What's the best way to backup/restore (on a Mac)?
December 11, 2006 7:55 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to backup/restore (on a Mac)?

I'm asking this question for a friend —

“I use Subversion (svnX) to backup my Documents (which allows me to check files into and out of the repository from OSX, Windows, and Linux, it works really well). But for the stuff I don't need versioned I can't figure out a clean way to back it up...

I was using Rsync to do daily backups of my home folder /Users/ben, and one time I did have the system crash. When I brought it back up my iCal, iTunes, Address Book, and iPhoto lost all their data. So I used rsync to restore /Users/ben/Library/Application Support/iCal, / Users/ben/Library/iPhoto Library, /Users/ben/Library/Application Support/AddressBook and /Users/ben/Music/iTunes/ ...here are the results:

iTunes, everthing works but it has to rebuild the database and redownload all the artwork everytime it is launched.

Address Book: restored perfectly.

iCal: data restored, but preferences are stuck. If I set any preferences it forgets them if I close and reopen iCal, but it remembers my new appointments and todos okay.

iPhoto: I can't get it to launch, it's just stuck at loading Photos. All of the Photos and data files are there and seem to be okay.

So, I must need to restore some other files I'm not aware of, or rsync just isn't a good way to do backups.”

Thanks for the help, MetaFilter!
posted by Colloquial Collision to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

All those problems sound like they might be to do with permissions.

Do a "restore permissions" using the Disk Utility in Applications/Utilities?

And is the rsync being done with the -p flag (or the -a flag which incorporates it) which copies/restores permissions with the file?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:07 PM on December 11, 2006

I've been using Retrospect for years to do a nightly offsite backup but it is not robust with respect to intermittent outages and I cannot recommend it. For example, backing up a 10Gb system will fail if the connection drops for a while. I'm looking for a new solution.

I use Synchronize Pro to do a nightly on-site backup to a mirror drive which works perfectly.
posted by unSane at 8:11 PM on December 11, 2006

Best answer: I can't say enough good things about SuperDuper. Interestingly enough, I was just rebooting my iMac from my SD clone drive to verify everything was intact, and like always, it is.

This blog did a very thorough comparison of multiple OS X backup utilities.
posted by Steve3 at 8:26 PM on December 11, 2006

Best answer: How is your friend using rsync? On OS X, the -E switch is important; it officially means "copy extended attributes", which on OS X, means that it encapsulates the entire resource fork, permissions, and Finder info into a file which also gets rsynced and/or restored.

For me, on OS X, I've *never* had a problem if I run rsync with -aE -- restoring files backed up this way gets me exactly back to where I was at backup time.
posted by delfuego at 8:30 PM on December 11, 2006

(Note that the -a command line switch is the functional equivalent of -rlptgoD -- so it encompasses AmbroseChapel's suggestion as he says.)
posted by delfuego at 8:32 PM on December 11, 2006

iCal: I'm betting you need ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.iCal.plist too.

iPhoto: It's either because ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.iPhoto.plist is missing, or it's an OSX metadata problem. iPhoto stores some data in the resource forks of the photos. Unfortunately, there's no way to get that metadata back now.

rsync is a great way of doing non-incremental backups, but OSX makes things quite complicated. If you're doing OSX to OSX, rsync -E should work. I think you still need a specially patched rsync for rsync to non-HFS+ filesystems. I'm just not sure. I have completely restored from the special rsync (even applications and other bundles!) just fine follow the instructions though.

I'm not really doing backups to non non-HFS+ filesystems anymore, since they're so complicated, touchy, and I still am not sure what all is required. The blog entry Steve3 pointed to also leaves me feeling uneasy. So I'm forced to slooowly back up to a disk image over a network. Sigh.
posted by easyasy3k at 9:12 PM on December 11, 2006

Just for future reference, you may have better luck backing up your iCal Calendar Data and Address Book entries if you periodically Export the data from the applications into standalone files for backup. I try to do this about weekly (it's probably possible to automate with AppleScript, too), and produce a snapshot of my iCal calendars and my Addressbook database. These go into my Documents folder.

The applications may have a better time restoring from one of these files, than from backed-up and restored versions of their "live" data files stored throughout the system.

In fact, if nothing else solves the problem you're having now, you could try exporting your calendar data, deleting all the preferences, data, and plist files, then reopening it (to a totally empty state) and loading your events in from the exported file.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:23 PM on December 11, 2006

Best answer: SuperDuper rocks and does a great job keeping everything exactly right. The only problem is that it only does full disk images, but my friend has figured a way to do incremental backups. If you're interested in this feature (cuts way down on disk usage needs for backups), email me (in my profile) and I'll put you in touch. He's still working on making a proper product out of it, but I'm sure he's looking for beta testers of some sort or another.
posted by cschneid at 11:28 PM on December 11, 2006

Absolutely agree about SuperDuper! Easy to set-up and run and very, very flexible. I use SuperDuper to back-up to a bootable partition on a 250G LaCie d2 external Firewire 800 drive.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:56 AM on December 12, 2006

SuperDuper!'s Smart Update "only copies (or deletes) files and folders as necessary."
posted by kirkaracha at 6:42 AM on December 12, 2006

Consider purchasing this $10 ebook for great, detailed info on backups under OS X:

Take Control of Mac OS X Backups
posted by SomePerlGeek at 8:06 AM on December 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you so much for posting that on metafilter! I'll probably buy SuperDuper because I need to make sure I can restore from a backup (it seems to be the most reliable, proven, and quickest solution) and it's pretty cheap considering the amount of data/time that could be lost. Tomorrow I'm going to do a full backup of my home directory, take this hard drive out, put in another hard drive, and then do a complete restore to make sure it's working properly. For the record my rsync command was:

# rsync -aze "ssh" /Users/ben ben@[backupserver]:/home/ben/backup/osx/ --exclude-from=.exclude --progress

And I used the same options to restore. From the metafilter discussion I now know I wasn't copying extended attributes (-E), and it wouldn't have copied those anyway because I was backing up to a FreeBSD server (UFS2 filesystem). ..even with the patched rsync the restore is unclean and it's alpha software..which is too risky when it comes to backups.

Thank you, everyone, for all your help and suggestions!
posted by Colloquial Collision at 5:04 PM on December 12, 2006

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