Joe s Software Recommendations

Joe's Software Recommendations

Having reviewed the most important criteria for selecting backup software, I'd like to give you some specific recommendations. All things being equal, I recommend using a single program for both duplicates and archives. This strategy typically saves you both money and effort, ensures that you will not experience conflicts in schedules or requests for blank media, and generally makes for a less complicated backup system. (However, if you would like to use separate applications for duplicates and archives, see Duplication Software and Archiving Software, ahead.)

Combination (Duplication+Archiving) Software

The following applications offer both duplication and archiving features as I described them here, as well as scheduled backups:

  • Backup Simplicity

  • Data Backup

  • Déjà Vu

  • Personal Backup X

  • Retrospect Desktop

  • Retrospect Express

  • RsyncX

  • Synchronize Pro X

  • Synk Pro

  • Tri-Backup

In a pinch, any one of these could potentially do the trick. That's not to say they're equivalent, thoughor even adequate for most user's requirements. You can examine each program's features and price in Appendix B to see which one best meets your needs. But allow me to offer some advice:

  • If you back up to CDs or DVDs, you want software that can automatically split large files to span media and does multisession or packet recordingmaking Retrospect the only good option.

  • If you back up to a hard disk, I strongly recommend both compression and encryption; and you shouldn't be forced to create and manage your own disk images to get them. This consideration leaves Data Backup, Retrospect, Synk Pro, and Tri-Backup as candidates.

  • If ease of restoration is a significant concern to youand it should bechoose an application that offers snapshots, enabling you to restore all the files from a given point in time in one fell swoop. Your choices once again include Data Backup, Retrospect, and Tri-Backup. RsyncX also qualifies here; even though it doesn't offer snapshots as I define them, it doesn't truly need them, because each incremental archive effectively functions as its own snapshot. RsyncX's method for storing archives makes restoration from an arbitrary point in time fairly easy.

  • And finally, if you need to back up multiple computers to a single server, you'll be best served by an application that offers true client-server operationmeaning Retrospect Desktop or RsyncX.

Astute readers may have noticed that Retrospect popped up in each of those lists. Retrospect Desktop is the most expensive of the programs I cover here, at $129 (though you can frequently find it at a significant discount), but it's far and away the most full-featured Mac backup application. It's what most of the authors of the Take Control ebooks use.

Is Retrospect perfect? Certainly not. Some people feel it has a steep learning curve, making it intimidating for less technically inclined users. (I offer advice in Appendix C to help ease your initial configuration.) I've also encountered bugs from time to timeand technical support, should you need it, is pricey. In addition, EMC Insignia is sometimes slow to add support for newer storage devices; if you buy the latest and greatest optical drive, you may have to wait several months before a Retrospect update includes the necessary driver. (FireWire hard drives are always supported automatically.)

Even so, if I had to recommend just one application from this group, it would be Retrospect Desktop. (If you happen to purchase a drive that includes a free copy of Retrospect Express, that's an equally good option unless you need to perform client-server network backups.) If $129 is too pricey, Data Backup would be my second choice, edging out Tri-Backup slightly in ease of use and reputation of the developer.

Duplication Software

The following applications (including some that bill themselves as "backup" or "synchronization" software) can create bootable backups but not additive incremental archives:

  • BounceBack Professional

  • Carbon Copy Cloner[1]

    [1] In order for Carbon Copy Cloner to update your duplicates incrementally, you must also install a program called psync. To do so, click the Preferences button in Carbon Copy Cloner and then click Install Psync. After doing so, select the checkboxes for Synchronize Source to Target and Delete Items Not on Source.

  • Clone'X

  • CopyCatX

  • FoldersSynchronizer

  • MimMac

  • SilverKeeper

  • QuickBack (part of SpeedTools Utilities)

  • SuperDuper!

  • Xupport

Although each of these applications has a different interface and a variety of additional features, as far as I'm concerned they're all more or less equally capable in terms of making a bootable backup of an entire hard disk. Most of these applications offer limited-time demos or trial versions, so if you're considering such an application, you can download a copy and make sure it meets your needs before making a purchase.

If I had to recommend just one program from this list, however, I'd give the nod to SuperDuper!in addition to a thorough feature set, it excels at giving plain-English explanations of what it's about to do, making a potentially troubling task much less nerve-wracking. It also preserves some metadata that some other utilities don't, making for the most exact copies you can get. Although the full version costs $28, you can use the free demo version to create one-off duplicates; buying a license unlocks features such as scheduling and incremental updates.

But if you happen to have another of these utilities (or prefer a different interface for some reason), any of them should do the job.


Disk Utility and Duplication. Apple's Disk Utility, included with Mac OS X, can make bootable duplicates. However, I omitted it from the list here and in Appendix B because this feature is obscure (it's a side-effect of a Restore feature) and limited (you have almost zero control over what happens during duplicationand no scheduling capability).

If you must use Disk Utility to make a duplicate, you can do so by following these steps:


In Disk Utility, select any volume in the list on the left and click the Restore tab.


Drag the volume you want to duplicate from the list on the left into the Source field.


Drag the destination volume from the list on the left into the Destination field. (This works even though the field looks disabled.)


Select the Erase Destination checkbox.


Click Restore.

Archiving Software

The following applications offer additive incremental archives, but lack the capability to create bootable backups:

  • Apple Backup 3 (but not earlier versions)

  • Archive Assistant (part of StuffIt Deluxe 10.0)

  • BackupSW

  • BRU LE

  • ChronoSync

  • Dobry Backuper

  • NTI Shadow

  • SwitchBack

  • SyncupX

Unlike the programs that offer only duplication features, these applications vary significantly in their capabilities (see Table 4 in Appendix B).

As with the combination applications, desirable features for optical media backups include media spanning (offered by Apple Backup, Archive Assistant, BRU LE, and Dobry Backuper) and multisession recording (absent in all of these). Several of these applications, including Apple Backup and Dobry Backuper, require considerable scratch space (up to the size of one discCD or DVD), which reduces their usefulness for backing up almost-full volumes.

Compression is found in Apple Backup, Archive Assistant, BRU LE, BackupSW, Datum, and Dobry Backuper, but of these, only Archive Assistant offers encryption. Only BackupSW provides client-server operation (of a sort), and only Apple Backup provides snapshots.

Backup 3: A Big Step Forward

I made no secret of my dislike for Apple's Backup application when it was first released. Backup versions 1 and 2 did not even qualify as backup software in my estimation, since they offered neither archiving nor duplicating capabilities.

But in late September 2005, Apple released an entirely new, rewritten-from-scratch Backup version 3. I'm delighted to be able to say it's no longer terrible! In fact, it has some downright useful features and a comprehensible user interface. Most importantly, it now creates additive incremental archives, thus qualifying it as a "real" backup application.

However (and you knew there would be a "however"), despite these significant improvements, I have a few reservations about Backup 3.

First, it still can't create duplicates. This is not a deal-breakeryou can use any of dozens of other applications to do that, and some of them are even freebut you'll have to set up and maintain two different backup applications.

Second, it only backs up files belonging to the currently logged-in user. If you're the only person using a machine, that's no big deal. But if two or more users share a Mac, each one must log in and run Backup separately to back up that user's files. Virtually all other backup programs can handle data for multiple users at once, correctly maintaining ownership and permissions for each user.

Finally, although Backup 3 can handle optical media just fine (and ably spans your data across multiple discs when necessary), it cannot write to a given disc in more than one session. So if, during a certain backup run, Backup needed a new DVD for just the last megabyte of data, all the rest of the empty space on that DVD would go to waste. You could not write anything more to it during your next backup run; you'd have to provide a new, blank disc. This limitation can greatly increase your media costs.

I'm happy to recommend Backup as an archiving tool to .Mac members who have just one user account, and who are backing up to hard disks (avoiding the optical media problem just mentioned). For everyone else, though, stick with one of the more mature third-party products such as Retrospect, Data Backup, or Tri-Backup.

BRU LE is a fairly robust application, but it's designed primarily for use with tape libraries. Performing backups to a hard disk or optical media with BRU LE is less than ideal.

NTI Shadow has a unique capability: the option to archive a copy of selected files every time you save them. In this way, it functions as a cross between a backup utility and a version-control application.

With the exception of Apple Backup, which has a snapshot capability, all the applications in this list make the restoration of an arbitrary day's worth of files unnecessarily complicated. Unlike earlier versions, Apple Backup 3 now offers very respectable capabilities and a reasonable interface. If you're a .Mac member, and if you're backing up to hard drives, and if you're the only user on your machine, Backup 3 makes a fine choice, and you can get it without any additional expense. (See the sidebar on the opposite page for more information.) However, if you don't meet those criteria, you can get a better solution for less money.

In other words: most people are better off sticking with one of the applications discussed earlier that can handle both duplicates and archivesin particular, Retrospect, Data Backup, or Tri-Backup.

Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups. Industrial-Strength Techniques
Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups. Industrial-Strength Techniques
Year: 2004
Pages: 144 © 2008-2017.
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