Backups are important, but they’re not difficult to do. I do backups to small USB drives using Carbon Copy Cloner. It’s a free download here.
The thing about Carbon Copy Cloner is that it makes a “bootable” clone of your drive. That means if your hard drive dies, you can start your MacBook up from the USB drive. And you can copy the complete set of files from the USB drive to a new hard drive and have it put it in your MacBook and it will be restored to the last time you made a backup.
First, check the size of your hard drive before you buy a USB drive to make sure you get one that has enough capacity. Highlight the hard drive icon on your desktop and then select “Get Info” under the File menu, or hold down the Apple key and hit the “I” key. Look in the information window and find “Capacity.” That’s the overall capacity of your hard drive. (You might have to tick the right pointing arrow next to the word “General” to reveal capacity and free space.)
Then, get a USB drive with at least the capacity of your hard drive. The hard drive you get might have a cable with a double “tail” on it. The smaller USB end goes to the hard drive, but the larger end, which might have two connectors, goes to your Mac. Use the end that has the pair of cables attached to it; the other is for dual power, if needed, on an older Mac with USB 1.0, so that the drive can get power from two USB ports instead of just one. Hard drive prices continue to fall each year, and so you should be able to get a drive for less than $100.
The first time you run CCC, a full clone might take a up to few hours or more, depending on the capacity of your hard drive. But after that, CCC will synch your drive and only copy over the files that have changed, so the subsequent backups will be faster. My backups take half an hour or so. I start it up last thing at night and just let it run by itself.
You can start up CCC and check out how it is going to run without doing a backup. Look in the “Help” menu and read the instructions for which kind of backup you want to do. And look at the CCC web page, too, and read the online forums if you have questions.
Just remember to run a backup as often as you feel necessary, because the safety of your files is only as good as the last backup you made. And two backups are always better than one. and keeping a backup “off site” in a good place is a good idea, too.