Mac backup soft­ware

Look­ing to keep your data safe? Kenny Hem­phill re­veals the best Mac backup apps and on­line ser­vices out there

Macworld - - Contents -

To many of us, back­ing up a Mac means set­ting up Time Ma­chine and for­get­ting about it un­til we need to re­cover data. But, while Time Ma­chine is a great re­source, it’s not per­fect, and re­ly­ing on it alone to keep your data safe is a mis­take that could have dis­as­trous con­se­quences.

An ideal strat­egy con­sists of at least two sep­a­rate backup sched­ules, with at least one of those back­ing up to a drive that’s stored off-

site. At the very least, if you use Time Ma­chine to back up to an ex­ter­nal hard drive or net­work de­vice, you should also have an­other tool run­ning reg­u­lar back­ups to a dif­fer­ent drive.

That means buy­ing a backup ap­pli­ca­tion and us­ing it, be­fore you lose data. There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent op­tions when it comes to choos­ing backup soft­ware.

Some apps are fo­cused on cre­at­ing clones of your hard drive and of­fer in­cre­men­tal backup as an ex­tra fea­ture. Oth­ers are fo­cused solely on mak­ing back­ing up your Mac reg­u­larly as easy as pos­si­ble.

A third cat­e­gory, rep­re­sented in our round-up by Chronosync, al­lows you to syn­chro­nise fold­ers on your Mac with an­other drive or com­puter on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Some FTP man­age­ment ap­pli­ca­tions also al­low you to syn­chro­nise fold­ers with FTP or WEBDAV servers.

Fi­nally, there are on­line ser­vices that will store your data on their servers, pro­vid­ing a se­cure off­site backup. When you ini­tially sign up for an on­line ser­vice, the first backup will take a while, pos­si­bly sev­eral days. But once you’ve com­pleted that, each sub­se­quent run only copies files that have changes and so will take much less time and band­width.

Most of these ser­vices also al­low you to con­trol how much band­width they use so you should never find that they get in the way of you work­ing.

Of the apps and ser­vices we look at here, Get Backup Pro is a sim­ple and in­ex­pen­sive backup tool, while Chronosync, Car­bon Copy Cloner and

Su­perduper al­low you to run in­cre­men­tal back­ups, through they’re each fo­cused on other tasks. The three on­line backup tools, Back­blaze, Car­bonite and Idrive all have mer­its and of those three, Back­blaze edges it.

How­ever, over­all, for a com­bi­na­tion of ease of use, fea­tures and the abil­ity to com­bine lo­cal back­ups with backup to the cloud, the out­stand­ing choice is Acro­nis True Im­age 2018.

1. Acro­nis True Im­age 2018

Price: £36.99 from­bgli

Acro­nis is well known in the Win­dows world, but less so to Mac users. True Im­age 18 is its per­sonal backup so­lu­tion and it sup­ports back­ing up your data to a lo­cal disk, Acro­nis’ own cloud-based ser­vice, or a net­work-at­tached stor­age de­vice. The lat­ter makes it good op­tion for any­one with a NAS that doesn’t sup­port Ap­ple’s Time Ma­chine.

You’ll need to set up an ac­count with Acro­nis to use the cloud ser­vice, but if you’d rather give

True im­age a spin with­out cre­at­ing an ac­count, you can use the free trial to back up to a lo­cal drive or net­work disk.

True Im­age 2018 sup­ports APFS drives, so if you’re run­ning High Sierra you won’t run into dif­fi­cul­ties. There is a caveat that may rule out

True Im­age for some: It doesn’t al­low you to back up Boot­camp par­ti­tions, or in­deed spec­ify any par­ti­tion on your drive to back up.

True Im­age cre­ates im­ages in a pro­pri­etary for­mat when you back up to a lo­cal drive, so you’ll need to use its re­store tools to ac­cess your data. Cloud back­ups are saved on a per file ba­sis.

Acro­nis True Im­age is very straight­for­ward to use. The first time you open it, your Mac is se­lected as the source. Click the Des­ti­na­tion but­ton to choose whether to back up to Acro­nis Cloud, a lo­cal drive or a NAS box.

If you don’t want to cre­ate an im­age of your en­tire Mac, click on the source box to choose files and fold­ers to back up. From here, you can also back up ex­ter­nal disks, a mo­bile de­vice to your Mac or your so­cial me­dia ac­counts to Acro­nis Cloud.

Click on the set­tings icon and you can sched­ule reg­u­lar back­ups, ex­clude files, en­crypt back­ups or delete old back­ups.

Pric­ing starts at £34.99, which puts it in the mid­dle of the tools tested here. But if you want to use Acro­nis Cloud, you’ll pay a yearly sub­scrip­tion rang­ing from £34.99 for 250GB to £69.99 for

1TB. Yearly plans in­clude the cost of the soft­ware. Acro­nis True Im­age com­bines the best of lo­cal and on­line backup tools and while there are cheaper op­tions in both cat­e­gories, that flex­i­bil­ity means it is worth the ex­tra cost.

2. Get Backup Pro

Price: £18.16 from

Get Backup Pro’s main at­trac­tion is its flex­i­bil­ity. It can back up your en­tire hard drive or only the fold­ers you spec­ify. You use it to cre­ate bootable clones of your Mac’s startup drive, and to syn­chro­nise files and fold­ers on dif­fer­ent drives. Back­ups can be com­pressed to save space and you can choose whether to back up to a disk im­age or on a per file ba­sis. Sched­uled back­ups take place in the back­ground and Get Backup Pro shuts it­self down once it’s fin­ished. And if the worst hap­pens

and you can’t restart your Mac af­ter a crash, you can re­store to any Mac, even if it doesn’t have Get Backup Pro in­stalled.

Get Backup Pro doesn’t have its own cloud ser­vice, so if you want to backup on­line as well as lo­cally, you’ll need to do that with a third-party tool. It will, how­ever, back up to net­work vol­umes and even DVD me­dia. You can choose to au­to­mat­i­cally mount net­work vol­umes when a backup sched­ule starts, but you can’t spec­ify files and fold­ers to back up to a net­work disk: you must back up ev­ery­thing. You can choose to en­crypt back­ups and even the level of en­cryp­tion, from AES-128, AES-256, Blow­fish, or Triple DES. And, if you want to back up data from spe­cific apps, Get Backup

Pro al­lows you to cre­ate sched­uled back­ups us­ing tem­plates for apps like itunes, Mail, Pho­tos and Con­tacts. There’s also a tem­plate for the Doc­u­ments folder.

Get Backup Pro’s in­ter­face splits the ap­pli­ca­tion into four sec­tions: Backup; Ar­chive; Clone; and Syn­chro­nise. Back­ups are called projects. So, to start, you se­lect the ac­tion you want from the tabs at the top of the left side­bar and cre­ate a new projects. From there, de­pend­ing on the ac­tion you’ve cho­sen, you’ll have dif­fer­ent op­tions to choose from.

Click­ing the cog at the bot­tom of the side­bar re­veals the con­fig­u­ra­tion set­tings from where you can spec­ify the des­ti­na­tion, any files that are to be ex­cluded and how and when the backup rou­tine should run.

Per­haps Get Backup Pro’s great­est strength is its sim­plic­ity. Press the ‘+’ in the side­bar to cre­ate a new project, then as soon as you’ve named it the set­tings win­dow opens. Once you cho­sen op­tions from there and con­firmed them, all that’s left to do is add files. You can do that by drag­ging fold­ers into the ap­pli­ca­tion’s main win­dow, by press­ing a but­ton la­belled ‘files+’, or by choos­ing a tem­plate. It’s all very in­tu­itive. If you need to start a backup man­u­ally, there’s a big play head but­ton at the bot­tom of the main win­dow; click it and the se­lected backup will start.

Add to that the fact that it’s just over £18 in the UK, and Get Backup Pro is a very good choice in­deed.

3. Chronosync

Price: $50 (around £36) from

Don’t be fooled by its name. While Chronosync has its roots in file syn­chro­niza­tion and still fo­cuses on that, it’s a ro­bust, fea­ture-filled and highly con­fig­urable backup tool too. As you’d ex­pect, you can man­u­ally run back­ups or sched­ule them and you can back up to a lo­cal hard drive or NAS box. Chronosync also sup­ports back­ing up to Google Cloud and Ama­zon S3 stor­age.

You can use it to back up one re­mote lo­ca­tion to an­other us­ing SFTP and even set the lo­ca­tion to be an iphone or ipad us­ing the op­tional In­ter­con­nex app. If you want to back up files and fold­ers to an­other Mac, you can do that too.

Back­ups are in­cre­men­tal, but Chronosync doesn’t just check the con­tents of a file for changes. If meta­data has al­tered since the last backup, that will be re­flected too. And backed-up files are copied to a tem­po­rary file and checked for in­tegrity be­fore the file on the des­ti­na­tion vol­ume is re­placed with the new ver­sion.

Chronosync can cre­ate two types of bootable clone: stan­dard and mir­rored. The for­mer cre­ates a bootable sys­tem on the des­ti­na­tion vol­ume, leav­ing other files on the vol­ume in­tact. Mir­ror re­places the en­tire con­tents of the des­ti­na­tion vol­ume with files from the source.

Each time Chronosync runs a backup, it moves the pre­vi­ous one to an ar­chive folder – mean­ing if you need to re­store a file from a ver­sion other than the most re­cent, you can. You con­fig­ure how many archives are kept on a num­ber of files or length

of time ba­sis, or a com­bi­na­tion on the two. And archives can be com­pressed to save space.

Restor­ing from an ar­chive doesn’t have the same vis­ual piz­zazz as it does in Time Ma­chine, but thanks to the Ar­chive panel, it’s rel­a­tively pain­less. Chronosync’s in­ter­face is chock-full of op­tions and that in it­self may be enough to put you off if all you want it is a sim­ple backup tool: Get Backup Pro or Acro­nis True Im­age are more straight­for­ward op­tions. How­ever, if you need both syn­chro­niza­tion across mul­ti­ple Macs and backup, it’s worth per­se­ver­ing.

4. Back­blaze

Price: $50 (around £36) per year from

Back­blaze is an on­line ser­vice that al­lows you to back up your Mac to its servers au­to­mat­i­cally or

ac­cord­ing to a sched­ule you set. Once you cre­ate an ac­count and se­lect your plan (there’s a 30-day free trial, too), you down­load the Mac app and get started. Back­blaze is fo­cused on sim­plic­ity, so it au­to­mat­i­cally chooses what to back up.

That in­cludes the con­tents of your Doc­u­ments, Pic­tures, Movies and Mu­sic fold­ers, but ex­cludes your Ap­pli­ca­tions folder. Back­blaze also ex­cludes some file types from be­ing backed up, in­clud­ing .dmg disk im­ages – that re­stric­tion can be switched off, how­ever.

Back­ups are kept for 30 days, so you can re­store from any that ran dur­ing that time. And, as you would ex­pect, back­ups are in­cre­men­tal so only files that have changed since it last ran are copied. Data is en­crypted and you can op­tion­ally add a six-digit pass­code to pro­vide an ad­di­tional layer of se­cu­rity.

Be pre­pared to be pa­tient the first time you run Back­blaze – it has to copy ev­ery­thing to its servers, which can take sev­eral days. But af­ter that, it’s rel­a­tively speedy and runs in the back­ground.

Band­width is throt­tled au­to­mat­i­cally when nec­es­sary, but you can in­ter­vene and set a limit if you want. There’s no limit to the size of a sin­gle file, but you can set one if you’d pre­fer. And back­ups can in­clude USB sticks and ex­ter­nal hard drives, as long as they’re plugged in at least once a month. There’s not an over­all limit on the data you can back up to your ac­count.

When it comes to restor­ing your data, you have three op­tions: you can re­store via Back­blaze’s web in­ter­face or you can have files sent to you on a USB

stick or hard drive for an ad­di­tional fee. And there’s a 100 per­cent re­fund if you re­turn the USB stick or hard drive within 30 days, though you’ll have to pay ship­ping and taxes.

You can view in­di­vid­ual files and choose which ones to down­load. And you can view and share backed up files on an iphone or ipad with the Back­blaze mo­bile app.

The Lo­cate your Com­puter ser­vice tracks your Mac’s lo­ca­tion to help you find it if it’s stolen and, if it’s still run­ning back­ups, tell you its cur­rent IP ad­dress and show you re­cently backed-up data.

Back­blaze’s user in­ter­face com­prises a menu bar item and a Sys­tem Pref­er­ences pane. How­ever, that pane is more like a fully fledged ap­pli­ca­tion, with op­tions to ex­clude files, add fold­ers and disks to the backup, and throt­tle band­width. It’s sim­ple and very Mac-like.

If you only need to back up one Mac, and par­tic­u­larly if you want to back up ex­ter­nal disks, Back­blaze’s sim­plic­ity and price give it the edge over Car­bonite and Idrive.

5. idrive

Price: 5GB free from

Idrive is an­other on­line backup ser­vice. How­ever, it dif­fers from both Back­blaze and Car­bonite in a num­ber of ways. First, it has a free tier – you can back up 5GB with­out pay­ing any­thing. Af­ter that, though, it’s more ex­pen­sive than ei­ther of its com­peti­tors fea­tured here.

Cur­rently, the an­nual charge for the Per­sonal tier is $52.12 (around £37) for the first year and $70 (around £50)/year af­ter that, but that only al­lows you to backup 2TB of data, while Back­blaze and Car­bonite al­low un­lim­ited data. How­ever, that 2TB can be spread across mul­ti­ple com­put­ers, whereas Back­blaze and Car­bonite limit you to one com­puter.

Also, if you pre­fer to re­store by hav­ing data phys­i­cally shipped to you, Idrive pro­vides that for free for the first re­store each year – though if you’re out­side the US you’ll have to pay for the ship­ping.

Like Back­blaze, Idrive also al­lows you to back up ex­ter­nal hard drives. Even with ex­ter­nal drives back­ing up, it’s un­likely most peo­ple will breach the 2TB limit – bear­ing in mind that you’re not back­ing up ap­pli­ca­tions or sys­tem files.

How­ever, Idrive doesn’t delete files when it runs a new backup. That means you can roll back

as far as you want when you come to re­store, but it also means you’ll fill up that 2TB more quickly. Fea­tures like Rewind and Snap­shots let you re­store from ear­lier ver­sions of files or snap­shots of the com­plete data set. And all data is en­crypted, with the op­tion to set your own pri­vate en­cryp­tion key.

The Idrive mo­bile app al­lows you not just to view and down­load files to a mo­bile de­vice but to back up im­ages, cal­en­dar events and con­tacts from your iphone or ipad as well – though that may be re­dun­dant if you use icloud Pho­tos.

Idrive’s user in­ter­face makes us­ing it very straight­for­ward. Your Desk­top, Doc­u­ments, Mu­sic and Pic­tures fold­ers are au­to­mat­i­cally se­lected for backup, along with the con­tents of ~/Li­brary/mail. To add other fold­ers, click ‘Change’ at the bot­tom of the win­dow – that’s not ex­actly in­tu­itive. You can add videos to the backup, but lo­cat­ing them in Idrive’s in­ter­face takes a great deal of do­ing. Both sched­ul­ing and restor­ing are straight­for­ward, how­ever. As is choos­ing a lo­cal drive as the des­ti­na­tion for a backup in place of Idrive’s servers.

Idrive’s free tier and the abil­ity to spread your data al­lo­ca­tion in the paid tiers across mul­ti­ple com­put­ers makes it at­trac­tive. Over­all, though, it’s ex­pen­sive for a sin­gle ma­chine.

6. Car­bon Copy Cloner 5

Price: £29.70 from

Car­bon Copy Cloner is pri­mar­ily a tool for cre­at­ing bootable clones of your Mac’s startup drive, hence

its name. How­ever, it has evolved to be­come a great deal more than that and now of­fers fea­tures that are a match for the best backup tools. You can back up your Mac, or files and fold­ers on it, to a lo­cal drive or one on a net­work. Back­ups can be sched­uled to run at set times or trig­gered by events, such as plug­ging in a drive. And, as you would ex­pect, back­ups are in­cre­men­tal, re­plac­ing only the files on the des­ti­na­tion that have changed on the source since the last time.

Backup sets are man­aged us­ing what Car­bon Copy Cloner calls ‘Tasks’. A task could be cloning your en­tire hard drive or, for ex­am­ple, back­ing up your itunes li­brary or Doc­u­ments folder.

Tasks can be sched­uled in­di­vid­u­ally or grouped and run si­mul­ta­ne­ously. You can even easy chain tasks to cre­ate a so­phis­ti­cated backup rou­tine. Tasks can be viewed in the Task His­tory win­dow and you can fil­ter by task name, source, des­ti­na­tion or run date. The Safe­tynet fea­ture keeps copies of pre­vi­ous back­ups when files are over­writ­ten,

al­low­ing you to ac­cess older ver­sions. And if you run out of room, CCC is smart enough to delete the old­est files and con­tinue the backup.

Car­bon Copy Cloner’s in­ter­face is very well laid out. Its main win­dow fo­cuses on three things: source vol­ume, des­ti­na­tion vol­ume, and sched­ule.

Tips, in the form of yel­low ‘sticky notes’ can be switched on or off and al­low you to see what every el­e­ment in the in­ter­face does. The Cloning Coach guides you step by step through the process of cre­at­ing back­ups and alerts you to po­ten­tial prob­lems with your strat­egy. And the guided re­store does the same when you come to re­store data from a backup.

Car­bon Copy Cloner is, for the most part, very easy to use, and if the hand hold­ing be­comes an ir­ri­tant, you can switch off the tips fea­ture.

When it comes to restor­ing in­di­vid­ual files and fold­ers, how­ever, it’s less ob­vi­ous than some of its com­peti­tors. The quick­est way to re­store is to mount the cloned vol­ume and drag and drop files in the Fin­der. You can also cre­ate a task to copy files.

As a tool for both cloning disks and back­ing up data, Car­bon Copy Cloner is first rate. For pure backup, how­ever, Acro­nis True Im­age is a bet­ter bet.

7. Car­bonite Safe

Price: $59.99 per year (Ba­sic) from­cih8

Car­bonite is very sim­i­lar to Back­blaze in that it al­lows you to back up your Mac to re­mote servers

and re­cover files when you need to. Like Back­blaze, you sign up for an ac­count and down­load a Mac ap­pli­ca­tion, and it au­to­mat­i­cally se­lects files to down­load. Also like Back­blaze, Car­bonite doesn’t back up ap­pli­ca­tions or sys­tem files. One key dif­fer­ence is that Car­bonite’s ba­sic plan doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally back up the con­tents of your Movies folder ei­ther – although you can se­lect videos man­u­ally to be backed up. Nei­ther does Car­bonite back up the con­tents of ex­ter­nal drives.

Files are pro­tected with 128-bit en­cryp­tion, but there’s no op­tion to add your own pass­word.

Restor­ing data is done on­line, us­ing the Car­bonite ap­pli­ca­tion – the op­tion to ship me­dia con­tain­ing your data is only avail­able within the US. And you can re­store from any backup run within the last 30 days, al­low­ing you to roll back to ear­lier ver­sions of files. The Car­bonite mo­bile app al­lows you to view and down­load files to an iphone or ipad.

Car­bonite is very sim­ple to use. In fact, it al­most feels too sim­ple. Down­load the app, in­stall it and launch it, and Car­bonite starts back­ing up your Doc­u­ments and Pic­tures fold­ers straight away.

In the left-hand side­bar, there’s a list of vol­umes and the main user fold­ers (Desk­top, Doc­u­ments, Pic­tures, Movies and Mu­sic). By click­ing on those you can se­lect files to be backed up or ex­cluded.

Car­bonite’s wel­come email warns that your ini­tial backup could take sev­eral days. But that’s the norm for on­line backup ser­vices, and as it runs in the back­ground and is care­ful not to oc­cupy too much band­width or com­puter re­source, it’s barely no­tice­able. Sub­se­quent back­ups are much quicker.

We did no­tice that Car­bonite’s user in­ter­face hadn’t been op­ti­mized for Retina dis­plays, which is odd, five years af­ter their in­tro­duc­tion.

Restor­ing files is just as easy. If you want to re­store a com­plete backup, click the Re­store op­tion in the side­bar and choose whether to down­load files to a folder or put them back where they were orig­i­nally.

To re­store in­di­vid­ual files and fold­ers, nav­i­gate to them us­ing the fold­ers in the side­bar and choose the down­load op­tion.

Car­bonite starts at $59.99 (around £43) per year for a sin­gle com­puter, but if you want to back up ex­ter­nal drives and back up videos au­to­mat­i­cally, that jumps to $99.99 (around

£71). That makes it ex­pen­sive com­pared to its near­est com­peti­tors.

8. Su­perduper!

Price: £22.30 from

Like Car­bon Copy Cloner, Su­perduper al­lows you to make bootable clones of your Mac’s hard drive to an ex­ter­nal disk or disk im­age.

What makes Su­perduper use­ful as a backup tool, how­ever, is the Smart Up­dates fea­ture. This up­dates the clone at a fre­quency you spec­ify on an in­cre­men­tal ba­sis: that is, it only copies files that have changes since the last time you backed up. That al­lows you to keep the clone up­dated with the min­i­mum of fuss or in­ter­rup­tion to your work.

If you use Time Ma­chine for reg­u­lar back­ups, Su­perduper can clone and Smart Up­date Time Ma­chine back­ups. You can’t eas­ily choose which files and fold­ers to back up – the avail­able choices in Su­perduper’s menus are ‘all files’ or all ‘user files’. How­ever, you can dig deeper into its op­tions and build your own backup scripts by point­ing and click­ing.

The lat­est ver­sion adds sup­port for snap­shots on APFS drives. Snap­shots are au­to­mat­i­cally cre­ated by macos High Sierra to save the state of the drive be­fore you in­stall a soft­ware up­date – that way, if some­thing goes wrong with the up­date, you can roll back to the snap­shot.

Su­perduper’s Re­store sec­tion al­lows you to ac­cess those snap­shots at the click of a menu and re­cover your Mac to which­ever re­cent snap­shot you choose. And if you use an APFS vol­ume as the des­ti­na­tion for your clone, you can use snap­shots

on the clone, too. That means, for ex­am­ple, if you in­stall an up­date then Smart Up­date runs and up­dates the clone to re­flect the soft­ware in­stall, you can roll the clone back to just be­fore it up­dated, if some­thing goes wrong.

Su­perduper is a good op­tion if you al­ready use Time Ma­chine to run reg­u­lar back­ups. If you run Su­perduper along­side it, you have a ‘belt and braces’ backup strat­egy. If you need to re­cover in­di­vid­ual files, you can use Time Ma­chine, but if dis­as­ter strikes and your hard drive is un­us­able, you have an up-to-date clone ready to boot from, thanks to Su­perduper.

In use, Su­perduper isn’t as user-friendly as Car­bon copy cloner – it doesn’t, for ex­am­ple, guide you step by step. How­ever, it makes keep­ing an up-to-date clone of your sys­tem rea­son­ably straight­for­ward and does a good job. If you like the idea of the snap­shots fea­ture and are com­fort­able with its in­ter­face, this is a good choice.

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