Back it up, Mac!

For the last year, I’ve been using a great little application to make safety back-ups of my entire hard drive. It’s called SuperDuper by If you’ve got an Apple computer, SuperDuper is a super easy way to safeguard all of your data in case of a failure of your main hard drive.

SuperDuper makes an exact copy of your entire hard drive onto another hard drive; usually an external drive connected by Firewire. (Since my computer has room for 2 hard drives, I copy to the second internal drive.) But this back up method is different than an archival back up in one important way.

It’s more like SuperDuper syncs your back up drive. Each time it runs, any new data is added, but any data deleted from your main drive is removed from the back up drive. That’s why it’s not an archiving system. It merely creates an exact copy of your main drive each time it runs. (Since most new computers come with fairly massive drives, most people won’t have to worry about running out of room on the main drive, and have to archive data somewhere else to make room.)

What this is for, is to protect against a catastrophic failure of your main drive. All of your documents, address books, family pictures, music, movies and everything will be right there on the other drive. But the really useful thing about SuperDuper is that it copies the entire drive, including the actual operating system and all of your settings and preferences. If your main drive ever fails, you can actually start up your Mac using the back up drive, and everything will be there, fully functional, ready to keep using. You would just replace the defective main drive, and copy everything back over to the new drive.

So the trick then, is to run SuperDuper often, as you are only as safe as your most recent back up. To this end, SuperDuper has a schedule function that can run late at night while you are sleeping. Sleeping safe and sound.

Extra hard drives are fairly cheap these days, and $100 to $200 dollars will get you a second drive that’s big enough to copy to. SuperDuper only costs $27.95. Not too bad considering that a professional hard drive data recovery can cost well over $600; if they can recover your data at all.

2 Responses to “Back it up, Mac!”

  1. Another program that does essentially this is Carbon Copy Cloner. I can’t say if its better or worse, but I think it is free.

    I don’t actually backup my entire HDD. I figure I can afford to reinstall the system and applications if I have to. So I just backup my HOME folder which has all of my documents, desktop, pictures, movies, etc in it. And I use a program called CHRONOSYNC which does incremental backups. So once the full backup is complete, the only thing it copies on the next backup is what has changed. I also have it set to NOT delete old copies of files even if they have been deleted from the master drive. I have found that sometimes I want an old copy and its a convenient way to have some insurance.

    Of course the big daddy of backup is Retrospect. I started playing with that recently and it is the professional solution.

    But I do agree with you, Ken, get some backup software, an extra hard drive, and start a process now. Your hard drive WILL FAIL, Guaranteed. Don’t be caught with your pants.

  2. Carl, thanks for the additional ideas. I went and looked at Chronosync; it looks great. I might try it for keeping my laptop synced with my new desktop. I had previously looked at Carbon Copy Cloner once too. Not sure why I didn’t go in that direction. The thing i LOVE about SuperDuper is the simplicity. The set up instructions are extremely clear and easy. It tells you in plain language exactly what each step will do.

    I had used Retrospect as my backup system previously, but found that retrieving files was a bit of a pain. Retrospect uses its own file system to store your files, and you need to use Retrospect to access your archived data. You can’t just use the Finder to browse the backup drive.

    I ended up choosing the (SuperDuper) method of cloning the entire drive because it makes recovery much much simpler in the event of main drive failure. I could probably rebuild my entire system set up manually in about 4-5 hours from scratch, but that’s me. For the average home user, it would take substantially longer to get a new computer (hard drive) configured exactly the way it was.

    For me the decision came down to work flow; how fast could I be back up and running in the event of total drive failure. The answer with SuperDuper is: instantly.

    I’ll post again soon with my long-term archival process.