down automatically.


  8. And don’t forget to keep a disk off-site. I don’t trust DVDs at all and just keep everything on HD. All my data, including photos, sits on 5 spinning disks at this second (3 of which have two copies). That’s two drives in the PC I’m using, two drives in a mirror PC which is there in case this one dies, and an external drive on that PC.

    Plus there are another two external disks off site (one in another building, one in a bank safe) each with two copies each. I rotate the three external disks every 3 weeks.

    Am I being paranoid? Probably — but last month I had TWO external drives die on the same day. I suspect due to an earthing problem of the power supply they shared.

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