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Backup Solutions for Your Mac

written by: Donny Yankellow•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 5/19/2011

Want to backup your Mac but want more features than Apple's Time Machine has to offer? Here are a few options.

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    Time Machine

    Screen shot 2010-01-20 at 9.48.48 AM These days more and more people (including myself) have movies and photos and more in digital form on the computer. What do you do if the computer dies or your hard drive fails? If you don’t have a backup you lose everything.

    With the release of Leopard Apple introduced a quick backup solution called Time Machine. Time Machine is basically plug and play backup. You connect an external drive and off it goes. Recovering lost data through Time Machine is very easy also.

    However, Time Machine backups are not bootable. This means if your computer won’t boot from the internal hard drive you cannot start the computer from the Time Machine drive. You would need another bootable drive or a disc to boot from.

    How do you make a bootable drive? There are several Time Machine alternatives available for backing up your Mac that make bootable backups and have a lot more features than Time Machine.

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    Freeware and Shareware Backup Solutions

    The initial backup for the programs mentioned below (and Time Machine) takes a long time. Backups after the initial one will be faster as the program will be looking for changes to the drives and only deleting and saving those file changes.

    Screen shot 2010-01-20 at 9.18.37 AM 

    DejaVu- ($24.95) DejaVu is my backup program of choice. It installs as a System Preference and is very easy to set up. You choose what to backup and where to put it. You can backup an entire drive or just folders on a drive. You can even schedule multiple backups at different times and to different drives. I have two backups running through DejaVu. One backs up my main computer and gives me a bootable backup, and the other backs up my media drive. I schedule the backups to happen overnight so I don’t need the computer during the backup.

    Screen shot 2010-01-20 at 9.22.35 AM 

    Carbon Copy Cloner (Free)- Carbon Copy Cloner is the backup choice of many in the Mac world. It is Free, which always helps, and easy to use. It will backup an entire drive and make a bootable backup. You can also set specific folders to back up if you don’t want to back up an entire drive.

    Screen shot 2010-01-20 at 9.59.14 AM 

    Super Duper ($27.95)- Super Duper is another popular backup program. Like the others mentioned above it allows for bootable backups and selective backups.

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    Apple's Other backup Solution

    Apple Backup- (Free) Apple’s Backup software also has more features than Time Machine. You have several backup options, including backing up to DVD or CD, backing up to iDisk, and backing up to a hard drive. In order to use all of the features of Backup you need a MobileMe account. Of course to make a full backup to iDisk you would probably need to purchase more storage space from Apple. Backup can be downloaded from your iDisk in the Software folder.

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    Online Backup

    While not bootable, I have to mention the online backup alternative. There are many services that offer backups in the “cloud." In other words, you upload your data to their servers for backing up and when you need it you can download it. I currently use CrashPlan as my service of choice. They offer unlimited storage at a great price.

    The benefit? If your hard drive backups are destroyed you have your stuff backed up off site for retrieval from anywhere.

    The downside? These services come with a monthly fee. It also takes a REALLY long time for the initial backup. I have been researching this for myself and have not jumped in. Most monthly fees are only $5, which is not bad.

    However, I have tried uploading to several services and I am afraid I am going to exceed my Internet provider limits. One service I tried got stuck after 500mb. For now I am sticking with external drives. Also, not all services can backup data from an external drive (which is where I store all of my photos and movies).

    So now you have several backup options in addition to Apple’s Time Machine. I actually have a Time Machine backup in addition to my DejaVu backups. Whatever option you choose, make sure you choose one. Backing up is critical. You don’t want to be the one that looses all of those personal files because you didn’t have a backup.

    Ideas? Post your backup solutions below.

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    Reference

    • Screenshots taken by the author

    • Article based on the author's experience

    • Links discussed in the article:

    Deja Vu: http://www.propagandaprod.com/

    Carbon Copy Cloner: http://www.bombich.com/

    SuperDuper!: http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html

    CrashPlan: http://www.crashplan.com