Important Mac Backup Tips- Time Machine, CCC, SuperDuper PDF Print E-mail
Written by Miko   
Monday, 28 June 2010 11:10

Time Machine, SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner can all be used for Apple Macintosh computer backups.

Time Machine offers a unique form of backup and should be your daily, up-to-the minute backup, but not your backup for real emergencies where time is "of the essence".  Many Mac users today use the highly automated Apple-developed Time Machine incremental backup system to keep their Apple files backed up to an external hard drive.  Time Machine's ability to regress back through calendar days to represent your Mac computer exactly as it appeared in the past is quite amazing, and restoring is quite easy- even almost fun!  However, if you just want to browse a Time machine backup- you can't. And if you want the ability to boot from a backup drive- Time Machine does not allow this.  You can only restore a full system, using a Time Machine backup, when you boot from your Mac operating system installation DVD and use ther Time Machine restore option on the Utilities menu.

Additionally, an eventual problem with Time Machine is that due to its incremental "style" of backup, it will eventually run out of disk space because it uses more and more over time.  A Time Machine backup always ends up larger than the used size of the drive it's backing up.

In contrast, SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) DO OFFER BOOTABLE BACKUPS.  This might allow you to keep working on a busy day when your Mac internal hard drive crashes.  When using the disk erase option (for the initial backup), the Carbon Copy and SuperDuper backups will be identical to and use the same disk space as the drive being backed up.

Important notes about the hard drive used for bootable backup: Mac users should use FIREWIRE drives ONLY for bootable backups. USB 2.0 drives are not supported on older Macs and are flakier on newer Macs, where some boot support is now claimed, especially because USB hubs can slow down if a slow device gets connected to the hub.  That said, it should be understood that not all Firewire drives are consistently bootable either.  LaCie and Maxtor One Touch are documented safe bets O(for example, they are mentioned as tested in the SuperDuper manual).  I've also had bootability success with Western Digital.  Seagate is now Maxtor so that brand is probably a safe bet.  In all cases, consider testing bootability during the drive warranty period, if it's important to you.  Choose an external drive with a Firewire 800 connection- not only because Apple is obsoleting Firewire 400- but because you'll get much better boot performance.

When creating a clone backup you should be VERY careful- you should understand that if you erase a drive to make it bootable- you will lose all the data currently on that drive. This is true for both Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper.  Moreover, unregistered SuperDuper ONLY offers the erasing clone option.   Thus, make certain that any needed data definitely exists somewhere else if it currently resides on the disk being elected for backup . Some CCC users  get confused because Carbon Copy ALSO backs up in non-destructive mode, so often you put files on a CCC backed up drive and CCC does not delete them when it backs up.  The erase-to-make-bootable option however will delete everything. 

A client recently had all her photos and music deletely completely and irreversibly because her daughter's friend, a computer science major, was a bit too "green" with CCC and used the erase option to create a bootable drive.  The Carbon Copy backup overwrote the old deleted data, making software and hardware data recovery impossible.  Moreover, it offers the ability to browse through the backed up file system rather than using a date-based funky interface, when you simply want a specific file, quickly, from the CCC backup disk.

Mac users should consider keeping at least two backup drives- a CCC clone or SuperDuper backup, and a time Machine backup.  The Time Machine drive can be left connected and backing up at its regular intervals:  The Carbon Copy Cloner backup can be done manually once per week or once per month, and then possibly taken off-site- or simply kept more away from the computer- because a remote or off-site backup is always a smart idea in case of fire, flood or electrical issues.

After doing an initial clone backup with Carbon Copy Cloner, or a registered copy of SuperDuper, you can continue the backup process with incremental backups, or you can recreate the cloine every time- it's up to you.  Recreating the clone might be useful when you've had significant updates to the Apple system, like an OS update from 10.6.1 to 10.6.4.

If you really want to use one external drive for both the CCC/SuperDuper backupand the Time Machine backup (not reccomended)- or if you want CCC/SuperDuper clones of multiple systems on one external hard drive, then- assuming that the external drive really is big enough for all of that- you can use Disk Utility to create multiple partitions on the external drive.  For Intel-Based Macs you need to create a GUID Partition Table for your partitions to ensure that they are bootable, for older PowerPC Macs you must create a different partition type, called APT (Apple Partition Map).

* If you want to restore an old PowerPCs files to a newer Intel based Mac, use the Migration Assistant with a firewire cable.

* If you want to back up your Boot Camp Windows system partition, you need to partition using a Windows format (NTFS allows larger files).  You may also want to use a Windows Backup application from within Windows- Windows Backup that comes with Microsoft Windows does not do complete clone backups- to get a full clone you need to look for a program like Norton Ghost.

Choosing more than one backup method for any computer is a wise choice.  Keeping multiple backups on several drives is a really good idea.  Good luck!

Last Updated on Monday, 28 June 2010 13:13