ET OSX is a list of useful tools for the MacOS X, most of which live in the Applications folder on my startup drive. It started as a 'what's on my Mac' page on my personal site but quickly evolved into a blog of its own. I'm trying to focus most on of the tiny but useful utilities that sometimes save you lots of trouble and effort, and to omit for the most part the list of big guns, that one normally uses on a daily basis. The list serves two purposes, lets me easily answer 'how do I do this on the Mac' questions asked by other users, and helps me remember answers to the same questions myself.

Back up your MacOS X based computer

Most of today's Macs sport hard drives of 100+ gigs and more, which you'll be happy to fill with movies, audio songs, images and what not, but the more that heap of files of yours grows in size, the more critical it grows for your digital lifestyle. What will you do disaster strikes and you loose all those mp3 fies? Well, apart from re-ripping hundreds of CD's you could restore your files from your backup copy, provided you have one. In order to be useful, a backup copy should be up-to-date, complete and functional. And in order for the copy to be up-to-date, the backup mechanism should be easy enough so that the users don't hesitate to use it. Better yet, it should be altogether transparent for the users. One of the relatively cheap backup solutions is to have an external hard drive big enough to hold all your documents and tool that can make an exact copy of your files from your startup disk to the external one. A good option is to make an exact copy of the whole disk, so that boot up your computer from it if something bad happens. Let see if there are any tools for the MacOS X out there that provide that functionality.

First I should mention Apple's own tool, AFAIK Apple only offer this one as part of their .Mac service - the online storage, web site and & email hosting form Apple that costs you about $100 per year. .Mac offers you nice functions such as AddressBook Contacts syncing between multiple Macs etc, but your iDisk is only good for 1G of online storage and 10GB of monthly traffic, so I've always thought of it as an easy way to share files with others, not as a backup solution. however, can do fancy stuff like selective files/folders as well as whole volume backups, it lets schedule backups and also lets you spread-backup your file to multiple optical discs (I usually give up at the point tells me I need 73 empty DVDs to backup my Pictures folder). If you already use .Mac give a try, otherwise $100 is a bit too much for such an tool.

CarbonCopyCloner is an old-school backup utility that recently has been made compatible with current Intel-based Macs. It can do full disk-to-disk clones for you, selective backups of files and folders, it can do backups over the network to a remote hosts and can schedule repetitive tasks. CCC handles scheduled backups very intelligently, for example if the destination volume is not presented at the time scheduled for backup, CCC can re-run the backup attempt at the moment the volume is re-attached. The easiest thing CCC shines with is the ability to create a complete clone of one volume to another, preserving all the file prorperties. If you're looking for a tool that can create a bootable copy of your current drive CCC might be the answer. One thing CCC doesn't do thought is the backup to multiple optical disks think that is proud of.
CCC is made by Bombich Software and is distributed as shareware, but all features are available to the user whether he chooses to donate to the developers or not. It supports versions of MacOS X back to 10.2 (Jaguar)
(Note: version 3 of CCC is currently at a beta testing stage. One of the important new features it will introduce is the ability to do incremental backups, that is, to only backup files that have been changed since the last time you've used the app.)

Clearly the the most sophisticated interface is provided by SuperDuper! made by software developers Shirt Pocket. It offers several backup scripts - full backups, incremental backups, copy only shared user data, copy user data with applications, etc. The applications issues warnings before every action takes place. There is also nice descriptive text in a "What is going to happen?" textbox, explaining to the user exactly how his files will be affected. SuperDuper! alse lets you schedule backups, which is an easy way to make sure your backup copy is always up to date. This utility is the perfect choice for the novice backuper.
You can download SuperDuper! and use its basic functionality for free, but if you want any of the advanced options like schedules or incremental update or scripting you'll have to buy the full version, currently priced at $27.95. One thing I do not like at all about SuperDuper! is that the developers didn't grey-out the controls for features to give you a clear idea what you can and what you cannot do with the free version. Instead, each time you hit a button for an unavailable option you get a cheerful popup that politely asks to go and buy the real stuff. Well, maybe it is a personal thing.

PsyncX is a graphical tool developed by David Baker, which is built around the command line utility called psync, in turn developed by Dan Kogai. psync can make backups and restores preserving HFS+ file attributes, something traditional UNIX tools are not able to do. The GUI tool PsyncX offers you many advanced backup features, such as partial or full backups, make bootable backup volumes, backup to external disks, to disk images or to remote volumes over the network AND do scheduled backups. It does all this for free, accepting donations for author David Baker.

(Note for advanced & adventurous users: MacOS X Tiger comes with a version of rsync that makes copies and restores preserving the proper state of HFS+ attributes, resource forks, ACLs and what not. However, be aware that certain problems have been reported even with the most up-to-date version, shipped with 10.4.9. There are also many other UNIX based tools, such as rdiff-backup for example, which you can build a backup strategy around.)

The Verdict

My cuurent choice for personal backups lies with PsyncX, because it offers me a combination of features that I think are vital for a successful backup strategy - ease of use, so I don't put off using it and find out I've missed a whole month when my data is ruined, incremental backups, so backups take minutes and not ages and the ability to have a bootable copy of my startup drive available just in case.

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