I’ve been a Mac user and owner, continuously, since March 1984. The number of Macs I’ve bought numbers into the dozens. Through the years I’ve developed a number of habits to ensure the safety of my Mac’s files. That means backups. For me, backing up a Mac is a two step process.
Our home is home to four or five Macs at any one time. Each Mac has at least one, sometimes three, attached external hard disk drives. One of those drives is cloned using SuperDuper!
What SuperDuper! does is nothing short of remarkable. Using nothing more than an external hard drive, SD clones your Mac’s hard drive, file for file, bit for bit so you have a fully working, fully bootable external version of your Mac.
SuperDuper! will make that clone for free, but make it even faster and easier, and unlock a lot of other features with the paid version. Making a clone is easy. Attach your external hard drive (or, another internal hard drive in the case of a MacPro) to your Mac. Double click SuperDuper!
Select the Mac hard drive you want to copy from the pull down menu, and then select which hard disk drive to copy your Mac to. Then, click the Copy button.
The first time SuperDuper! clones your Mac’s hard drive may take an hour or two, depending on how many files are on your Mac. Subsequent incremental cloning only copies files that have changed, which may take five to 15 minutes or so.
What you end up with is your Mac on another hard drive. That’s a good backup strategy and works well with another hard drive and Apple’s Time Machine.
ChronoSync the Sleeper
SuperDuper! has a boatload of additional features, including a scheduler. Those features are not necessarily for the faint of heart, and, relative to how easy SuperDuper! works to clone a Mac’s hard drive, are unnecessarily complex, especially when copying files from Mac to Mac.
Enter Econ Technologies’ ChronoSync, the perennial winner of my Sleeper Utility of the Year award.
If SuperDuper! is not intimidating at first and appears simple to use (it is), then ChronoSync will look positively complex. It is. And it’s isn’t. ChronoSync is a delightful package with far more under the hood than appears at first glance.
ChronoSync will synchronize Mac files from one location to another—Mac to Mac, Mac to hard drive, Mac to hard drive elsewhere on a network, and much more. Unlike SuperDuper, ChronoSync makes it easy to determine exactly which files to synchronize, though the interface is a bit more complicated than SD.
ChronoSync starts with a window prominently featuring a Left Target (copy from) and Right Target (copy to), a customizable toolbar at the top with many options.
To the left is a sidebar of tool buttons with basic controls. Setup sets up the targets. That alone is enough to get you started. Then it gets a little more complicated. The Options button gives you a healthy list of nearly self explanatory options for archiving, notifications and error handling.
Rules and Archive buttons provide a very precise way of determining what gets copied and what does not. An easier way is the Analyze button which lists which files get copied from target to another. It also lets you exclude or include specific files, which makes the synchronization process much easier than SuperDuper! for more complex backups.
ChronoSync can also be automated through a scheduler. I’ve used CS for many, many years and it’s as rock solid and dependable as any Mac utility I own, including the scheduler, which can send you an email report of the copy log.
With many Macs around the house we have a more complex backup procedure than most. There’s the SuperDuper! clones for each Mac. But we also move files between Macs, resulting in quite a bit of redundancy.
Important Mac files such as the many gigs of iTunes music, the many thousands of iPhoto photographs, as well as a decade of family video clips in iMovie get synchronized between Macs, which then get duplicated on a cloned hard drive.
ChronoSync does the copy and sync routinely, with a single click, or automatically. Yes, there’s more. ChronoSync will also clone your Mac’s drive, create a bootable backup, archive files, and connect to other computers across a network to perform a synchronization.
Note that ChronoSync takes a little more effort to set up and use than SuperDuper! It also does more. Yet, the learning curve is not an oppressive, scary jump from beginning to experienced level. It’s try before you buy and highly recommended.