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 update this page from time to time as features and prices change, and as errors are discovered.
Note: Starting with the April 25, 2021 update of this page, 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.) I now also indicate macOS compatibility going only as far back as 10.14 Mojave, even though many of these apps also support older versions of macOS.
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All the backup apps on this tab can store data on local media (such as an external hard drive or SSD). These apps offer either or both of the two crucial backup varieties—a bootable duplicate (an exact copy of your entire startup disk that you can use to start your Mac if your main disk fails) or versioned backups (copies of your files as they appeared at many points in time). Some of these products also appear on the Online Services tab.
Last updated: April 25, 2021
|Scheduling||Can Wake Up/
Turn On Mac
|Acronis True Image||2021 (25.8.39229)||$49.99/year for software only; subscriptions including cloud storage start at $89.99 per year (for 500 GB)||Yes||Yes||10.14–11||Windows||Yes||Yes (Advanced or Premium only)||Windows only||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/hour, but continuous for cloud backups||Real-time tracking||Can store full images in the cloud, bandwidth and data caps permitting.|
|Arq||7.5.3||$49.99; cloud storage extra||No||Yes||10.14–11||Windows||Yes||Yes||Amazon Drive, S3 (or compatible), and Glacier; Backblaze B2; Dropbox; Filebase; Google Drive and Google Cloud Storage; OneDrive; Polycloud, SharePoint; Wasabi; SFTP; local, network, and NAS folders||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/hour|
|Carbon Copy Cloner||5.1.26||$39.99||Yes||Yes (APFS)||10.14–11||Yes||Yes||See note.||Yes||Yes (APFS)||Yes||Yes (APFS)||[b]||[b]||Yes (APFS)||Min. once/hour||Yes||Features marked as (APFS) apply only with APFS source and destination volumes. Client-server backups possible if Public Key Authentication (PKA) key pair has been installed on the remote Mac.|
|ChronoSync||4.9.13||$49.99||Yes||Yes||10.14–11||Yes||Yes||Yes||Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, SFTP, Wasabi||Yes||Yes||Limited||Yes||Yes||Limited||Min. once/min||wake only||SmartScan algorithm||Some features require ChronoAgent, an additional $14.99 purchase.|
|ChronoSync Express||1.3.6||$24.99||No||Yes||10.14–11||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Limited||Yes||Yes||Limited||Min. once/min||No||A somewhat limited version of ChronoSync that operates only on items in your home folder.|
|CloudBacko||18.104.22.168||Home version: free; Lite version: $25; Pro version: $99; cloud storage extra||No||Yes||10.14–10.15||Windows, Linux||Yes||Yes||Amazon S3, Dropbox, FTP/SFTP, Google Cloud Storage, Google Drive, Microsoft Azure, OneDrive, OpenStack, Rackspace Cloud Files, Wasabi, many others||No||No||See note.||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/day. See note.||Can spread backup data across multiple cloud destinations. Home and Lite versions have limited control over pruning; Pro version offers complete control. Home version has no scheduling (manual backups only). Uses (and includes) Java, and has a pretty ugly, un-Mac-like user interface.|
|CloudBerry Backup||3.1||Free version with limited features; $29.99 Pro version||No||Yes||10.14-11||Windows, Linux||Yes||Yes||Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier, Backblaze B2, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Storage, Wasabi, others||No||No||Yes||Pro version only||Pro version only||Yes||Min. once/minute|
|DollyDrive||5.85.0||Prices (for online storage) range from $5/month for 500 GB to $25/month for 5 TB.||Yes (see note)||Yes||10.14–11||iOS||Yes||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Syncing (Dolly Space) is continuous; for backups, min. once/hour||Dynamic||Support for duplicates on Catalina and later is unclear.|
|Duplicacy Web Edition||1.5.0||Personal license, $20 for first computer and $10 for each additional (price drops after first year); Commercial license, $50 per computer||No||Yes||?||Windows, Linux||Yes||Yes||Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Cloud Storage, OneDrive, Wasabi, SFTP, others||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Duplicati||22.214.171.124||Free (donations requested; online storage extra)||No||Yes||?||Windows, Linux||Yes||Yes||Amazon Drive and S3, Backblaze B2, Box, FTP, Google Drive, OneDrive, Rackspace, SFTP, SSH, WebDAV, others||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/second|
|Get Backup Pro||3.6.3||$19.99||Yes||Yes||10.14–11||Yes||Yes||Yes||Limited||Limited||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/15 minutes|
|11.6.4||Free version backs up only 100 files; paid version, $25.95 per year||No||Yes||10.14–11||Windows||Yes||Yes||Amazon Drive, FTP, Google Drive, SFTP, OneDrive, S3, WebDAV, others||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Automatic on file change or min. once/minute|
|Mac Backup Guru||6.8.2||$29.00||Yes||Yes||10.14–10.15||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Min. once/day||No||Scanning||U|
(part of Mac Premium
|10.9||$69.99; 3-user Family Pack, $94.99||Yes||Yes||10.14–11||Yes||Yes||Yes||FTP, SFTP||Yes||Yes||Yes (see note)||Yes||Yes||Yes||[b]||[b]||Yes||Min. once/min||Yes||Uses hard links for snapshots; incremental updates function as their own snapshots|
|QRecall||2.2.12||$40.00||Yes||Yes||10.14–11||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Limited||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Automatic on file change or min. once/min||Yes||Dynamic|
|Retrospect Desktop||126.96.36.199||$119, or $9.99 per month||Yes||Yes||10.14–11||Windows, Linux||Yes||Yes||Yes||Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier, Backblaze B2, Dropbox, Google Cloud Storage, Wasabi, WebDAV, others||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (see note)||File level only||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/hour; schedule-free operation requires use of ProactiveAI feature||Yes||Dynamic||Includes a block-level incremental backup option, which, when enabled, copies only file deltas after the initial backup.|
|Retrospect Solo||188.8.131.52||$49 one-time purchase, or $3.99 per month or $39 per year||Yes||Yes||10.14–11||Windows, Linux||Yes||NAS volumes||Yes||Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier, Backblaze B2, Dropbox, Google Cloud Storage, Wasabi, WebDAV, others||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (see note)||File level only||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/hour; schedule-free operation requires use of ProactiveAI feature||Yes||Dynamic||Includes a block-level incremental backup option, which, when enabled, copies only file deltas after the initial backup.|
|Sync Folders Pro+||Yes||No||10.14–11||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No||Limited||Min. once/sec||Dynamic||You must first install the (paid) App Store version of Sync Folders Pro, and then download and install Sync Folders Pro+ to get the bootable duplicate feature.|
|9.34||$34.90||No||Yes||10.14–11||Windows, Linux||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||Min. once/sec||Dynamic||Formerly called Super Flexible File Synchronizer.|
|9.34||$59.90||No||Yes||10.14–11||Windows, Linux||Yes||Yes||FTP, Google Drive, HTTP, SFTP, S3, WebDAV, others||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Automatic on file change or min. once/sec||Formerly called Super Flexible File Synchronizer.|
|SuperDuper!||3.3.1||$27.95; free “clone-only” version available||Yes||No||10.11–11 (see note)||Yes||Yes [a]||Yes||No||[b]||[b]||Min. once/min||Scans and copies in a single pass||Version 3.3.1 is not fully compatible with Big Sur, but a workaround is available, and full support is expected in a future update.|
|TechTool Pro||13.0.2||$129.99||Yes||Yes (APFS)||10.14–11||Yes||Yes (APFS)||Yes (APFS)||[b]||None||Features marked as (APFS) apply only with APFS source and destination volumes.|
|Time Machine||1.3||Included with macOS||No||Yes||10.14–11||Yes||Limited||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Limited||Yes (APFS)||No||Yes||Yes||Automatic; min. once/hour||Uses Power Nap||Dynamic||Features marked as (APFS) apply only with APFS source and destination volumes.|
|Tri-Backup||9.1.8||$69.99||No (see note)||Yes||10.14–11 (see note)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/min||Can’t make a bootable duplicate with macOS 10.15 or later. Uses the term “Evolutive Mirror Backup” for versioned backups.|
|Tri-Backup Pro||9.1.8||$99.99||No (see note)||Yes||10.14–11 (see note)||Yes||Yes||Yes||FTP||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/min||Can’t make a bootable duplicate with macOS 10.15 or later. Uses the term “Evolutive Mirror Backup” for versioned backups.|
[a] Can back up to disk images on servers, but not directly to server volumes.
[b] Only for disk images.
Versioning: A versioned backup starts with a complete copy of all the files in one or more folders. The next time the backup runs, your backup software performs an incremental update, which means it copies only those files that are new (or newly modified) since the last backup. If the software supports versioning, it means the backup app adds the new or changed data to the backup without overwriting the files already there. That way, you can retrieve many different versions of a given file, and if you delete it on your hard disk, you can still find it in your backup.
macOS Compatibility: This column lists the versions of macOS the app supports (starting with macOS 10.14 Mojave), as reported by the developer. (Many of these apps also support older operating systems.) A “?” in this column simply means the developer hasn’t specifically stated compatibility (beyond the version listed, if any).
Available for Other Platforms: A number of these Mac backup apps also come in versions for Windows and/or Linux. If you need to back up several computers running different operating systems, you may appreciate the convenience and familiarity of a single tool that works on all of them. Usually, though not always, if you create versioned backups with a multi-platform app, you can open and restore your files from another platform than the one you used to back them up. On the other hand, note that a few of the cross-platform apps have truly hideous user interfaces that were either written in Java without any consideration for the Mac aesthetic, or very badly ported from another operating system.
Network Servers: Most backup apps can save your files to any volume that’s mounted in the Finder—including other Macs using Personal File Sharing (AFP or SMB), PCs sharing disks with Samba (SMB), and WebDAV servers. However, beware: the fact that your backup app 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 Mac metadata unless the backup app 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 apps 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.
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 an app 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.) Other services, such as Amazon.com’s S3 (Simple Storage Service), also provide inexpensive, secure file storage in the cloud. 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 an app (the backup server) on a computer on your local network, and then you install another app (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 apps listed here function in this type of client-server mode, though many of them can back up files over a network in other ways.
Syncing: Some backup apps can also sync files among various devices, either directly over your local network or via the cloud. Many of the apps in the second table also sync files, but without performing other backup functions.
Pruning: Let’s say you put 10 files in your backup. Over time, because you change file #3 quite often, you accumulate a lot of copies of that file in your backup. If it’s a big file, that can result in your backup occupying a significant amount of space. Some backup apps can automatically delete only older files in your backup to make space for new ones. For example, you might be able to specify that your backup contains a maximum of 10 versions of any particular file, or that any additional copies more than 90 days old are deleted. Any scheme whereby a backup app automatically and selectively deletes older files from an backup gets a “Yes” in this column.
Rolling Backups: Some apps update backups additively but not incrementally. In other words, if you’re backing up your Documents folder, the app copies the entire folder every time it runs, regardless of how few files in it have changed. When backup apps do this, they sometimes give you the option of deleting the oldest complete backup after a certain number of runs (as opposed to deleting individual files) to make space on your backup media. I refer to this type of procedure as a rolling backup.
Snapshots: Snapshots apply only to apps that create versioned backups. By “snapshot,” I mean a picture of what your entire disk (or, at least, the entire set of files you’re backing up) looked like at the moment each backup session ran. With snapshots, you can easily see how many files appeared at a given time, and in one fell swoop, restore your disk to the way it appeared then. In most cases, apps that store snapshots give you a list or menu of all the times at which backups occurred, and when you select one of those, you can generally see all the versions of files in your backup as they appeared at that time—even those files that hadn’t changed recently and therefore weren’t copied on that particular run.
File List: For the purpose of these tables, when I refer to a “file list,” I simply want to know whether there’s some way I can see, from within the backup app, what files it has backed up (rather than having to dig around in the Finder). Not all file lists are created equal. Some are spiffy—color-coded, searchable, and intelligently hierarchical. Others are confusing and tedious to use. But I don’t distinguish niceness here, only whether or not there’s something in the app that could reasonably be construed as a file list.
Selectors: It goes without saying that virtually every backup app lets you select what folders or files you back up. But in this table, when I say “selectors,” I mean pattern-based rules for selecting files. For example: “Back up all the files with an extension of ‘.doc’ that are less than 500 MB in size.” Of the apps that offer selectors, some are much more sophisticated than others, but the point is that you have a way of specifying, usually with a few clicks, what kinds of files will be included in your backups. A close relative of the selector is the preset, which is basically a prebuilt selectors that chooses all files of a particular sort—for example, all the files that make up your Contacts database, or all your Mail files, or every MP3 file anywhere on your computer.
Exclusions: Once again, I’m not merely talking about the fact that you can manually deselect or exclude a particular file or folder. By “exclusion” here I mean a pattern-based rule for selecting files that will not be backed up. For example: “Omit all files over 2 GB” or “Omit files with a Red label in the Finder.”
Delta Encoding: Historically, most backup software has performed versioned backups on a file-by-file basis. In other words, if just 10 bytes of a 10 GB file change, that marks the file as modified, and the whole file must be copied on the next backup run. Some software, however, can copy only the individual bytes that have changed since the last backup, while other software copies slightly larger units called blocks. Copying just the delta—that is, the differences between the file at time A and the file at time B—is known as delta encoding, though you may see other terms, such as “sub-file,” “byte-level,” and “block-level” incremental updates. The advantage of such an approach is that backups go much faster after the initial run and take up far less storage space; this is particularly important when backing up over the Internet. The disadvantage is that restoring a file requires the backup software to reconstruct it by putting together the pieces from all its incremental backups. If even a single one of those incremental bits were to become damaged or lost, you might be unable to restore the file.
Deduplication: Simply put, deduplication is the process of ensuring that data stored on your backup destination volume isn’t duplicated—which reduces the amount of storage space required (sometimes dramatically), and can also speed up backups considerably. For example, if you have two copies of a file on your disk, an app that features deduplication will store only one copy on your backup media, along with a pointer to the other one (so that the file can be restored to either location with equal ease). In most cases, deduplication is done on a block-by-block or even byte-by-byte basis, so that when files are quite similar, only one complete copy of the file is stored, along with the differences found in the other version(s) so that any of them can be reconstructed. In other cases, it’s done at the file level—two identical files won’t be duplicated, but if the files are only 99 percent the same, they will be. Some implementations of deduplication can compare data from multiple computers, while others can deduplicate data only from a single source.
Compression: When a backup app 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 app to return files that you previously backed up to their original location (or, if you prefer, another location). Quite a few apps expect you to simply switch the “source” and “destination” and, essentially, redo your backup. A restore feature is most important with backup apps 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 apps 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 apps 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 an app can run once an hour or more frequently and it dynamically detects changed files (see just ahead) so that it needn’t do a full scan with each run, it is effectively schedule-free. On the other hand, some backup apps 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.
Change Detection: Some apps can detect file changes in real time, either by using macOS’s FSEvents (file system events) framework or by running in the background and employing proprietary methods to watch for changes. In whatever form, dynamic change detection reduces or eliminates the need for a time-consuming scan each time your backups run and, in some cases, enables continuous, real-time backups as your files change. (Even so, occasional full scans may be necessary.) Alternatively, 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.