09 September 2021
Mac users, like any computer owners, should make a habit of backing up the data on their computers. Yet many people don’t bother. According to Backblaze in a 2021 poll conducted in the US, one out of five Americans who own a computer have never performed a backup of their data. That’s 20% of the computer-owning population.
Just 11% of people back up their data once a day or more, which is shocking if you consider how much personal information people tend to store on their devices. This is up from last year, but the message is clear: people aren’t backing up often enough.
It should go without saying, but it’s incredibly important to back up your valuable files so you can restore them in the event of theft, data corruption or damage to your Mac. But what's the best way to do that and keep your data safe?
We looked at five of the best backup tools for Mac to find out.
SuperDuper!In a world where the slightest mistake can lead to data loss, SuperDuper! is an essential app. It's easy enough for anybody with any level of computer skills to use. You just pick your source and destination drives and watch as it clones them flawlessly. No more lost photos or documents because of accidental deletions or formatting issues.
SuperDuper! includes a Smart Wake feature, which allows you to back up your Mac without turning on the screen. It does this by detecting when backups start and turns off displays so that no changes happen after initial backups are complete.
You can even choose what type of files you want backed up – for example, just music or certain applications.
The best part about it, though, is there are no monthly charges or subscriptions. You can back up and clone drives for free. And you only need to pay if you want to use advanced features like scheduling, Smart Update, sandboxes and scripting.
Pros: Packed full of features
Cons: Basic-looking user interface
No stranger to backing up data is Carbon Copy Cloner. The company immediately sets your mind at ease with its motto 'Casually Confront Catastrophe'. Carbon Copy Cloner is a simple cloning tool that backs up your internal hard drive at the bit level.
You can boot off the backup disk or clone and install a new drive with this application, which allows you to choose whichever files and folders you want to back up. This is great if you don’t want to waste too much time with your backups, allowing you to focus instead on the most important information on your Mac.
It features smart updates, backing up only what's changed since last time it checked. You can also schedule your backups and even pause a backup that’s in progress if you need to do something on your Mac while it’s busy.
Pros: Fast backups that can be booted if needed
Cons: There’s no free version available
Trial: Free 30-day trial.
Price: $39.99 for all computers within a household
Rather than only being a backup tool, ChronoSync includes both backup and synchronization capabilities. It allows you to back up — including bootable backups — to almost any external device or service, including iPads, iPhones, Windows PCs, and some cloud services.
This means any changes that are made to certain files can be backed up as they’re detected. This has the positive effect of freeing up system resources, because your Mac isn’t left backing up files that haven't changed.
You can set up rules, manual exclusions, filters and much more, making this one of the most customizable backup tools available.
There’s also an entry-level version called ChronoSync Express. It doesn’t have the power of its more expensive sibling, but it’s still an excellent option for creating bootable backups.
ChronoSync is still under active development, and it’s been updated over 70 times since 2002. That’s good news, because it means the developer is likely to support the latest updates from Apple.
Pros: Mature product under active development, free updates for life
Cons: Not all users need this many features, pricing might be a little high for home users
Trial: 15-day free trial
SmartBackup is a handy utility for macOS, which will help you sync and back up folders, files or volumes. SmartBackup features different configurations for multiple destinations as well as the ability to exclude some items from being backed up.
The software has built-in automation so it can operate on its own without your input. This feature also ensures safe backups in case of power loss at an unsociable time!
SmartBackup will optionally archive changed or deleted files in time-stamped folders. This feature includes a built-in search panel that'll show you multiple versions of the file, neatly organized into results for easy retrieval by date and time grouping. You can sync between internal and external hard drives, RAIDs (and other similar platforms), Xsan volumes, NAS devices — really anything macOS supports!
On macOS installations using HFS, it has an option to create bootable clones of startup disks as well. So if there’s ever any sort of catastrophe with your system disk's integrity, Smart Backup will come in handy.
The pricing is also very appealing: it’s completely free.
Pros: A good backup tool that costs nothing
Cons: Lacks some advanced features found elsewhere
Download: available here
Disk Drill is different to the other tools we’ve looked at here. It’s not a backup utility. Instead, it’s a multi-platform recovery tool that gives you the ability to recover lost files, whether they’ve been removed from your system deliberately or accidentally.
Disk Drill is one of the most powerful data recovery tools on the market. The free version lets you scan your Mac or connected devices for deleted files that can be recovered, and then it uses its preview feature to show you which items are recoverable. But if you want them back, you’ll need to purchase a license.
Disk Drill also supports iOS and Android file recovery too, so even your mobile devices can be recovered in the event of an emergency.
Pros: Great for recovering lost files
Cons: This is not a backup tool, it’s for recoveries only
Trial: Free version available, for scanning only
Price: $89 for Pro, $499 for Enterprise
Download: available here
Looking at some of the best backups for Mac, here’s what we think are the most important features to look out for.
The best backup software for macOS depends on your needs. SuperDuper! is great if you need a simple, easy-to-use solution to make an exact copy of your hard drive every time it's plugged in. ChronoSync has the ability to automate backups from multiple sources, so you never have to worry about forgetting to back up again.
Carbon Copy Cloner is a more powerful app with tons of options for scheduling and even making encrypted copies of your hard drive. That’s great if you need something flexible enough to be run on a schedule but still need to customize what you back up. For a free option, SmartBackup has a lot to offer too, so it’s well worth considering.
But if you just want to recover lost files, then Disk Drill could help you – particularly if you’re one of the many people who forget to back up.
I've been using Macs for both work and leisure for more than 15 years, starting off with a second-hand G3 iMac running OS 9.