Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac: The Online Appendixes Info about dozens of Mac backup products and services!

Welcome! If you want to compare features in Mac backup products and services, you’re in the right place. The content here is free to all, but it is associated with a commercial book, written by Joe Kissell and published by alt concepts inc. The book helps you figure out your best strategy for making backups in macOS, and then it covers all the details of set up, testing, maintenance, and restoration.

There are dozens of apps and services you can use to back up a Mac, and the list is constantly changing. 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. I also discuss the criteria you should consider when choosing backup software. But rather than list them all in the book, I’ve moved most of the details to this online appendix for easier updating. This appendix covers only consumer apps (not enterprise-oriented software or command-line tools).

Although I’ve tried to be thorough and accurate, I haven’t listed every single feature, nor do I rate or rank backup apps. However, I do make specific recommendations in Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac. I will update this page from time to time as features and prices change, and as errors are discovered.

Note: I include only apps that (a) are compatible with macOS 10.15 Catalina, and (b) show signs of ongoing development. (Most apps that work on Catalina also work on macOS 11 Big Sur, macOS 12 Monterey, and macOS 13 Ventura.)

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Most people use conventional external hard drives or SSDs to back up their Macs. These are available in nearly every conceivable combination of capacity and interface, and if that’s what you intend to use, you can skip this tab. However, some people need special hardware—for example, NAS devices (which let you back up multiple computers over a network without a dedicated backup serveer), pocket-sized portable drives, or encrypted drives. This tab lists some of those alternative hardware options.

Last updated: January 12, 2023

NAS Devices

If you want a NAS device for storing baackups, I suggest looking for one that supports Time Machine. Even if you don’t currently plan to use Time Machine for versioned backups, you may later appreciate having that option. Some examples of NAS devices that claim Time Machine support:

Alternative Hard Drive Options

You can buy an ordinary hard drive that plugs into your Mac with a USB or Thunderbolt cable. But you might be willing to pay extra for additional features, speed, or capacity; or you might prefer to pay less and buy components with which you can cobble together your own solution.

The following are just a few of your other hard drive options:

  • Build-your-own: Numerous companies sell Thunderbolt- or USB-equipped cases into which you can place your own drive mechanism. If you’re comfortable doing some minor tinkering and bargain hunting, you may be able to save a bit of money this way. (See the next item, also, for an alternative.)
  • Caseless connector kits: You don’t necessarily need a case to connect a bare drive mechanism to your Mac. Several companies offer adapters that connect various combinations of bare IDE or SATA drives directly to USB or Thunderbolt ports. Although you’ll have to go without the additional protection and ventilation that a case provides , you can save money and space with one of these. Examples include:
    • Newer Technology’s USB 3.0 Universal Drive Adapter, which connects any IDE or SATA drive to a USB 2.0 or 3.0 port and their Voyager, a quad-interface desktop dock for any 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA drive
    • CineRAID's CR-H232
  • Hot-swappable drive bay enclosures: Several companies sell hot-swappable Thunderbolt and USB hard drive assemblies—for example: You get a single case, power supply, and cable, to which you add one or more hard drives, each in a special carrier. You can pop out one drive and pop in another quickly, making it easy to rotate backups. But you pay quite a premium for that small convenience.
  • Multi-drive enclosures: Another option is enclosures containing two or more non-removable drive mechanisms configured as a RAID in order to appear as a single, larger volume. Examples include the OWC ThunderBay 4 and OWC ThunderBay 4 with SoftRAID XT, the LaCie Big RAID Storage products, and the Western Digital My Book Duo.
  • Pocket-sized hard drives: If you need to back up large amounts of data while traveling, consider a pocket-sized hard drive. These drives typically use the same 2.5-inch mechanisms that laptops do, and can often be powered through the Thunderbolt or USB cable, eliminating the need to carry a bulky AC adapter with you. Some examples:
    • Western Digital’s My Passport drives, which hold up to 5 TB and have USB 3.2 interfaces.
    • LaCie’s Mobile Drives, with USB 3 and USB-C, and capacities up to 5 TB.
    • The OWC Mercury On-the-Go Pro, OWC Elite Pro mini, OWC Envoy Pro FX, and OWC Express drives, sold by Other World Computing, are all bus-powered, portable drives, available with several different combinations of USB 2.0, USB 3.0, or USB 3.1 interfaces, and in capacities up to 4 TB. You can also buy an empty enclosure and add your own 2.5-inch drive.
    • Seagate has a wide range of portable drives with capacities up to 5 TB. Most have USB 3.0 interfaces.
  • Encrypted hard drives: But when you put a bootable duplicate on an external hard drive, you can’t use your backup software’s encryption feature; if the files have to be decrypted by software before the system can read them, you won’t be able to boot from that drive. Disk Utility in Lion and later can encrypt an external drive using the same underlying mechanism as FileVault 2, which means everything on the drive is encrypted, regardless of what backup software you use—and if you make a duplicate, it can still be bootable.

    Another way to get encrypted duplicates is to use a drive that features hardware encryption. Everything written to such a drive is encrypted automatically, and everything read from the drive is decrypted automatically, by circuitry in its enclosure; instead of typing in a password, you unlock the data by using a physical electronic key or smart card, swiping your finger on a built-in fingerprint reader, or entering a code on a keypad.

    Several manufacturers make such drives; they come in both full-size (3.5-inch) and pocket-sized (2.5-inch) models, with a variety of interfaces. They’re more expensive than standard drives, but they are an excellent investment if you store sensitive personal data. Examples include:

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