Set up a rock-solid backup strategy so that you can restore quickly and completely, no matter what catastrophe arises.

Take Control of
Backing Up Your Mac

Third Edition
Joe Kissell

Joe Kissell provides the advice you need to create a Mac backup strategy that protects your data and enables quick recovery. He compares backup software, services, and media to help you make the best choices. You’ll learn to set up, test, and maintain backups, plus how to restore files after a calamity!

All Take Control books are delivered in three ebook formats—PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle)—and can be read on nearly any device.


Note: This book is currently outdated and is not fully applicable to macOS 10.15 Catalina or later. We plan a major new edition of this book in the first half of 2021 that will be completely up to date for Catalina and Big Sur. Anyone who purchases the current version of the book now will get the new edition for free.

Creating and maintaining a solid backup plan is essential to anyone who uses a Mac, in order to prevent the loss of important data if disaster strikes—whether through hardware or software failure, theft, human error, or other mishap. In Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, Third Edition, tech expert Joe Kissell explains how to design a sensible backup strategy, choose and configure the best backup hardware and software for your needs, and understand how to make your backups as painless as possible. His advice is equally useful to those who have never had a backup system and those whose backup systems are in need of an update.

This book covers 10.9 Mavericks through 10.14 Mojave. It does not yet cover 10.15 Catalina or later (but we’re working on it).

Using this book, you’ll learn how to:

  • Design (or update) the ideal backup system: If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll find all the information necessary to assemble a reliable and easy-to-use backup system. If you’re updating an existing system, you’ll learn about what’s new in hardware, software, and online services that might affect the way you back up your Mac in the future.
  • Choose backup software: Apple’s Time Machine is both free and easy to use, but it’s not the best choice for everyone, and even if you do use Time Machine, you’ll certainly want to supplement it with other tools. You’ll learn about key features to look for in a backup app and find tips on using several popular tools. You’ll also discover the pros and cons of cloud backup services, and get help choosing the right one. (An online appendix covers nearly 100 apps and services.)
  • Shop for hardware: For most users, hard drives make an excellent backup destination, but the range of options (sizes, interfaces, speeds, and more) can be bewildering. Joe helps you find the best backup hardware, whether it’s individual hard drives, RAIDs, Drobo storage devices, Time Capsules, or NAS devices.
  • Make and maintain backups: Once you’ve selected hardware and software, you’ll need to know how to make your first backup, set up your backups to run unattended, and test them regularly to make sure they’re working as they should. This includes both versioned backups (which contain old file versions and deleted files) and bootable clones. And, you’ll learn about strategies for keeping extra backups offsite.
  • Operate Time Machine: If you choose Time Machine for versioned backups, you’ll learn how to back up and restore individual files, app-specific data (such as contacts), and even an entire disk. You’ll also discover why and how to encrypt Time Machine backups and what to do if Time Machine misbehaves.
  • Deal with unusual backup needs: If you deal with exceptionally large files (such as audio and video files), spend a lot of time on the road away from your usual backup hardware, run Windows on your Mac, or rely on cloud services to store essential data, you’ll want to take extra (or different) steps to make sure everything is safely backed up.
  • Manage your media: What happens when a backup drive fills up, or becomes so old that you worry about its future reliability? What if you want to archive older files for posterity, but not necessarily maintain them as part of your daily backups? Joe explains how to deal with media management tasks such as these.
  • Recover lost data: Backing up data can be easy, but restoring it is often more challenging. When you discover that data is missing—whether due to a disk error, theft, or a simple mistake—you need to know the exact steps needed to recover it and get back to work as soon as possible.

Since it was first released, this book has undergone numerous revisions, and has had other titles—most recently, Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide, Second Edition. This new edition of the book brings it back under the Take Control banner, and includes many changes that reflect the latest information under macOS 10.14 Mojave. (For more details about what has changed, see the What’s New section below.)

What happened to Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide?
Long story short, this is an updated version of the same book, with a different title. The Joe On Tech book started out as Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, and now it’s back home in the Take Control catalog.

Joe Kissell

About Joe Kissell

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control books. He also runs Interesting Thing of the Day and is a contributing editor of TidBITS and a senior contributor to Macworld.

What’s New in Version 3.1

Version 3.1 is a minor revision that brings this book up to date with macOS 10.14 Mojave and various changes in hardware and software. Along with numerous small edits, this version contains the following significant changes:

  • Added a lot of new information in What’s New in Mac Backups, including mentions of the end of Prosoft Data Backup and of Apple’s Time Capsules, the beginning of Retrospect Solo, continuing changes related to APFS, and things owners of new Macs equipped with T2 chips will need to know about backups
  • Included more information about snapshots in APFS; see the note in Snapshots and File Lists and changes to the sidebar Local Snapshots
  • Removed various mentions of Data Backup and other products that are no longer available
  • Added information in Retrospect and Retrospect Tips about the new Retrospect Solo app
  • Made several mentions of Jeff Carlson’s new (and highly relevant) book Take Control of Your Digital Storage
  • Updated Creating a RAID with SoftRAID to discuss issues relating to APFS volumes
  • Stripped most of the discussion of Time Capsules from Network Storage Devices
  • Updated Configure a Drive in El Capitan or Later to cover cases in which APFS is a suitable format
  • Added a sidebar about putting APFS bootable duplicates on HFS Plus volumes
  • Included notes in Test Your Duplicate and Use Your Bootable Duplicate about booting Macs with T2 chips from external drives
  • Gave a different example of a cloud backup service in HIPAA and Cloud Backups
  • Added a potential downside to Backblaze in Self-Contained Cloud Backup Services

Besides bringing this book back into the Take Control brand, the third edition (version 3.0) featured the following major changes from Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide, version 2.1:

  • Updated the entire book for compatibility with macOS 10.13 High Sierra
  • Removed coverage of CrashPlan, except for the explanation of why I no longer recommend it
  • Removed coverage of FireWire (which hasn’t been seen on new Macs in many years) and eSATA (which was never a built-in option), while saying more about Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C
  • Updated information on various cloud storage and backup services
  • Expanded Factors to Reevaluate to cover Optimized Storage (in 10.12 Sierra and later) and network backups
  • Added a new chapter, Choose Local or Network Backups, to explore the relative merits of using a hard drive connected directly to your Mac versus a NAS, Time Capsule, or Mac server
  • Removed coverage of Synk, which has been discontinued
  • Totally reorganized, updated, and expanded the Choose Backup Hardware chapter; new topics include Decide on a Storage Configuration and Evaluate Network Storage Options
  • Added a sidebar Keep Time Machine Backups Separate from Other Data
  • Updated the Configure and Use Time Machine chapter to cover High Sierra changes (such as the new topic Use a Mac as a Time Machine Server), add advice, and remove obsolete information
  • Updated the tips for using Arq, ChronoSync, and Data Backup in Use Other Versioned Backup Software
  • Updated the instructions for using Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper! in Create and Use a Bootable Duplicate
  • Updated Self-Contained Cloud Backup Services with new information on Acronis True Image and IDrive, and updated information about Backblaze and DollyDrive
  • Updated BYOS (Bring Your Own Software) Internet Backups with current pricing, plus information on Wasabi
  • Updated Back Up Data from the Cloud with current details about several providers
  • Read Me First
  • Introduction
  • Mac Backups Quick Start
  • Plan a Backup Strategy
  • Reassess Your Backup Strategy
  • Choose a Versioned Backup Program
  • Choose Backup Hardware
  • Prepare Your Hard Drive
  • Configure and Use Time Machine
  • Use Other Versioned Backup Software
  • Create a Bootable Duplicate
  • Store an Extra Backup Offsite
  • What to Do When Disaster Strikes
  • Consider Special Backup Needs
  • Manage Your Media
  • Consider Special Backup Needs
  • Teach This Book
  • About This Book
  • Joe Discusses the New Editions of His “Mac Fitness” Books

    Posted by Joe Kissell on December 29, 2017

    I joined Chuck Joiner on MacVoices (audio and video) to discuss the new editions of Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, Take Control of Maintaining Your Mac, Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac, and Take Control of Speeding Up Your Mac—including their transition from Joe On Tech books back to the Take Control world:

    MacVoices #17227: Joe Kissell Releases Four Take Control Titles Updated for High Sierra

    Mavericks and Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac

    Posted by Joe Kissell on February 24, 2014

    Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, 2nd Edition was published a few months before the release of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, and a number of people have asked whether the book is still up to date, or whether anything about Mavericks changes the backup story. The short answer is: The book is still fine. You can follow all the instructions in the book, even if you’re running Mavericks.

    However, a few facts have changed that you may want to be aware of:

    • Mavericks and Time Machine: Although Time Machine in Mavericks functions almost identically to the way it did previously, the menu bar icon no longer spins when a backup is in progress; it only displays a tiny triangle below the point of the circular arrow—the subtlest indication that a backup is occurring. In addition, Time Machine no longer displays Time Capsule disks as mounted drives in the Finder during regular backups.
    • AirPort Disks: I say on pages 41, 43, and 73 that you can’t use Time Machine to back up your Mac to an AirPort Disk—that is, an external USB disk connected to an AirPort Extreme Base Station. But now you can, if, and only if, you have one of the new, tall, 802.11ac models of the AirPort Extreme released in June 2013 (shortly after the book was published). The older, flatter models still don’t support Time Machine. (However, all Time Capsule models, including the old flat ones and the new tall ones, do support Time Machine backups to an external USB disk.) You can read more about this in Adam Engst’s TidBITS article Use Time Machine with the 802.11ac AirPort Extreme Base Station.
    • James Pond: In several places in the book, I mention James Pond’s fabulous Apple OS X and Time Machine Tips site. The site is still there and remains a valuable resource, but James Pond died in September 2013 at the age of 70. I was very sorry to hear of this.
    • Backupify: This backup service, which I mention on p. 172, has changed its focus to be strictly business-oriented, and although it can still back up Gmail, it now supports only Google Apps accounts. The pricing structure has changed, as well.

    I do have a (short) list of other topics I’d like to cover in more detail or clarify in some way in a future version of the book, but they aren’t specific to Mavericks and also not particularly urgent. Very tentatively, I imagine I might update the book to version 2.1 after the next version of OS X (10.10?) is released, presumably late in 2014—but we’ll have to see what changes Apple has in store for us and when.

    February 16, 2021—This book is currently outdated and is not fully applicable to macOS 10.15 Catalina or later. We plan a major new edition of this book in early 2021 that will be completely up to date for Catalina and Big Sur. Anyone who purchases the current version of the book now will get the new edition for free.


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