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Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac
by Joe Kissell
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Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac: The Online Appendixes

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.

In this section, you'll find interesting features that didn’t fit in any of the other categories, but which may be extremely important to you, depending on your needs: compression, encryption, scheduling, and the like. For a description of what a feature means, click any column heading.

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 Compres-
sion
Encryp-
tion
Restore Feature Scheduling Can Wake Up/Turn On Mac Scanning Aid Metadata Support Notes
[a] Only for disk images. (In general, any backup program that can use Finder-mounted disk images can use compressed and/or encrypted images.)
Arq 2.8.2 Yes Yes Yes min once/hour A+
Backblaze 2.0.7 Yes see note Automatic on file change, once per day, or manual Dynamically detects changed files C To restore files, you can download a Zip file or request a DVD or hard drive with your data. In all cases, though, you must manually put files back where they belong.
Backup Manager Pro 1.0.2 [a] [a] Yes min once/min Yes C
Backuplist+ 8.0.4 Yes min once/day A+
BackupRight Pro Yes Yes Yes min once/day C Can restore files from a Web browser. Unable to copy some of the metadata test files.
BounceBack Professional 8.2 Yes min once/day Unable to test
BRU Producer’s Edition 3.0 Yes Yes min once/hour A
bruCLONE 1.3.0 None Unable to test
Carbon Copy Cloner 3.5.1 [a] min once/hour Yes A+
ChronoSync 4.3.4 Limited min once/min wake only A
Clone X 4.2.2 Yes None C
CopyCatX 5.1 No (see note) None Unable to test
CrashPlan 3.2.1 Yes Yes Yes min once/day Dynamically detects changed files A
CrashPlan+ 3.2.1 Yes Yes Yes Automatic; min once/minute Dynamically detects changed files A
Data Backup 3.1.3 Yes Yes Yes min once/min Yes C
Déjà Vu 4.2 min once/day C
Depositit Yes Yes Yes min once/hour Unable to test
DiskTools Pro Yes Unable to test
Dmailer Backup Yes Yes Automatic on file change Dynamically detects changed files Not tested
Dolly Clone min once/hour Not tested
Dropbox 1.5.10 Yes Automatic on file change Dynamically detects changed files C
DV Backup Standard 1.4.5 Yes Yes min once/day Unable to test Repeatedly crashed during metadata testing.
ElephantDesktop 4.8.2 Yes Automatic on file change Not tested
FoldersSynchronizer X 4.1 min once/min C
ForeverSave 1.1.5 Yes Automatic when switching applications, or min once/second Not tested
Get Backup Pro 2.5 Yes Yes Yes min once/day This version not tested; version 2.3.2: B
IBackup for Mac 2.0.0 Yes Yes Automatic on file change or min once/hour C (see note) Metadata score based on results for IDrive, which uses the same software.
IDrive Online Backup 2.0.0 Yes Yes Automatic on file change or min once/hour C
Instant Backup 1.7.1 Yes Yes A+
Intego Backup Express 1.2 [a] [a] Yes min once/min Not tested
Jungle Disk 3.16 Yes Yes Yes Automatic on file change or min once/5 min wake only Dynamically detects changed files A+
MacTuneUp Unable to test
Memeo Backup 2.5.120 Yes Yes Automatic on file change Dynamically detects changed files C
Memopal 1.0 Yes Yes Automatic on file change Dynamically detects changed files C
MimMac 1.10 None B
MozyHome 2.7.0.526 Yes Yes Yes Automatic after file change when computer is idle, and/or scheduled, min once/day Dynamically detects changed files C Unable to copy some of the metadata test files.
Norton Online Backup Yes Yes Yes ? ? Not tested
NTI Shadow 5.0.0.50 Automatic on file change, or min once/min Dynamically detects changed files This version not tested; version 4.x: C
Offsite Backup Solutions Yes Yes Yes min once/day Dynamically detects changed files C Unable to copy some of the metadata test files.
Parachute 1.1 min once/hour Not tested
Personal Backup 10.6.5 (part of Internet Security Barrier X6) [a] [a] Yes min once/min Yes B
Prolifix Yes Yes Yes min once/day Dynamically detects changed files C Unable to copy some of the metadata test files.
QRecall 1.2.1 Yes Yes min once/min Yes Uses FSEvents A
QuickBack
(part of SpeedTools Utilities 3 Pro)
[a] [a] min once/day Unable to test No demo version available.
Retrospect Desktop 9.0.2 Yes Yes Yes min once/hour; schedule-
free operation requires use of Proactive Backup feature
Yes A
Rhinoback 5.5.5.3 Yes Yes Yes min once/day Dynamically detects changed files Unable to test
RipCord 1.0b15c10 Yes min once/day Not tested
SilverKeeper 2.0.2 min once/day wake B
SmartBackup 3.3 Yes Yes min once/day (see note) B Uses iCal for scheduling.
SpiderOak 4.7.9948 Yes Automatic on file change Dynamically detects changed files C Also lets you selectively and securely share items you’ve backed up.
Stellar Drive Clone Yes None Not tested
SugarSync 1.9.71 Yes Yes Automatic on file change Dynamically detects changed files C
Super Flexible File Synchronizer
Standard Edition 5.67
Yes Automatic on file change or min once/sec Dynamically detects changed files A
Super Flexible File Synchronizer
Professional Edition 5.67
Yes Yes Yes min once/sec A
SuperDuper 2.7 [a] [a] min once/min Scans and copies in a single pass A+
Sync!Sync!Sync! 5.0.2 Yes min once/day C
Synchronize Pro X 6.5.1 Automatic on file change, or min once/min Yes Optionally uses FSEvents B
Synk Standard 7.0.12 Limited Live, continuous sync, or min once/hour Uses FSEvents B
Synk Pro 7.0.12 Limited Live, continuous sync, or min once/hour Uses FSEvents B
TechTool Pro 6.0.4 [a] None Not tested
Time Machine 10.7 only Automatic; min once/hour Uses FSEvents B
Tri-Backup 6.3.0 Yes Yes Yes min once/min C
Tri-Backup Pro 6.3.0 Yes Yes Yes min once/min C
Warehouse 1.1 min once/hour Not tested
Wuala 1.0 ("Hottingen") Yes Live, continuous sync, or min once/hour Not tested
Xupport 3.6.0 [a] None A

Synchronization and Copying Products
AASync 2.1.6 None Yes C
ArchiveMac 1.2.7 Yes C
arSync 0.4.1 None C
Carbonite 1.1.0 Yes Yes min once/day Dynamically detects changed files C
Compare Folders 3.4.3 Limited None Not tested
DV Backup Lite 1.4.4 Yes Yes None Unable to test
EasyRsync 0.1 min once/day C
FilesAnywhere (FA Sync 1.3.1.4) min once/hour C
FileSync 2.2 min once/minute Unable to test
Folder Backup 3.1 None A+
Get Backup Freeware 2.5 Yes Limited min once/day B
GoodSync for Mac 1.3.4.0 min once/min pre-analyzes using timestamps Not tested
GrabBack 1.4.1 Yes Limited None C
iBackup 2011 (7.4) Yes Yes min once/day A
iMsafe 2.0 min once/day C
LaCie 1-Click Backup 1.2.1 None C
MagicMirror 1.41 None Unable to test
Match 1.3 None C
Snap Backup 4.4 None Unable to test
StuffIt Archive Manager 14.0.0
(part of StuffIt Deluxe)
Yes Yes Yes min once/day Unable to test Unable to copy some of the metadata test files.
Synchronize X Plus 3.9.1 None C
Time Warp Yes Yes min once/day Not tested
Twin 1.5.1 Yes Yes Yes min once/hour Unable to test
Volume Snapshot for Mac OS X Not tested

Feature Explanations for This Table

Compression: When a backup application compresses your files, they take up less room on your storage media—usually a good thing, as that reduces your costs and lets you store backups for longer periods of time before having to reuse your media. Compression is even more important when data is traveling over the Internet, because compressed data takes less time to send, and online storage costs are often much higher than the cost of local media. On the other hand, compressing files taxes your computer’s CPU, RAM, and disk, and having compressed files may add an extra complication when it comes time to restore data.

Encryption: As long as your backup media is under your physical control, encryption isn’t especially important. But if you store backup media offsite in any fashion, or if anyone else (a thief, say, or a nosy coworker) can get access to your backups, you might prefer that they not be able to see all your data. Some backup software can encrypt all the data on your backup media so that you won’t risk your private information falling into the wrong hands.

Restore Feature: A restore feature simply means that, with a button click or menu command, you can instruct your backup program to return files that you previously backed up to their original location (or better yet, another location). Quite a few programs expect you to simply switch the “source” and “destination” and, essentially, redo your backup. That’s not too bad when you’re restoring all your files or just a single file, but what if you’re restoring a bunch of files from different folders all at once? Wouldn’t you like your backup software to be smart enough to put them all back where they belong, and save you the tedium of manually configuring everything? That’s why a restore feature is a good idea. It’s most important with backup programs that store multiple versions of your files, because otherwise, sifting through a lot of different file versions by hand is going to be a real pain.

Scheduling: Traditionally, most backup programs have used a fixed schedule: you set a time (once a day, twice a week, or whatever—maybe in the middle of the night) and the software does its thing only at that time. For software that uses a fixed schedule, this column lists the most frequent option available (such as once per hour or once per day). Increasingly, though, backup programs offer some form of automatic operation (either by default or as an option), such as backing up files as soon as they change or running in the background every hour. In general, if a program can run once an hour or more frequently and it offers some sort of scanning aid (see just ahead) so that it needn’t do a full scan with each run, you can think of it as being effectively schedule-free. On the other hand, some backup programs don’t support any kind of scheduling—they run only when you activate them manually.

Can Wake Up/Turn On Computer: For backup software that runs on a fixed schedule (once a day, say), it’s handy for it to be able to wake up your computer if it happens to be asleep then, or even turn it on if it’s off. These capabilities, though rare, save you from worrying that a schedule won’t run properly because your computer didn’t happen to be on or awake at the right time.

Scanning Aid: Some programs use Mac OS X’s FSEvents (file system events) framework to find out almost instantly which files have changed since their last run—dramatically reducing the time necessary to scan all your files manually each time your backups run and, in some cases, enabling continuous, real-time backups as your files change. A number of programs watch your file system for changes (“Dynamically detects changed files”) but don’t publicize whether they use FSEvents to do so. And some backup software scans and copies in a single pass, arguably a more efficient approach (depending on your needs) than scanning all your files and then making another full pass to copy them.

Metadata Support: Even though a file may appear to copy correctly, some important information about the file may be missing or incorrect—things like ownership, permissions, modification date, Finder flags, access control lists, and many others (collectively known as “metadata”). Theoretically, backup software should copy every piece of metadata perfectly, though in practice, many types of metadata are so insignificant or seldom used that no harm is done if they’re missing in your backups. Faithful copying of metadata is most crucial when making a bootable duplicate.

I used a tool called Backup Bouncer to test metadata support for as many of these programs as I could. Backup Bouncer checks a great many attributes (though not every kind of metadata), but it divides its results according to how significant the developer feels each one is: “critical,” “important,” and “other.” Instead of listing all the gory details here, I’ve used the Backup Bouncer results to assign a “grade,” as follows:

  • A+: The software passes ALL of Backup Bouncer’s tests perfectly.
  • A: All “critical” and “important” attributes are copied correctly.
  • B: All “critical” attributes are copied correctly, but at least one “important” attribute is not copied correctly.
  • C: At least one “critical” attribute is not copied correctly.

Although metadata is in some cases very important, I urge you to take these test results (especially the “C” grade) with a grain of salt, for two reasons. First, because of the way Backup Bouncer groups its results, a fairly insignificant problem can sometimes result in a failed test in a “critical” category. (For example, if a single file were copied with an incorrect Finder label, that would result in a failing grade for the “critical” Finder Flags test, though in real life such an error might not even be noticed, let alone cause any problems.) And second, depending on the way a given backup program is designed and used, it may be irrelevant that certain attributes (such as file ownership) aren’t always copied correctly. And the difference between an “A+” and an “A” is effectively meaningless. So basically: don’t freak if your favorite program gets a less-than-perfect score—but do consider contacting its developer to suggest that they look into using Backup Bouncer to improve its metadata support in the future.

Where you see “Unable to test” in this column, it could mean any of several things: the software may not be compatible with the version of Mac OS X on my test machine; it may be designed in such a way that it can’t work with Backup Bouncer’s test suite; or I may not have had access to a version of the program suitable for testing.