Five? I know what you’re thinking, “Jeffrey, you’re crazy. You don’t need five favorite ways to backup your Mac.” Maybe so, maybe not, but color me a bit paranoid, thanks to Murphy’s Law and too much experience with recovery mode.
I’m sure you understand that whatever can go wrong sometimes does, so a few extra layers of backups here and there won’t hurt anything or anyone, right? What I’ve wanted for years is a way setup and manage Mac backups to be as easy as iCloud backup is on iPhone and iPad. I’m there. Almost. Mostly. Soon.
Home To Cloud
My backup plan may seem cumbersome, isn’t really all that expensive, but a little paranoia goes a long way these days so let me start with the basics. External disk storage. Think Mac clones. Think Time Machine. Think cloud storage. I’ve got it all.
Carbon Copy Cloner – this one has been a long time favorite and it works much like another old timer to clone a Mac’s disk drive to a bootable external disk which can be used in any emergency. Carbon Copy Cloner clones the Mac’s disk; manually, or on a schedule, and creates a disk which you can boot from another Mac.
CCC is packed with features and options, including email notification, detailed logs, automatic backups with a scheduler, and much more, but it relies on the tried and true Source and Destination method. And it works with Apple’s new APFS file system in macOS High Sierra. The only drawback is the need for a paid upgrade every couple of years or so.
SuperDuper! – I don’t know if there is a simpler way to clone a Mac into a perfect and bootable backup. SuperDuper!, as with CCC makes perfect clones of your Mac’s disk drive to an external storage device. It, too, has a scheduler built-in, and a few more esoteric options but the basics are about all you need.
That’s about as easy as you can get, right?
SuperDuper!’s initial backup may take a few hours, but subsequent backups– manually initiated or on a schedule– usually take just minutes. Why do I use both CCC and SuperDuper!? I bought both years ago and SuperDuper! has never charged for an upgrade. Two are better than one.
ChronoSync – if there’s a Mac backup and sync utility that does as much as ChronoSync I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve never paid for an update and new features make it invaluable for syncing or backing up files from one Mac to another destination, either on a local network or to off premise locations like Amazon S3 or Google Cloud.
Again, ChronoSync uses the standard Source and Destination targets, but comes with far more features than either Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! combined. For example, use Creation Assistants to setup a bootable backup, disk image backups, sync folders, or sync to multiple folders on multiple devices. ChronoSync gets granular with options to validate files, add triggers to automated and scheduled backups, and much, much more. Again, upgrades are free. I’ve used ChronoSync for years. That said, the list of features can be daunting to Mac newbies, but there is try-before-you-buy.
Now a look at the two Apple backup systems I use. One new, and one I don’t like but use anyway.
Time Machine – this is Apple’s built-in Mac backup system and it performs differently than the three above. Time Machine backs up files on your Mac that have changed, and creates versions of files that have changed over time. The time machine aspect means you can back up through time to find a file before it was changed or before it was deleted. That can be very handy. Time Machine can also restore a Mac but compared to a cloned disk from the other three, it’s like going back to 1999. It’s slow. Worse, Time Machine has not been a stellar performer through the years and seems to go wonky from time to time which requires too much manual labor to get back into gear. But it’s free and my only expense is an extra hard disk drive. Time Machine to iCloud would be nice.
iCloud – That brings me to iCloud Drive and iCloud backup. I’ve used iCloud for Photos and iCloud drive most of this year. It’s slow but eventually gets files in sync between devices, including iPhone and iPad and other Macs. The real value is putting Documents and Desktop folders onto iCloud and it’s easy but takes awhile. That means everything you store on the Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders show up on other iCloud connected Macs, and in the Files app for iPhone and iPad. That can be very handy.
There you go. Five different but similar Mac backup systems. Four of them require an external disk drive or a network drive, but ChronoSync can also back up to online cloud services.
UPDATE – If advancing age brings lapses in memory, then I’m on may way to the December of my years. I forgot Arq. It’s running on my Mac now and does cloud backups to a variety of online sources.