8 Backup Solutions for OS X

Everyone generally agrees that having some form of backup solution in place is vitally important. Hard drives are far more reliable now than ever, but they’re still prone to fail from time-to-time. Many people consider Time Machine to be the de-facto backup solution for the Mac, but you’d be surprised how many others are available.

This roundup will take a look at a new way to customize Time Machine, a variety of different drive cloning utilities, and a few online backup tools. I hope you find something new, and however you choose to go about it be sure to backup your data!

Time Machine

Time Machine

Time Machine

As it comes bundled with OS X, Time Machine is by far the easiest and most convenient solution available. It requires an external drive, and will make hourly backups automatically without any intervention on your part. Restoring a file is done through the wonderful space-age interface.

Price: Free
Developer: Apple
Requires: OS X Leopard




SuperDuper! is a widely popular backup utility for creating an exact clone of one drive to another. It’s useful for maintaining a bootable copy of your Mac’s hard drive, so you can continue working easily if a disk fails. The interface is simple, and I’ve found it to be thoroughly reliable over the years.

Price: $27.95
Developer: Shirt Pocket
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later

Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner

Similar to SuperDuper!, Carbon Copy Cloner makes an exact replica of your drive onto another. It can handle incremental backups, and files created are non-proprietary, so you can browse them or use them with Migration Assistant.

Price: $10
Developer: Bombich
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later

Smart Backup

Smart Backup


SmartBackup offers all the regular features you’d expect from a backup utility, but also a few advanced tools. It can show you where to find application data files (such as your email), and also use Spotlight’s saved searches as criteria for backups (e.g. back up all files changed in the last week). It’s optimized, clever, and can easily be automated with iCal or Automator.

Price: $22
Developer: Free Ride Coding
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.5




The first online backup utility to be featured, Backblaze is the “no fuss solution to getting all your data backed up securely”. It’s incredibly simple, supposedly offers unlimited storage, any encrypts all data before sending it across the internet. It sounds impressive, and has received some excellent reviews.

Price: $5 per month
Developer: BackBlaze
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later




Dropbox allows you to keep pre-defined files in sync with the cloud, and any other computers you may own. It’s fantastic for backing up important files, but would struggle with copying an entire machine. It also supports versioning, so you can revert to previous versions of a file easily.

Price: Free / $9.99 per month
Developer: Dropbox



EMC Retrospect

Retrospect is incredibly expensive, and generally seen as a corporate backup solution. They do offer a desktop backup solution for OS X, though I haven’t tried it personally. It’s aimed at network backups primarily, though you may find a copy of their “Express” software bundled with an external hard drive.

Price: Around $140
Developer: EMC

Time Machine Editor

Time Machine Editor

Time Machine Editor

Finally, Time Machine Editor is a great tool for tweaking the settings of Leopard’s backup app. It allows you to change the interval at which backups occur, and alter settings which are otherwise unavailable. Very handy, and completely free.

Price: Free
Developer: Time Machine Editor Team
Requires: Mac OS X Leopard


Don’t feel completely confined to Time Machine – a whole range of software is out there to be tried, some of which can add a new level of safety for your data. Having a bootable clone of your hard drive can be incredibly useful if things go wrong.

I’m aware that a wide selection of online backup utilities are available, and I’d be interested to hear which ones you prefer. So… How do you keep your data safe?


Add Yours
  • I use a combination of TimeMachine for local and Mozy for remote backup to the cloud. That way I hopefully have most, if not all, bases covered. Btw, been using Mozy for a good while now on both OSX and Windows – very happy with it.

  • Mathusalem, http://code.google.com/p/mathusalem/ is really interesting. Looks like it’s what is now going to become ‘Twin’. Great approach, incremental backup. Interesting. Need more like this.

  • Just my two cents but you forget the excellent iBackup (http://www.grapefruit.ch/iBackup/).
    It’s free too !

  • I started with Backblaze immediately when it has been released for Mac and have to say that it’s a great service. Once established I barely even notice that it does backups all of the time, but it works well.

    Just about two weeks ago I also purchased a TimeCapsule to start using TimeMachine – even though the device itself looks cool and works well, the backup process frequently slows down my iMac so I can’t even reveal the dock during this process anymore which is rather annoying.

    Thanks for suggesting the TimeMachineEditor by the way – maybe it can solve my problem! :-)

  • I’m surprised you didn’t mention Twin http://www.app4mac.com/store/index.php?target=products&product_id=21&sl=EN&currency=usd or even Syncplicity that you yourselves reviewed. Twin I admit is maybe more targeted towards professionals, as it requires Twin to restore backups (but then so does Time Machine, as trying to find the file you want to restore through the finder is near impossible).

  • I started out several years ago using Mozy for Windows, which worked great. When I switched to Mac ~2 years ago I had nothing but problems with the Mozy Mac client and frequently would find that it had locked up and hadn’t been backing up my files. The worst part was that it wasn’t actually telling me that nothing was being backed up, it was just silently sitting there doing nothing and my files were going unprotected.

    I quickly switched to JungleDisk and was impressed with its speed and reliability. However as my backup volumes grew to 150+ GB, cost began to become a prohibitive factor for using the service, so I set out to find a new solution.

    I stumbled upon Backblaze a few months ago and have never been happier with my backup solution. It’s quick, efficient, and it just works.

    In addition to that, we use Dropbox (which is also an outstanding product!) for sharing and backing up client projects and other business-related documents.

  • I use a combination of Time Machine, ChronoSync (http://www.econtechnologies.com/) and WinClone (http://twocanoes.com/winclone/) to backup my BootCamp Partition.

  • If you are like me, you hate any applications running at all. Therefore, a good solution is to use an Automator action called Backup Folder, available from CompleteDigitalPhotography.com


    Obviously, you can set the source and destination folders. And unlike the ordinary system Copy” function, this one only backs up files that have changes, saving time and eliminating possible errors.

    Since it’s an Automator action, you save it out as an application and schedule it as part of iCal. That way, it launches and runs automatically, but won’t eat system resources by living in the background.

  • I would be dead without my Drobo. Now I need to find an offsite solution.

  • I use Mozy for full backup, SugarSync for online storage and retrieval and an external HD for short term backup…AND…DVD backups for long term onsite storage…whew!

  • Good list, this is helpful! I like Time Machine personally… Featured over at my site.

  • As apple pointed out, not many people back up. Those who do, know a lot about it typically and willing to splash the cash on something solid.

    However those new to backups can only see TimeMachine as something amazing and free. No other backup solution makes browing backups fun either! (Wheee! Back in time I go!)

  • How you add an avatar or photo like some people here? This site provide for creating a profile?

  • I use Time Machine along with a 1TB Time Capsule, I love it. I did have a few problems with Time Capsule, it stopped letting me backup onto it after a few months, went to the Apple Store a few times they give me a few fixes that worked for a while but they replaced it for me last time to the newest model which costs an extra £50 which is pretty cool :P
    I don’t notice it backing my stuff up, I don’t experience any noticeable slow downs at all.
    But totally love Time Machine and Time Capsule working together, works seamlessly.
    @egy if you goto http://gravatar.com and sign up, upload your avatar this site and lots of other use it, they use the email address you provide to get the avatar from Gravatar.

  • If you’re not interested in whole disks, maybe you should give rsync a go. (Make sure backup drive is formatted as MacOS for timestamp functionality)

  • I prefer Time Machine Scheduler (http://www.klieme.com/TimeMachineScheduler.html) to Time Machine Editor. It has some cool features like auto-mounting and unmounting disks. And it’s also FREE!

  • I use two backups – One drobo and Backblaze.

    The two combined means i have quick access to all files and off site storage in case of fire or theft. For $50 a year, cant really fault backblaze. good support also.

  • I mainly use Time Machine but I’ve also got a dropbox account which is useful for syncing files to other machines. Don’t ever use Retrospect – I know of two people who were using it in corporate environments and both had catastrophic data losses and very bad customer service.

  • I highly recommend DropBox! I’m constantly finding that it bails me out, not only in the event of a machine crash, but even more so when I work from home… I can pull files from my office computer’s DropBox and work when unexpectedly inspired (even if the work machine is powered down).

    PLUS their website allows me to log in and download/upload files from/to my DropBox from any machine with an internet connection. And the versioning (correct term?) has saved me the tragedy of many an accidentally-overwritten file.

    Then initial transfer (upload) of an existing mass of files is cumbersome, but after everything’s been uploaded it keeps changes updated automatically in the background… you don’t even notice it’s working for you.

    Can’t say enough good about it!

  • I do regular Time Machine backups every 3 hours and then a Super Duper copy to a separate drive once a week. I also archive old files to the “cloud” using Amazon S3 & Jungle disk.

  • What about carbonite? I use it and so far so good. Unlimited storage, reasonable monthly fee. The only downside is the speed of my internet broadband uploads, initial backup still going on…

  • i can’t believe you’d mention retrospect (basically the worst backup application that exists on the mac) and not mention crashplan (basically the smartest backup application on the mac). don’t believe me? read the reviews at http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/7562/retrospect and http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/23844/crashplan

    for those of you suggesting rsync and other tools, don’t be so trusting of your data (and your meta data). http://blog.plasticsfuture.org/2006/03/05/the-state-of-backup-and-cloning-tools-under-mac-os-x/ and http://nik.me/node/151 have more information.

    what works for me is time machine backups to prevent catastrophic mistakes (dead computer) and crashplan for sending infinite versions of every file in my home folder to two locations (local and remote). see http://www11.crashplan.com/consumer/features-timemachine.html for why time machine alone is not good. you could also substitute superduper for timemachine if you needed bootable backups and dropbox for crashplan if your data is under 2g.

  • I tried to sync Time Machine to my external hard drive (not a Time Capsule, it was a SimpleTec) and it ‘failed’, deleted everything from my hard drive, and then fried it so it couldn’t be opened on any computer. Is that normal?

    I’m nervous about trying Time Machine again…

  • I use both Time Machine and Dropbox (great tool). They are both nice and clean, and free.
    But, your list (and the responses) looks interesting. Thanks for your work. I just scanned it now, but I will take a closer look later. And maybe check out some tools.
    You know, it’s crazy how many people don’t have a back-up plan at all.

  • really helpful guys, thanks for sharing. Everyone’s responses are also helpful.

  • It would be really great if all you guys mentioned if whatever service you use has bootable support. I know Time Machine doesn’t, and SuperDuper, CCC, and Drive Genius do, but what about the rest you all mention? Does Smart Backup make bootable backups? I presume the net-based backups do not (Backblaze and DropBox, maybe Mozy).

    I would have thought all you guys would value bootable backups. The fastest way to get out of a jam until everything else is sorted. If anyone is interested to specify what is bootable and what is not, then this article would be much much better to help people learning new things to shortlist what to look for, then look at all these things and see what has a bootable option.

    For the record, I have a clone backup and will use Time Machine. if I could get a bootable Time Machine, then that would be the best of both worlds. I do not think Time Machine has changed to being bootable. If I am wrong, please tell me. If there is anything similar to Time Machine that has bootable support, I’d love to know that, too.

  • carbon copy cloner is free.

    but i definitely think they deserve donations.

  • At the moment I’m using TimeMachine and Backblaze and this combination works great.

    I also want to test CrashPlan in the next days as an alternative: http://www11.crashplan.com/landing/index.html

  • I prefer Mozy for peace of mind, at least EMC is on storage market so very few chance to close it service like UPLINE.

  • I just use iSkysoft DVD Copy for Mac to backup my DVD Movies ,and recently iSkysoft released a new DVD Copy Pro to backup DVD9 Movies to DVD 5 ,and it lookes great.


  • I use ChronoSync to backup locally to a drive connected to my Airport Extreme. But more importantly, I use Mozy for offsite backups. Have been with Mozy for 3 years now and am a very satisfied customer.

  • I use SugarSync and it works very well ! It allows me to sync my folders (without having to modify my folder structure like in Dropbox), the interface is clean and efficient. I have also the possibility to access them online, from my iPhone (great for the photo galleries) and to share big files faster.

    I highly recommend them. I also use Dropbox for sharing my professional files with my associates and it is also a great pick !

  • Synk Standard (http://www.decimus.net/synk_standard.php) to backup locally and a combination of Automator, iCal and Transmit (http://www.panic.com/transmit/) to backup over ftp to a remote server.

    Would like a more featured and smoother ftp backup solution though. Any suggestions?

    • CaptainFTP does local/remote sync on a schedule.. Might be what you’re looking for?

  • Nice article guys! *secretly hoping this wasn’t the full response to my request for an article on backup solutions yet.

  • Those users who use Windows in addition to Mac may want to try a new CloudBerry Online Backup powered by Amazon S3. You can sign-up for beta at http://cloudberrydrive.com/

  • I’m not too sure what happened for everyone else using Retrospect but I have been using it now for over 10 years and have not once had a problem with it. Admitted the interface in older versions was a complete pain to work with but backing up / restoring and searching is really really simple especially if you utilise a good naming convention.

    I have tried all other backup utilities and a lot are very very good but for ease of knowing where your files are and just bringing back exactly what you want I would definitely have to give Retrospect a very big thumbs up.

  • I use Time Machine and Backblaze. Time Machine protects me from stuff I deleted from my hard drive and Backblaze protects me in the off chance that my computer gets nicked with my Time Machine Backup. One can never be too safe. The key is figuring out where everything has been backed up too. I use Disktracker and DiskLibrary.

  • I have been using BackBlaze. Down fall to online backup will always be the time it takes to complete one full backup. Apple’s TimeMachine works fantastically! Time Machine Editor is the one thing that is missing. It is a very nice addition, it allows power users, audio, video editors to backup a machine without taking a performance hit. Back it up when you want!

  • Time Machine and external hard drive for everything on my disc, JungleDisk for the most important files.

  • I use Super Duper for full backup with bootable capabilities. However, I’d like to find one similar to Acronis for windows, where you can set the amount of compression, the higher the compression, the longer it takes but also the less disk space of course.

    It would be nice to be able to backup 160gb to 80gb disk space like Acronis does. I don’t know of any (haven’t used Retrospect) that can do this like Acronis does for osx? Anyone…


  • http://www.adrive.com provides a 50 GB online free backup. Yes, the interface could be better, but 50GB for free is a good option to consider.

  • I heard great things about BackBlaze, and purchased two accounts for my desktop and laptop. The DSL I am limited to at my house however, has left the backup speed a little slow.

    Carbon Copy and Super Duper have both been great when it comes time to upgrade or replace a hard drive in one of my machines.

  • I wish more things in life were as easy to setup as Time Machine.

    Oh, and DropBox replaced ALL my thumbdrives.

  • I can’t use Backblaze simply because it won’t back up my Applications folder.

  • External hard drive for system backup and iDrive for Mac (http://www.idrive.com/idrive-for-mac.htm) for on-line backup of critical documents and photos. iDrive for Mac provides 2 GB free and is fast with a nice interface. I like iDrive.

  • I like the look of crashplan. It’s cross platform and will backup between systems. Set it up with friends/family to back each other up. http://crashplan.com

  • You missed one good software from the list called Dmailer http://www.dmailer.com/dmailer-backup.html . Their software is free and you can also store files online on their server for free up to 3gb..
    I don’t think to many companies offer such a good, and easy to use software for free.
    I am using for more than 6 months and i didn’t had any problem with it and all works like a charm :D

  • Super Duper have both been great when it comes time to upgrade or replace a hard drive in one of my machines.

  • I am really interested in this topic.

  • If you are looking for a command line based (text file configured) backup solution then you may wish to consider LBackup : http://www.lbackup.org

    You will require a solid understanding of the unix shell. However, if you are after a flexible, open source incremental backup system it is worth a look. Screen casts about LBackup are online if you are interested but not ready to install.

  • For those using CrashPlan… imagine that I have a 80GB iPhoto Library. If I add more pictures, lets say another 500MB of data, CrashPlan app will be intelligent enough to only upload the new data or it will re upload my entire library?

    I’m leaning towards CrashPlan as my offsite backup solution, in adition of SuperDuper + DropBox.


  • 1. Retrospect Server 7.5 for Windows
    We have used Retrospect Server 7.5 on our Windows 2003 server for 5 years without a single problem, it has been great. We backup to various external eSATA drives for version control and offsite storage.

    2. Retrospect Server 8 for Mac
    Retrospect Server 8 for Mac has been a complete nightmare for us. We are running it on a MacMini “2Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo” with 4GB of ram and it has been awful. It hangs or stops responding. It takes long times to refresh or respond to your mouse clicks. It will lock up the server and just sit there while not backing up. It will stop recognizing its disk backup sets, and client sources. It has various problems backing up laptop clients, especially over wireless. Dantz who sold it to Roxio has not released an update in 2 years. I would not recommend this product at all. You should take a peek at the Retrospect 8 forums to see what a bad product it is.

    3. Super Duper or CCC
    These products are great for scheduled local file or folder backups, or complete boot clones. You cannot go wrong with either of these products.

    4. Mozy Online Backup
    Mozy has been hit or miss for us. When it works it works great, but for no reason whatsoever it will stop backing up. We had to struggle to get it to backup our email databases and it simply would not work right so we got rid of it. We left it backing up our accountants financial system, but recently found it just stopped backing up for no reason. At this juncture I would not use Mozy, and would look for another cloud backup service instead.

  • Chronosync should be on this list. I’ve been using it for about a couple of years and it’s rock solid, easy to use/configure.

    Only downside of Chronosync is that it can’t handle the FTP protocol. Which means that if you’re a web developer who needs to also backup you live site, ChronoSync won’t be able to do it. I suggested this feature to the ChronoSync team but they declined indicating that their app was not created for such tasks and that it would be quite complex to achieve this. Hopefully they will one day soon!

    But as I mentioned above, CS is great for local backups.

  • Is there somekind of Private (intranet) Cloud Solution ?

    It would be awesome if we could use and expand multiple Harddrives as one big volume and at ist best mirror them for best reliability.

    Backblaze isnt unlimited, it is limited by the space you have on you computer since it only keeps kopies of files. So you cant store files on backblaze an dnot on you computer!