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Dr. Mac's Guide to Backing Up Your Mac
By Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

Chapter 4: Backup Software

This is a relatively short chapter. After nearly 20 years of backing up my Mac hard disks, there's only one program I trust completely with my data, and that program is EMC/Dantz's Retrospect (or its sibling Retrospect Express). It's been around for most of the 20 years I've been a Mac user and as far as I'm concerned, nothing else comes close.

I'll tell you a little about Retrospect and several other solutions in this chapter, then show you how to use Retrospect to execute Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C in Chapter 5 and how to use Retrospect to restore your data after a disaster in Chapter 6.


You should definitely read Chapters 5 and 6 even if you intend to backup using something other than Retrospect. Both chapters contain lots of important information about creating and executing a backup strategy as well as restoring data after a disaster. You'll learn a lot in Chapters 5 and 6 regardless of the software you decide to use for your backups. So don't skip them just because you intend to use another backup program.

Retrospect, Retrospect Express, and Retrospect HD

The major differences between Retrospect and Retrospect Express are that Retrospect Express can't be used with some high-end tape drives, doesn't have the more sophisticated filtering capabilities of Retrospect (known as "selectors"), can't back up a remote Mac over a network, and is significantly less expensive. Other than that the two programs are quite similar. Retrospect Express HD is a special version of the software that can only back up to hard disks. If you buy certain hard disks-Maxtor One Touch models and many drives from Other World Computing to name a couple-you'll get a free copy of Retrospect Express or Retrospect Express HD.

The main reason to consider the more expensive Retrospect version is that it supports backing up multiple Macs over a network (using Retrospect client software available at additional cost), lets you build sophisticated filters (Selectors) that can choose certain files to back up based on criteria you supply, and offers support for almost every tape drive ever made. The good news is that many tape drives and hard disks include a copy of Retrospect, Retrospect Express, or Retrospect Express HD, so if you're shopping for a tape drive or hard disk, remember that a bundled copy of Retrospect Express could save you around $130.

The next two chapters look at Retrospect in great detail, so we'll leave it at that for the time being. In the meantime, you can find additional information about Retrospect at Dantz's Web site.


Dantz did not (and has never) paid me a penny other than the free evaluation copies of their software I receive regularly. I recommend them purely because of my overall positive experiences with both their software and their tech support over the years.

Other Backup/Cloning Programs

If, for whatever reason, you choose not to use the aforementioned software for your backups, here are some other backup programs you might want to consider:

LaCie SilverKeeper

SilverKeeper is a simple backup program that allows you to select and back up files to any device that can mount a volume on your desktop, (i.e. CD or DVD recordable disc, hard disk, or removable media cartridge like MO.) It's made by hard drive manufacturer LaCie, which makes it available absolutely free of charge. You can download your free copy.

Here's how to use it... First I clicked the Status tab and specified the volume or folder I wanted to back up (my Home folder, "Bobl"), and the destination for this backup (the folder "BobLBackup" on the hard disk called "Big Boy"), as shown in Figure 4-1.

Figure 4-1: SilverKeeper's Status tab.

I scheduled my backup to run at 2:45AM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the Schedule tab, shown in Figure 4-2.

Figure 4-2: SilverKeeper's Schedule tab.

I choose how many sets of files I want to keep (3) in the Options tab, where I could also choose to never remove backed-up files from this backup set, rename my backup set, or protect it with a password, as shown in Figure 4-3.

Figure 4-3: SilverKeepers Options tab.

I told the program that I wanted to exclude 2 folders-Magazines and Public- in SilverKeeper's Exclusions tab, as shown in Figure 4-4.

Figure 4-4: SilverKeeper's Exclusions tab.

Finally, SilverKeeper's Preferences window lets you determine how new or identical modification dates and privileges are handled as shown in Figure 4-5.

Figure 4-5: SilverKeeper's Preferences window.

It's a relatively complete backup solution and it can even create a bootable clone of your startup disk. And you can't beat its price-it's free! The only drawbacks I can see are that it doesn't support tape drives or Internet backups and doesn't offer any real filtering capabilities.


SuperDuper is an inexpensive program designed to duplicate folders or whole disks. Remember what I said about cloning not being a sufficient backup strategy. If you intend to use software such as SuperDuper or ChronoSync (see next entry), remember that you'll need to have at least three separate backup sets for maximum safety. Also, if you choose to use Retrospect, its Duplicate function can do the same thing(s) as SuperDuper or ChronoSync, so if you use Retrospect, you won't need another program for duplicating/cloning.

That said, SuperDuper is an excellent and easy to use program that provides the user with plenty of information about what it's going to do, as shown in Figure 4-6.

Figure 4-6: Clicking the Copy Now button will create an exact duplicate (a "clone")
of the disk named "Boots" on the disk named "StooB."

SuperDuper has scheduling so you can instruct it to run at any time without human intervention. Figure 4-7 shows how I told SuperDuper to clone Boots to Stoob every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 3:30AM.

Figure 4-7: SuperDuper makes it easy to automate (schedule) your copying tasks.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.)

SuperDuper also offers an exclusive feature called "Sandbox," which protects your boot disk from many types of catastrophic failure. The excellent SuperDuper user manual explains the Sandbox concept as follows:

A Sandbox is a bootable copy of your system, stored on another hard drive stem, stored on another hard drive or partition, that shares your personal documents and data with the original. In the past, you might have stored this copy away in a drawer as a backup. With SuperDuper, you actually use the Sandbox as your startup volume.

You can safely install any system updates, drivers or programs in the Sandbox, without worrying about what might happen to your system. If anything goes wrong, you can simply start up from the original system. SuperDuper has preserved it in its original, pre-disaster state - but all your new and changed personal documents are totally up to date. Within minutes, you're up and running again - without having to go through a difficult and time-consuming restore process.

Another cool deal is that SuperDuper operates in two different modes: Free mode and registered mode. The free version allows easy, complete and user- specific backup clones to hard disk volumes (partitions), FireWire drives, and image (.dmg) files.

But when you register SuperDuper for just $27.95, you get a bunch of additional features including scheduled backups, a Smart Update feature which saves you time, Sandboxes, Copy Scripts, plus the ability to save and restore settings and avoid authenticating every time you copy.

It won't cost you a dime to try it out. You can download a copy or learn more about SuperDuper at the product's Web site.


ChronoSync synchronizes folders and disks between two hard disks or Macs. It's very powerful but also extremely easy to use. For example, to copy a folder from one hard disk to another, all you have to do is drag the two folders onto ChronoSync, as shown in Figure 4-7.

Figure 4-7: This synchronization will make the Documents folder on the hard disk Stoob
exactly the same as the Documents folder on the hard disk Boots.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.)

If you like, you can create sophisticated rules that govern what will be copied, as shown in Figure 4-8, but that's totally optional.

Figure 4-8: You can create rules to fine-tune your synchronizations so they only copy the files you desire.

Speaking of options, ChronoSync offers many of them that let you customize what is copied and the feedback you receive, as shown in Figure 4-9.

Figure 4-9: ChronoSync offers a wealth of options to customize your file copying.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.)

If you have both a desktop Mac and a PowerBook, ChronoSync is a "must-have." It's the easiest way I know of to keep folders on two Macs in sync.

ChronoSync costs $30 and has proven itself worth every penny to me if only for synchronizing my desktop Mac with my PowerBook. I don't recommend it as your only backup software but it can be a great supplement to traditional backup software, especially if you have two computers you want to keep synchronized.

You can download a demo copy or learn more about ChronoSync from the Econ Technologies site.

Internet Backup

One last thing to consider is Internet backup. Internet backup doesn't use disks or discs, but instead backs up your files to a remote hard disk via (doh) the Internet. You'll need a broadband connection and even then it won't be speedy, and if you have a lot of data to back up it gets expensive, but Internet backup is a viable option and one you should consider.

There are two Internet backup services I use-BackJack and Backup (.Mac). Here's the skinny on both of them:


BackJack lets you back up your important files automatically as often as you like to their remote server in Canada. The BackJack software couldn't be easier to set up and once you've told it which files and folders you want to backed up and how often you want them backed up, you never need to worry about it again. You can even set it up to send you a report via email when each backup is completed.

BackJack is extremely easy to use and solves many of the problems of conventional backups:

  • You don't need to purchase additional hardware.
  • You don't need to purchase any discs or tapes.
  • You don't need to purchase any software (it's included with your monthly plan).
  • You don't need to store a backup off-site (BackJack stores all of your data off-site).
  • You can restore files from your backup from any place with a high-speed Internet connection.

It's simple to configure... First click the Backups button as shown in Figure 4-10.

Figure 4-10: The main BackJack window.

Then drag items you wish to back up to the Items to Back Up well as shown in Figure 4-11.

Figure 4-11: Drag items from the Finder to the Items to Back Up well.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.)

You have the option of creating filters for your backup as shown in Figure 4-12.

Figure 4-12: This filter will select only applications (file type = APPL) for my backup.

And you can schedule the backup to occur automatically even if your Mac is sleeping, as shown in Figure 4-13.

Figure 4-13: This backup will run every six hours even when my Mac is asleep.

You probably wouldn't want to use BackJack to backup your entire startup disk-that would take too long and be prohibitively expensive. But BackJack is a perfect solution for backing up your most important files-the ones you just couldn't live without. It's slower than backing up to hard disks or tapes, but since it runs in the background without disturbing you as you work in another program, that's no problem.

BackJack requires a $25 billing activation fee. After that, you pay $12.50 per month (minimum) for up to 2GB of data, with additional storage reasonably priced.

I've found BackJack to be extremely reliable and recommend it without hesitation to anyone with a broadband Internet connection. They offer a free 15-day trial, so feel free to check it out at no cost.

For more information visit the BackJack Web site.

Backup 3 (.Mac)

Another option is to subscribe to Apple's premium online service, .Mac (pronounced "dot Mac"). It works a lot like BackJack but uses different software known as Backup 3. For $99 a year you get up to 1 gigabyte of storage with additional gigabytes available at additional cost.

Backup 3 is as easy to use as BackJack and perhaps even easier. For one thing, it comes with pre-configured templates for common backup tasks as shown in Figure 4-14.

Figure 4-14: Backup 3 has pre-configured backup templates that make it even easier to use.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.)

If you'd rather create your own backup plan from scratch, as shown in Figure 4-15, Backup 3 makes it even easier by offering you a collection of Quick Picks-files or folders you're likely to want to back up.

Figure 4-15: Backup 3's Quick Picks make it even easier to create a backup plan.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.)

Of course you can also create a backup plan from scratch as shown in Figure 4-16.

Figure 4-16: Create a backup plan from scratch by dragging files or folders from the Finder to Backup 3's Backup Items well.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.)

And, of course, scheduling unattended backups is a piece of cake as shown in Figure 4-17.

Figure 4-17: Scheduling an unattended backup with Backup 3 is as easy as pie.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.)

Last but not least, in addition to backing up to your iDisk over the Internet, Backup 3 can also back up to CDs, DVDs, and other hard disks (but not tape drives).

One Last Thing...

There is one last thing I'd like to say about backup software: There are other options available. Just because I didn't describe it here doesn't mean it's not good... it merely means I haven't used it enough to recommend it. I've used all of the software listed in this chapter myself for long enough to know it's reliable and trustworthy.

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