Having owned a computer or two, you’ll know that they and their component parts will eventually fail. Should that component be the computer’s hard drive, you could lose data you’ve paid for in the iTunes Store, for example, not to mention the sweat caused by ripping all those CDs and DVDs. Here are some options for backing up your media.

Burn ’em
In iTunes you can easily burn your purchases to CD or DVD as data. Just choose File > Library > Back Up To Disc. The iTunes Backup window will appear, giving you the option to back up your entire iTunes library and playlists, or simply your iTunes Store purchases. An adjunct option lets you back up only those items added or changed since your last backup.

iTunes doesn’t clearly tell you how much data this is. To find out, you can insert a blank CD or DVD. iTunes will then display a dialog box that spells out approximately how many blank discs the backup job will require. Alternatively, for iTunes Store purchases, choose File > New Smart Playlist and create a rule that reads Purchased Is True. This will create a smart playlist of all the purchased content in your library. At the bottom of the iTunes window you’ll see how much storage space this takes up.

Although neither iTunes nor the Mac OS supports Blu-ray burning, you can buy a Blu-ray burner and, with a tool such as Roxio’s £79.99 Toast 10 Titanium, use the 25GB or 50GB storage that Blu-ray discs provide to back up your library. To access the content in the future, you’ll need a drive that can read Blu-ray.

Copy ’em
A less time-consuming option is to copy your iTunes library to another hard drive. The simplest way is to use an external drive in league with Time Machine, which will back up your data as you add new content.

You can also back up your library by dragging it to an external drive – by default, you’ll find the iTunes folder at youruserfolder/Music/iTunes/. (This method will also back up your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad apps, iTunes library file, playlist info, and so on). However, when you add items to iTunes, you must remember to manually copy them to your backup.

You can avoid this bother by using a synchronisation utility like Econ Technologies’ $40 (£25) ChronoSync 4.1 (www.econtechnologies.com) to keep the two folders in sync. When creating such a synced backup, it makes sense to create a copy that works in one direction only – any files you’ve added to or changed in your iTunes folder will be copied to your backup folder, but any files you’ve removed from your library will remain. This ensures you have a backup of all your content, even when large movies or TV shows have been removed from your iTunes library after viewing.

Cloud ’em
If you’re a MobileMe subscriber, you have 20GB of storage space to play with. You can use that space for your iTunes content – simply mount your iDisk and drag content to it from your iTunes library. If you’re running OS X 10.4 or later, you can use Apple’s Backup 3 application to do the job. You’ll find Backup in the Software folder inside your iDisk. Copy it to your Mac, launch it, select Plan > New Plan, pick Custom in the sheet that appears, then click Choose Plan. Drag the folder you want to back up to the Backup Items area. Then click the plus (+) icon below the Destinations And Schedule area and choose iDisk from the Destination pop-up menu. While this sheet is exposed, you can create a backup schedule to help keep the backup in sync with your iTunes library.

For smaller backups, sign up for a storage service such as Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) or SugarSync (www.sugarsync.com) and take advantage of the free 2GB they offer. If you have a lot of content, purchase additional storage or turn to an online backup service (www.macworld.com/5451).

Pack ’em on your portables
Although iTunes doesn’t let you copy files back from an iPhone or iPod, a variety of tools allow you to retrieve media from these devices. When choosing such a utility, be sure that it can sync not only your iTunes media back to your Mac, but also your playlists, play counts, and ratings.

Put ’em somewhere else
A backup is only as secure as the location in which it’s stored. Should your backup hard drive encounter fire, flood or freeze, it will be just as dead as the Mac on which the original files are stored. While a fireproof safe is a good start, a safety deposit box or multiple backups scattered among friends and family is better.