BACKUPS! BACKUPS! BACKUPS!


honestone

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I really wish there was a way to "force" folks to read and understand backups. The critical task of backing up one's "stuff" keeps coming up over and over again. So many times folks come here looking for solutions to issues, but they either do not have a backup, or else they rely on Time Machine for that task. Time Machine is fine for what it does, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. For what it's worth (and hopefully to help folks out), I'm going to describe backups strategies, along with other associated tasks.

First, there are two ways of backing up: one is to use Time Machine, which comes as part of the Mac OS. The other is to use a backup/cloning product, either SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner. There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages of each:

1. Time Machine - Advantages: a) Free b) Easy to schedule frequent backups
Disadvantages: a) Not Bootable b) not as easy to use for recovery

2. SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner - Advantages: a) each make a bootable backup/clone b) Makes recovery much easier and smoother
Disadvantages: a) not free (although each of them can be used in demo mode) b) not as "easy" to schedule frequent backups (somewhat more "manual" than Time Machine)

Secondly, as most folks know, I use SuperDuper!, and to be totally honest, I would not be without it. Also, I have never used Time Machine. The primary reason is that I require a "bootable" way to recover from a disaster. While getting to a Time Machine backup can be achieved by booting to the (hidden) Recovery HD partition (and also performing disk maintenance/repairs (albeit, via Disk Utility)), the process is slow, and if one wants to do a re-installation of the Mac OS via that partition, that process is even slower, as it depends upon 1) availability of Apple's servers, and 2) speed of one's internet connection. Those two drawbacks alone are why I much prefer SuperDuper! (Carbon Copy Cloner would also be an excellent choice).

Third, before I go on, it would be good to mention the differences between SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner. First is cost: SuperDuper! costs $27.95, whereas Carbon Copy Cloner costs $39.95. From what I understand, the primary reason for that is that Carbon Copy Cloner also backs up the (hidden) Recovery HD partition, whereas SuperDuper! does not. I have never needed that partition (I'll explain below). Secondly, as mentioned, Carbon Copy Cloner also backs up the Recovery HD partition. However, Shirt Pocket software (the company that makes SuperDuper!) is currently beta testing a new version of SuperDuper!, and besides compatibility with High Sierra, it will back up that (hidden) Recovery HD partition.

Next, in quite a number of posts by folks, it is either necessary or desirable to "revert back" to a prior OS. Here are the ways to do that with these backups methods:

1. Time Machine - After booting to the (hidden) Recovery HD partition, use Disk Utility to 1) perform first aid on one's internal drive, 2) use Disk Utility to Erase and Format the drive, 3) select re-install mac OS for a fresh, clean installation of the mac OS, and 4) use Migration Assistant to "migrate"/copy needed "stuff" from the Time Machine backup. The disadvantages of this are 1) booting to the Recovery HD partition is a slow process, and 2) for the mac OS installation, I have always been unclear as to which Mac OS one will get, along with it being a slow process, as it is performed via the internet, along with the availability of Apple's servers.

2. SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner - First, make sure you have the latest version of the prior OS (or maybe for some folks like myself (at present), the current OS, which for me is Sierra, V 10.12.6.). If one does not have it, re-download it from the App Store. The resulting file, entitled "Install macOs Sierra", will reside in the Applications folder. Make a copy of it in another location on one's drive. This step is so, so important, as it makes recovery so much easier. Myself, within the /System/Documents folder, I have two folders, one entitled "Useful Software" (it's where I keep the original installation files for each of my third-party applications), and the other entitled "Upgrades", which is where I keep "OS-related" upgrades. I have some sub-folders there, and it is the place where copy that copy of the "Install macOS Sierra" (or whatever applicable Mac OS) file. Secondly, if necessary, I make one more SuperDuper! backup (actually 2 of them) to each of my external drives. Besides my normal once a week maintenance/backup tasks, I would also do that right before I upgrade to a new Mac OS (like High Sierra, but not yet). Third, re-start my Mac from that bootable backup. The beauty of that is that it is just like having another machine. Next, I use Disk Utility there to do the two tasks mentioned above for Time Machine. Once the Erase/Format process is complete, I then find the "Install macOS "whatever OS"" file ("Install macOS Sierra", in my case), launch it, and perform the clean, fresh, "virgin" installation of that Mac OS. Finally, just like above, after the Mac OS installation completes, use Migration Assistant to "migrate"/copy needed "stuff from my most recent SuperDuper! backup.

It should be clear why I so much prefer using SuperDuper! (again, the process would be the same with Carbon Copy Cloner), but I'll list them here:

1. Everything is done "locally", ie, it is not dependent on the internet, along with me having much more control.

2. Re-starting my Mac from a SuperDuper! backup is MUCH faster than via the (hidden) Recover HD partition.

3. I know what exact Mac OS I'll be re-installing, and again, it is a "local" process.

4. Besides Disk Utility, I have access to other useful Mac apps, and in particular, Tech Tool Pro, an excellent disk cleanup/maintenance/repair program. For these reasons, that is why I really do not need the Recovery HD partition (along, of course, with having the applicable "Install macOS "whatever"" file).

4. It is faster and smoother.

OK, that should do it. I do apologize for the long post, but given how many times I have seen issues with backups/recovery, I felt it was needed.

I of course welcome any comments, suggestions, corrections, etc.
 
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Monte Pirlo

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Agreed with Honestone. but we can't rely on time machine everytime for i have found it inefficient some times. I use Mail Backup X for mails and CCC for the rest. I make sure both backups are kept at separate places. mails mark an utmost priority.

regards
Monte Pirlo
 
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honestone

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Thanks Monte Pirlo for the endorsement. I actually use Outlook 2016 as my EMail client, and I am always have deleted EMails permanently removed right after I delete them (there are two simple ways of doing that in Outlook 2016). I have never had an issue when I have "recovered" anything from my SuperDuper! backups, including all my EMails. But this is the second time I have seen a positive statement about Mail Backup X.

I'm curious about the benefits of Main Backup X (besides some of the obvious ones). I would appreciate any comments/suggestions, etc. you might have. (By the way, what EMail client do you use? Most folks here use Apple's Mail program, but I have seen so many posts on here about issues with that program.).
 

David Patterson

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I agree that backups are essential, but I don't understand why people still recommend SuperDuper over Carbon Copy Cloner. I used SD for a while, but a couple years ago switched back to CCC when I realized SD wasn't backing up the recovery volume. I was really surprised how much better CCC was at everything. It's way faster, has a simpler interface for excluding files, scheduling backups is ridiculously simple, and it just works more reliably. And you get a Household license (so all three of my Macs are covered for $40, vs. $84 for SD), and CCC is more regularly updated. And now with High Sierra and APFS, SD expects you to use a beta? What's taking so long? I was using CCC for bootable APFS backups the day that High Sierra shipped. It's flawless. honestone, maybe it's time you took another look at CCC.
 

honestone

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Appreciate the comments, but there are a couple of things I need to make remarks about.

First of all, while I obviously prefer SuperDuper! (SD), I did not say it was better than Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC). Also, I stated a couple of times that CCC would do the job also, and that it is an excellent choice. For my needs, though, SD is fine.

Secondly, I did state that difference about the (hidden) Recovery HD, but I also gave clear, logical reasons why that is not a detriment, at least for me. I'll repeat them here. First, I can get to Disk Utility and a copy of the "Install macOS "whatever"" file by restarting my Mac via the SD backup (same would be true with CCC). I can also use the superior disk cleanup/maintenance/repair program Tech Tool Pro on the backup. Secondly, as I mentioned, when I "move" to a new Mac OS, I do a clean, fresh installation of it, and the Recovery HD partition gets created. Third, it can be re-created in other ways (that would happen if I do a recovery from the SD backup. For CCC, such a recovery, yes, would include the Recovery HD partition).

Third, Shirt Pocket is not saying to use the beta. They have it out there if one wants to use it (and experiment). I for one never use beta software. But based on the posts yesterday that I made about 1) the status of the SD beta (definitely issues with APFS and HFS+ volumes), and 2) similar issues with the venerable Tech Tool Pro, I made it very clear why I am waiting to upgrade, even if upgrades were available for Tech Tool Pro and SuperDuper!. Plus, I posted the two links provided by Micromat about more issues with High Sierra.

So, let's make it clear about the "playing field". Right now, it is true that SD does not backup the Recovery HD partition, whereas CCC does. But, once Shirt Pocket completes there beta testing, the new version of SD, V3.0, will include that capability.

It is "impressive" that CCC seems to work fine with High Sierra, but with so many issues still inherent with that OS (including the just released first update), even if I used CCC, I would be hesitant. Besides, two of my other critical third party apps (Tech Tool Pro and the Logitech Control Center software) do not yet have upgrades. I know that Micromat is having issues trying to get a version of Tech Tool Pro available, and they have made comments about having the same issues as Shirt Pocket.

Another important thing that needs to be mentioned is this. Here is what Bombich is saying about CCC and High Sierra:

https://bombich.com/kb/ccc5/best-practices-updating-your-macs-os

While a lot of that is definitely valid (and the same is true for SD), it is disappointing that they neglected to state that third party software compatibility is a requirement also before upgrading. I have mentioned that numerous times here, and as I have already stated, it is one of the reasons why I am not upgrading yet.

The other thing that should be mentioned is that when one downloads the "Install macOS "whatever"" file, it winds up inside one's Applications folder. Launching that file from that location results it being removed after the installation completes (that is actually what happens when one chooses "Reinstall macOS" from the Recovery HD partition menu, ie, the file is first downloaded from Apple's servers, then the installation of the OS runs (a slow, slow process)). That is why I always state that besides downloading that file from the App store, then make a copy of it immediately, in another location. With that, when either SD or CCC complete the backup, one has another way of reverting back to a prior OS.

In any event, hope you have no issues with High Sierra. Myself I am staying away for now. But I might look into switching to CCC, even though SD works fine for my purposes.
 
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honestone

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Also, and to keep this discussion as "light" as possible, here is what Bombich is saying about their testing and issues with High Sierra:

https://bombich.com/kb/ccc5/high-sierra-testing-and-known-issues

Also, here is a very good discussion about all this AFPS/HFS+ "stuff" and the "new" Disk Utility contained within High Sierra:


It is definitely not as easy a task using this new version of Disk Utility. Fortunately, all my drives are SSDs, and thus the choice appears simple: format all of them as AFPS.
 
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Monte Pirlo

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I'm curious about the benefits of Main Backup X (besides some of the obvious ones). I would appreciate any comments/suggestions, etc. you might have. (By the way, what EMail client do you use? Most folks here use Apple's Mail program, but I have seen so many posts on here about issues with that program.).
Hi Honestone, sure, there are few points that I could think on top of my head.

I have been using Outlook Mac since I experienced a crash with Mail after using it for a long time. That’s the time I was looking for something to get back on track and found Mail Backup X. It helped me recover the emails from Mac Mail and at that point on I switched to Outlook for Mac as Mail Backup X allows retrieving mails to multiple mail formats.

The app takes incremental backup of only new emails, and I was amazed to see that the mail archive is needing far less space as the app compresses and stored the archive data.

This app also has an inbuilt viewer to look at old archives. I have been using this to avoid having a lot of emails in Outlook Mac, and thus it stays a lot more responsive compared to when it is having a lot of mails.

Another problem I was able to fix with this app's help is to be able to view cross-platform archives. I was assigned a PC at my work a while, and I ended up with some Outlook PST files, I was able to add and view those emails too on my mac and have a consolidated look at all my mails in one place.

One feature that is the best in this app is Auto USB sync. During set up, I was prompted to set up auto sync to a USB drive, so whenever I plug in that USB drive, the app will automatically sync the backup to my USB and create a mirror of my backups.

I will share more info if I come across any other useful features :)

Cheers!
 

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