Info about nearly 100 Mac backup apps and a Retrospect 6.x primer!
by Joe Kissell
Welcome! If you want to compare features in Mac backup apps or get help with Retrospect 6.x, you are in the right place. The content here is free to all, but it is associated with a commerical ebook, written by Joe Kissell and published by TidBITS Publishing Inc. The ebook helps you figure out your best strategy for making backups in Mac OS X, and then it covers all the details of set up, testing, maintenance, and restoration.
There are nearly 100 Mac OS X programs one can use to back up a hard disk. On an almost daily basis, I find updates and entirely new backup programs, and developers seem intent on inventing entirely new ways of approaching the age-old problem of keeping your data safe. In Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, I go into great detail about developing a backup strategy, selecting media, setting up a backup system, and recovering data when the need arises. And I also discuss the criteria you should consider when choosing backup software. But there’s no way I could keep the book even approximately up to date with details of every Mac backup program, so instead I’ve listed them in this online appendix. My intention is to update it regularly so that it will be a reasonably comprehensive and reliable resource.
One of the first questions you may ask about a backup program is whether it can store your files where you want them to go—the destination, sometimes called a “target.” This could be a hard disk, a recordable DVD, another Mac on your local network, or a server on the Internet, among other examples. In most cases, I prefer to use an external hard drive as a destination, but other options are sometimes worthwhile. For example, recordable optical discs are useful for inexpensive long-term storage or backups while on the road, and online storage services provide both convenience and security (though often at the cost of a rather slow speed). This table shows which programs can back up to which kinds of destinations, and gives a few related details. As always, click a column heading for more information about the feature being described.
Note: The top portion of the table lists programs that offer bootable duplicates, versioned backups, or both. The bottom portion of the table lists other backup, synchronization, and file copying tools. Enterprise-grade software is not shown here.
Last updated: October 2, 2012
|Product Name||Hard Disk||Disk Image||CD/
|Add Disc Data||Media Span-
|Other Online Storage||Client-Server||Peer-
|[a] Only if created by user.
[b] Only if mounted in the Finder.
[c] Can back up to disk images on servers, but not directly to server volumes.
|Backup Manager Pro 1.0.2||Yes||Yes||Yes||CDs only||Yes||Yes||Yes||FTP
|BounceBack Professional 8.2||Yes|
|BRU Producer’s Edition 3.0||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes||Yes||Designed mainly for backups to tape. Also supports SAN and XSAN.|
|bruCLONE 1.3.0||Yes||Doesn’t recognize disk images as source or destination.|
|Carbon Copy Cloner 3.5.1||Yes||Yes||[b]||Yes||see note||Can back up to a remote volume, if authentication package has been installed on that computer.|
|Clone X 4.2.2||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes|
|CrashPlan 3.2.1||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Can back up to a local hard drive or to another computer running CrashPlan.|
|CrashPlan+ 3.2.1||Yes||Yes||Proprietary (see note)||Yes||Yes||Can back up to a local hard drive, to another computer running CrashPlan, or to the company’s online storage.|
|Data Backup 3.1.3||Yes||[a]||Yes||CDs only||Yes||Yes|
|Déjà Vu 4.2||Yes||[a]||[b]||see note||Yes||Yes||Toast includes a version of Déjà Vu that supports media spanning.|
|DV Backup Standard 1.4.5||Yes||Yes||Primarily for backing up to DV camcorder tapes.|
|FoldersSynchronizer X 4.1||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes||Yes|
|Get Backup Pro 2.5||Yes||[a]||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|IBackup for Mac 2.0.0||Proprietary|
|IDrive Online Backup 2.0.0||Proprietary|
|Instant Backup 1.7.1||Yes||Yes||[b]||Yes||FTP||All backups go onto a disk image.|
|Intego Backup Express 1.2||Yes||Yes||Yes||CDs only||Yes||Yes||Yes||FTP
|Jungle Disk 3.16||S3
|Memeo Backup 2.5.120||Yes||[b]||Yes|
|Norton Online Backup||Proprietary|
|NTI Shadow 126.96.36.199||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes|
|Offsite Backup Solutions||Yes||Yes||Proprietary|
|Personal Backup 10.6.5 (part of Internet Security Barrier X6)||Yes||Yes||Yes||CDs only||Yes||Yes||Yes||FTP
(part of SpeedTools Utilities 3 Pro)
|Retrospect Desktop 9.0.2||Yes||[a]||Yes||Yes||Yes||WebDAV||Yes|
|Proprietary||Also lets you selectively and securely share items you’ve backed up.|
|Stellar Drive Clone||Yes||Yes||[a]|
|Super Flexible File Synchronizer
Standard Edition 5.67
|Super Flexible File Synchronizer
Professional Edition 5.67
|SuperDuper 2.7||Yes||Yes||Yes [c]||Yes|
|Synchronize Pro X 6.5.1||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes||Yes|
|Synk Standard 7.0.12||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes||Yes||see note||Supports live synchronization between two Macs, optionally including versioned backups of changed/deleted files. Not quite the same as peer-to-peer backup, but it could serve a similar purpose.|
|Synk Pro 7.0.12||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes||Yes||see note||Supports n-way synchronization. Also supports live synchronization between two Macs, optionally including versioned backups of changed/deleted files. Not quite the same as peer-to-peer backup, but it could serve a similar purpose.|
|TechTool Pro 6.0.4||Yes||Yes|
|see note||When used with a Time Capsule or another Mac, Time Machine can connect Automatically to the network device without mounting it in the Finder—though it does mount a disk image Automatically.|
|Tri-Backup 6.3.0||Yes||Yes||Yes||see note||Yes||Yes||Backups can span discs, but individual files can’t.|
|Tri-Backup Pro 6.3.0||Yes||Yes||Yes||see note||Yes||Yes||FTP||Backups can span discs, but individual files can’t.|
|Wuala 1.0 ("Hottingen")||Proprietary
|see note||Although you can optionally share storage on your hard disk with other Wuala users, you can't choose which users have access to your space (and in any case, each person's files are split into chunks and stored in multiple locations). So although this superficially resembles peer-to-peer backup, it's not quite the same thing.|
Synchronization and Copying Products
|ArchiveMac 1.2.7||Yes, see note||Yes||Supports archiving to Blu-ray discs as well.|
|Compare Folders 3.4.3||[a]||[b]||Yes|
|DV Backup Lite 1.4.4||Primarily for backing up to DV camcorder tapes.|
|FilesAnywhere (FA Sync 188.8.131.52)||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes||Proprietary
|Folder Backup 3.1||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||All backups go onto a disk image.|
|Get Backup Freeware 2.5||Yes||[a]||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|GoodSync for Mac 184.108.40.206||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes||Yes||FTP
|iBackup 2011 (7.4)||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes||Yes||WebDAV (see note)||WebDAV volumes must already be mounted in the Finder|
|LaCie 1-Click Backup 1.2.1||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes|
|Snap Backup 4.4||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes|
|StuffIt Archive Manager 14.0.0
(part of StuffIt Deluxe)
|Synchronize X Plus 3.9.1||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes||Yes|
|Volume Snapshot for Mac OS X||Yes||[a]||[b]||Yes|
Disk Image: Disk images are useful as containers that can organize, compress, and/or encrypt backups, and sometimes divide them into chunks of specific sizes (for later burning onto CD/DVD, for example). Some backup programs (see the Notes column) always store backups in disk images, though that image may itself be located on various other media. Some programs optionally create disk images in lieu of storing “raw” files directly on the media. And many can store files on disk images only if you’ve manually created them using Disk Utility and mounted in the Finder (footnote [a]), though that strikes me as more hassle than I'd want to endure on a regular basis.
CD/DVD: Some backup programs can write directly to your Mac’s SuperDrive or other optical drive. Others have “built-in” support for optical media in the sense that you can choose your optical drive as a destination directly within the program, but the software still relies on Mac OS X’s disc burning mechanisms (and inherits its limitations). Both of the foregoing categories merit a “Yes” in this column. Many backup programs, though (marked with footnote [b]), can save files to an optical disc in a roundabout way: you put a disc in, mount it in the Finder, choose it as your backup destination, and then, after the backup has run, use the Finder to burn it.
Add Disc Data: Although rare, a few programs have either multisession support (for writing multiple sessions of data to a single recordable disc, even if it’s not rewritable) or packet-writing support (in which the program writes data directly to the disc in small segments rather than in full-blown sessions). In some cases, you can get the equivalent of multisession support even if your software doesn’t natively support it by using a utility called BurnAgain FS from freeridecoding (15 €—about $23).
Network Servers (Finder-Mounted): Most backup programs can save your files to any volume that’s mounted in the Finder—including other Macs using Personal File Sharing (AFP), PCs sharing disks with Samba (SMB), and WebDAV servers. However, beware: the fact that your backup program lets you store your files on one of these servers doesn’t guarantee that your data will be stored intact. In particular, some non-Mac network volumes are likely to munge resource forks and other Mac file metadata unless the backup program takes special pains to enclose your data in a disk image or other archive file to preserve all those bits and pieces.
Automount: Most network servers require you to enter a user name and password to mount them. Some backup programs can store your login credentials for the backup server and automatically mount it for you when your backups run, saving you the hassle of doing this manually beforehand.
Other Online Storage: If you have an account on a network server that uses protocols such as FTP, SFTP, SSH, or WebDAV, you can to back up your files directly to them by using a program that supports the protocol you need. (Note that FTP is an inherently insecure protocol. Don’t use it for backups unless the files you’re sending across the network have already been encrypted, or your session is protected with a VPN connection.) Amazon.com’s S3 (Simple Storage Service) also provides inexpensive, secure file storage on Amazon.com’s servers. But in order to actually get at your storage space, you need to use special software that knows how to communicate directly with S3. A few Mac backup applications can do exactly that. If you want to use a backup program that doesn’t support S3 directly, you may be able to run Jungle Disk (which can mount S3 storage space as a network volume) and then instruct your backup program to use the virtual S3 drive as a destination. In addition, numerous online storage and backup services have proprietary systems that can be accessed only with their own software.
Client-Server: In this table, when I say “Client-Server,” I mean the following: You install a program (the backup server) on a computer on your local network, and then you install another program (the backup client—which in some cases is identical to the server software) on your other computers. The clients connect to the server without requiring that any volumes be mounted in the Finder on either end, and all files are backed up onto a drive attached to the server. Only a few of the programs listed here function in this type of client-server mode, though many of them can back up files over a network in other ways.
Peer-to-Peer: Meet Ann and Bob. Ann backs up her files over the network (local or remote) onto a drive attached to Bob's computer, while Bob backs up his files over the network onto a drive attached to Ann’s computer. This sort of arrangement is called peer-to-peer or mutual backups. Although many programs can be coaxed into producing this end result, a few are explicitly designed to do this easily, without requiring separate client and server software or complicated configurations on each computer.