To many of us, backing up a Mac means setting up Time Machine to make incremental backups and signing up to various iCloud services so that we can keep copies of photos, music, files and more in the cloud.
But, while Time Machine and iCloud are great resources, they aren't perfect, and relying on them 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 offsite. 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 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 2020.
Acronis True Image 2020
Acronis is a name well known in the Windows world, but less so to Mac users. True Image 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 2020 (as did True Image 2019 before it) supports APFS drives, so if you're running High Sierra, Mojave or Catalina, 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 Boot Camp partitions, or indeed specify any partition on your drive to back up. But it does allow backing up of virtual machines.
New features in the 2020 version include the option to set a minimum power level to stop the system backing up if the battery is low, and you can ensure that backups don't happen over a metered connection or a potentially-unsafe public Wi-Fi.
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 for a one time purchase, 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.
Get Backup Pro (v3)
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 playhead button at the bottom of the main window; click it and the selected backup will start.
There's a free trial. A single licence is $19.99 or you can get a family pack for up to 5 Macs for $35.99.
Don't be fooled by its name. While ChronoSync has its roots in file synchronisation 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 synchronisation across multiple Macs and backup, it's worth persevering.
ChronoSync (currently at version 4.9.5) is Catalina ready. There is a 15 day fully functional trial or you could buy ChronoSync Express, a cut price version of the complete ChronoSync software.
You can download ChronoSync from the App Store here.
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% 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.
With Backblaze you can back up your Mac for $6 a month, data is stored in secure data centres and two-factor authentication adds an extra level of security.
IDrive is another online backup service. However, it differs from both Backblaze and Carbonite in a number of ways.
Firstly, 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 for the first year and $74.62/year after that, but that only allows you to backup 5TB of data, while Backblaze and Carbonite allow unlimited data. However, that 5TB 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 allow you to 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.
Carbon Copy Cloner 5
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.
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 lefthand 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 optimised 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 $71.99 per year for a single computer, but if you want to back up external drives and back up videos automatically, that jumps to $111.99. That makes it expensive compared to its nearest competitors.
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 of SuperDuper 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 CarbonCopyCloner - 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.