An alternative to Time Machine?
July 26, 2012 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Is there a good alternative to Time Machine for doing backups of a mac? I am running Mac OS 10.7.4 and backing up to an external hard drive.

A month ago, my beloved work laptop running Linux gave up the ghost. My company gave me this shiny Macbook Pro to replace it. I've tried using Time Machine, but it's not as customizable as the backup program I was using on my Linux machine. In particular, I would like to be able to set it to
1) backup only once a day (or at whatever fixed interval I desire)
2) save only the last X backups (X based on a date/interval, like only keeping backups from the last month)
posted by bluefly to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
posted by hijinx at 1:00 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

We use Carbon Copy Cloner at work; you can customize it to your needs with incrementals, monthlies, etc. I've also heard rad things about SuperDuper!
posted by jmd82 at 1:12 PM on July 26, 2012

You could just rsnapshot it.
posted by nicwolff at 1:23 PM on July 26, 2012

I second CCC. I use it combined with Time Machine with my Hackintosh.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:27 PM on July 26, 2012

Best answer: There's an external program called Time Machine Editorthat works with Time Machine to let you override the default settings and do something just like this -- e.g., back up once per week. Works perfectly for me, and it's free!
posted by acm at 1:34 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper make copies, not backups. Should your file system become corrupted, it will copy the corruption right on over. Personally, I use TimeMachine for a local copy and CrashPlan for remote, offsite backup.
posted by procrastination at 1:35 PM on July 26, 2012

Best answer: First, you can schedule when you want Time Machine to be run. This site mentions using iCal to kick off Time Machine backups, but as a Linux person, I'm sure you'll understand what's going on and schedule it in whatever way you find convenient.

Second, you can use tmutil listbackups and tmutil delete and a few lines of bash to delete whatever backups you don't want. (Maybe you include this in your scheduled backup script so it wipes backups older than, say, 30 days, then runs the backup.)

OS X is fairly UNIX. For the most part, you can cast aside the shiny Apple goodness and script your way around.

(I don't believe that SuperDuper! nor CarbonCopyCloner do incrementals and will as easily let you roll back to that PSD file or that SQL dump that you had two weeks ago but deleted last weekend because you thought you didn't need it but you were oh so wrong, if only had you known. But I could be wrong.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:42 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding CrashPlan for remote backups. (Though since this is a corp piece of kit, I'd assume they have an internal backup system in place.) I use CP along with TM for local backups to a RAID 6 file server for all three Mac devices in my apartment.
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:43 PM on July 26, 2012

rsync (with the --link-dest option) + cron
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:47 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: CCC does save all replaced files in a versioned archive if you want. It is highly configurable. I use this because I want a backup that I can plug in and use if something goes down, an exact copy of my drive. With Time Machine you reinstall the system and restore if something goes wrong. Just different approaches.
posted by bongo_x at 1:54 PM on July 26, 2012

Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper make copies, not backups. Should your file system become corrupted, it will copy the corruption right on over

That's why you don't keep just one copy of your files. My entire open directory database has corrupted overnight before, and I was able to easily boot into the CCC backup copy (on an external hard drive) through target disk mode and get that copied back on the server with everything functioning properly. I really can't wait a day to download my boot partition. Plug in your backed up external hard drive, and it's literally as if you are on the backed up mac. I'm honestly not sure how properly using CCC (or SuperDuper) isn't a backup when utilized correctly.
posted by jmd82 at 2:28 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

My backup strategy for my main Mac involves the following:

1. Time Machine backups via WiFi, using one of the 500 GB drives on my Mac Mini Server as the destination drive. I sometimes tweak the settings to do backups less frequently than the default, but since my main machine is a laptop and doesn't backup to Time Machine while I'm at work, I usually leave it at 60 minutes.

2. Regular backups of data files via JungleDisk to an Amazon 3S bucket (I aim for every 2-3 days but when traveling it's more or less frequently depending on Internet access). I have it set up to keep a month's worth of versions. If I've made significant progress on a project while at work, I'll do a JungleDisk backup before popping the laptop into my pannier for the bike ride home.

3. Weekly SuperDuper backups to two external hard drives, one of which is routinely kept offsite in my office.

In the event of a corrupt or accidentally deleted file, I use the Time Machine or JungleDisk backup to restore it. If my computer were lost or damaged, I'd get back to work by cloning the most recent clone so I could get back to work ASAP (or using the most recent clone as a startup disk if I had a pressing deadlne), then restore the Time Machine backup onto a new startup disk. (I'd save work to a flash drive in the meantime.) If my house were burgled or destroyed, I'd copy the offsite clone onto my new computer's startup disk (or use Migration Assistant if it were a newer Mac that required a later version of Mac OS), then restore data files from JungleDisk.

I used to use an old 12" PowerBook G4 as a Retrospect server, but then EMC stopped maintaining Retrospect. I've heard that it is once more being actively developed, but I'm happy with my current setup, so I haven't really looked into it.
posted by brianogilvie at 3:02 PM on July 26, 2012

Nthing SuperDuper. used to use CCC but for some reason at some point SD worked when CCC would not.

Side note, SuperDuper does incremental, bit-compared, scheduled copies. It's MUCH easier to use than Retrospect ever was. I find it also much more useful than Time Machine (which appears to mostly have a hard time doing networked backups in my experience). Please explain why a bootable image of my HD is not a backup, I am curious.

Also, does Time Machine offer cloned bootability? I seem to recall that it was not possible to boot from an image, one had to restore it first. As drive failures occur when a deadline is in place, the usual disaster recovery scenario I have lived through is "work on contract, drive failure, boot from backup and complete task, restore from backup," which is not available in a boot-to-restore-only scenario.
posted by mwhybark at 7:32 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

also, acm, great link! I still can't beleive Apple doesn't offer that functionality.
posted by mwhybark at 7:33 PM on July 26, 2012

May I ask why you think you want you backup to work that way?
posted by Good Brain at 8:49 PM on July 26, 2012

rsync and rsnapshot are indeed available and work fine for many purposes, but note that HFS+ filesystems support a bunch of features that aren't common on other filesystems. These include transparent compression, resource forks, directory hard links, BSD flags, extended attributes without prefixes, and more. Unixy backup tools will not always preserve all these features, which can cause problems on restore.

You should probably test whatever solution you come up with against Backup Bouncer to verify that you're not missing any metadata. If you do decide to use an rsync solution, you should probably include the patches to rsync used by Carbon Copy Cloner.
posted by vasi at 10:32 PM on July 26, 2012

Response by poster: For the immediate time, I think I'll take the path of least change and do some scripting and scheduling of Time Machine (which I didn't know was possible!).

I've never backed up to a bootable volume before; that seems useful. I'll try out CCC for a bit and see how it works (what if I only want to restore a few files, can I do that in CCC or SuperDuper!?)
posted by bluefly at 7:32 AM on July 27, 2012

Ccc does a variety of backup options. It is nice to have a bootable clone, when something goes wrong.
posted by snaparapans at 7:39 AM on July 27, 2012

Response by poster: Also, for anyone else reading this, here's a fixed link for Time Machine Editor.
posted by bluefly at 7:55 AM on July 27, 2012

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