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Time Machine comes packaged with every Mac, it’s comes ready to run, and makes a great option for backing up your computer to an external hard drive The 8 Best Portable Hard Drives You Can Buy Right Now The 8 Best Portable Hard Drives You Can Buy Right Now Read More . But there are plenty of other options out there too, and many of them have features that Apple’s default backup app just can’t compete with.

Here are five great alternatives to Apple’s solution for creating local backups that are better than Time Machine.

What’s Wrong with Time Machine?

In general, nothing. It’s a good way to keep backups of your important files on hand, and for the most part, it’s effective and reliable. However, it does lack a few important features. The most notable missing functionality is drive cloning, or creating a copy of your entire hard drive — Time Machine is really best for recovering specific files How to Restore Data From Time Machine Backups How to Restore Data From Time Machine Backups It's really easy to set up Time Machine, the backup software that comes with every Mac — but how do you get your files back when things go wrong? Read More .

apple-time-machine-logo

The options for customization and scheduling are similarly sub-par; there’s just not a whole lot to speak of. You can run automatic backups, but other options will let you backup certain subsets of files at certain times or at different frequencies. There are some cool tools that will help you schedule and browse backups Schedule & Browse Time Machine Backups With These Powerful Tools Schedule & Browse Time Machine Backups With These Powerful Tools From custom backup times to finding out where those 2 GB of new files are, the right apps can give you power and knowledge Apple's own tools just don't provide. Read More  created by Time Machine, but it’s easier when it’s all built in.

And Time Machine does some strange things every once in a while. One common problem is backups lingering on your hard drive and taking up space. It’s not exactly a hard problem to solve, but the fewer issues you have to deal with, the better. Which is exactly why you should consider replacing (or at least supplementing) Time Machine with one of these options.

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Carbon Copy Cloner ($40)

One of the most feature-packed pieces of backup software available, Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) gives you everything you need for backing up your computer. By backing up a bootable clone of your hard drive, CCC enables you to restore your hard drive after a failure and fire it up with no additional downloads or installs needed.

carbon-copy-cloner

You also get SafetyNet, CCC’s backup feature that keeps copies of recently-deleted and changed files, just in case you accidentally delete something really important and want it back ASAP. Tweakable tasks and schedules, an updated and easier-to-use interface, and highly customizable backups make CCC one of most comprehensive backup solutions available.

At $40, it’s really not that expensive. You can even download it and try it for 30 days without spending a thing.

Super Duper (free, $28)

Another piece of software that creates a full bootable clone of your hard drive, Super Duper provides cool functionality like scripting, smart updates, scheduling, backup-on-connect, eject-after-copy, and other abilities that make life easier. It doesn’t provide as many features as CCC, but it’s been around for a long time and it’s won a number of awards. It works, it’s fast, and it’s easy to use.

super-duper

One of the biggest advantages of Super Duper is that you don’t really have to know a whole lot about backups to get it up and running. There aren’t a ton of options, and it’s pretty easy to get set up. If you don’t need anything fancy, it’s tough to beat.

The basic version is free, which is a big bonus. To unlock features like sandboxing What's A Sandbox, And Why Should You Be Playing in One What's A Sandbox, And Why Should You Be Playing in One Highly-connective programs can do a lot, but they're also an open invitation for bad hackers to strike. To prevent strikes from becoming successful, a developer would have to spot and close every single hole in... Read More , smart updates, and scripting, you’ll need to upgrade to the full version for $28.

Data Backup 3 ($40)

Another solution with fully bootable cloning capabilities, the best thing about Data Backup is how well it does the things you’re likely to want it to do right out of the box; it has presets for backing up your iTunes and iPhoto libraries, for example. You can even create your own backup presets by dragging and dropping the files you want in a specific set.

data-backup-3

As with most big names in the backup business, you’ll get scheduling and versioning, compressed or password-protected backups, and the ability to prevent certain files from being backed up. But it’s tough to find a backup app that’s better suited to quick setup on the Mac.

There’s a free version of Data Backup, though the website doesn’t say what it includes; it’s a fair guess that it’s a 30-day trial or a stripped-down version of the full software, which will run you $40 (or $20 through Purch Marketplace).

Get Backup Pro ($20)

This software stands out for its cool and well-organized interface: with different backup sets listed in the left sidebar, all you need to do is select the set you want to edit or back up, and everything you need is displayed in the main panel. Whether you’re creating a fully bootable clone or a smaller backup of photos How to Backup Photos from a Mobile Device How to Backup Photos from a Mobile Device It's never fun when your phone breaks and you lose all your photos -- but that never has to happen again! Learn how to backup your photos quickly and easily. Read More or documents, you can do it all in a couple clicks.

get-backup-pro

There are templates for specific sets of data, so Get Backup Pro comes ready to back up your iTunes, Photos, Mail, and Documents folders right away. You can schedule any of your backup sets, and you can choose between four different methods of encryption How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More to make sure they stay secure. When you need to get all of your data back, you don’t even need to install Get Backup Pro to get started!

For $20, Get Backup Pro is the cheapest (non-free) option on this list — it’s hard justifying not spending $20 to make sure your Mac is backed up!

CrashPlan (free or subscription)

CrashPlan is most widely known for their cloud backup software, but you can use the free version of their app to backup files to an external drive or any other computer connected to the Internet. So if you want to create some backups on a local hard drive or a network drive, you can do that without paying the subscription fee.

crashplan

You won’t be able to create bootable clones with CrashPlan, though, so it’s best used as a remote backup solution. That doesn’t mean it’s not useful as a smaller-scale backup option for local drives. Scheduling and customization options aren’t as advanced as some of the other options on this list, but you can’t beat free!

The 3-2-1 Guideline for Backups

Having a single backup definitely makes your data a lot safer. but there’s still a possibility that you could lose it. That’s why a number of experts recommend the 3-2-1 guideline for computer backups: keep three backups, in two different formats (like a hard drive and a set of DVDs), with one of them being offsite. That means you should have two local backups — preferably bootable clones — and one remote.

3-2-1-rule

So even with these great local options above, shelling out for a cloud backup solution is probably a good idea. CrashPlan, Carbonite, and BackBlaze are all great options, and between $45 and $60 per year. With online backups, you don’t have to worry about disaster befalling your local drive (if, for example, there’s a fire or a flood in your house and both your computer and your backup drive are destroyed) or even a simple drive failure How to Care for Your Hard Drives and Make Them Last Longer How to Care for Your Hard Drives and Make Them Last Longer Sometimes an early death is the fault of the manufacturer, but more often than not, hard drives fail earlier than they should because we don't take care of them. Read More .

While it’s possible to rely on one or the other, it’s best to use both to reduce the chances that you’ll lose any of your irreplaceable files when the unexpected hits.

What Do You Use to Back Up Your Mac?

With all of these options, you have a number of ways you can back up your Mac at a variety of price points. There really isn’t an excuse for not having backed up your drive, especially with the cheap and free options out there. While having three backups might sound like overkill, trust me when I say that redundancy is absolutely necessary Things You Should Know About Redundancy and Backups Things You Should Know About Redundancy and Backups Redundancy is frequently confused with backups. Indeed, the concepts are relatively similar, albeit with some important differences. Read More when it comes to your most important files.

What do you use to back up your Mac and how many backups do you keep?

Image credit: FHKE via Flickr.

  1. zeira
    April 18, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    The vast majority of hard drives last several years, a very small minority only a few weeks/months.
    Out of the 25 or so hard drives, internal or external I’ve ever used only one broke down in less than six months. I still have several years old hard drives working perfectly.
    The more you use your hard drive the shorter its life becomes.
    I turn my external HD on only when I have to backup my internal HD, which happens about twice a week, then I turn it off and keep it like that until the next backup
    I don’t use Time Machine’s automatic backup feature, I always do that manually.
    I am comfortable with only one backup, if you are not, it’s your choice, you can always use two backup hard drives. There is nothing wrong in that.

    • Dann Albright
      April 20, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      That is true; hard drives are continuing to be more reliable and durable. That said, some do fail. And yes, you can do all of this manually, if you don't want the other features that come with these apps. That's a good point.

  2. Peter Michelin
    April 15, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    I think you've left out one of the best, well-known sync/backup software. I regularly use ChronoSync from Econ Technologies and it is top-notched. The interface can be a bit overwhelming but the app has tons of options for cloning, backing up, and syncing. Free updates for life and they consistently update.

    • Dann Albright
      April 18, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks for the tip! I've heard of ChronoSync, and I saw that it had good reviews, but when I looked at it myself, it didn't seem all that impressive. Glad to know that it's a good option, even if their site doesn't really communicate very well why it's better than the others out there.

  3. George Klein
    April 14, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    Who needs drive cloning?
    When I purchased my laters iMac I used Time Machine to re-create an exact copy of the hard drive of my previous Apple computer.
    All, absolutely all files from my previous machine were added to the new iMac.
    So, what extra thing will a cloned hard drive do for me?
    Time Machine is part of OS X, so it’s free and it has all the functionality (except the unneeded drive cloning) of a perfect backup system.

    • Dann Albright
      April 18, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      You say "who needs drive cloning?", but what you've done by making the exact copy of your drive is, in fact, drive cloning. So evidently the answer is "you do." :-)

      And no one NEEDS drive cloning if you have your most important files backed up. It just makes it a hell of a lot easier to get everything back up and running if your computer dies or gets hit with some nasty malware. Instead of reinstalling your apps and re-setting up your preferences and things, you can just copy everything over and get back to where you started.

      As for Time Machine, yes, it does have a lot of the things you need, but as you can see from the article above, there are a number of useful features that it doesn't yet have. If you're just looking for the most basic backup you can get, Time Machine is fine. But for the minimal time and effort invested in the software above, it's worth stepping up to the next level.

      Take it from someone who's needed it several times!

  4. Gee Deezy
    April 14, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Don't forget Disk Utility. Its not fast nor automatic, but if you really want a backup of your whole drive and you aren't willing to spend a dime, it will do the job. Just boot in Recovery mode, and make a full copy of your main drive to your backup drive.... done.

    • Dann Albright
      April 18, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      Good call! I've never used Disk Utility for that, but if it's that easy, it's certainly an option. Though the other options don't even require a reboot, so they do have that advantage.

  5. George Klein
    April 14, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    The 3-2-1 guideline is useful for business, no doubt about that, but it may be an overkill for the casual user.

    • Gee Deezy
      April 14, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Our house just got hit with one of those Ransomware MalWare viruses. Lost: tax returns, personal contact list, the passwords to login to my remote websites. Had I been using the 3-2-1 method at home, I might not have lost much.

      • George Klein
        April 14, 2016 at 9:50 pm

        I really feel sorry for your loss, it’s frustrating to say the least, but you don’t really need a 3-2-1 method at home to safeguard your backup drive from viruses.

        First: use an external hard drive and never a second internal drive for backup purposes.

        After you backup your computer’s hard drive on an external hard drive just eject then physically disconnect the backup drive from your computer and put it in a safe place until the next backup several hours, a day a few days etc later when you will re-connect the backup drive, run the backup program then disconnect it again.
        That way no virus will affect your backup drive.

        Another much more expensive solution would be to switch to an Apple computer, as I did in 2009 (not because of virus problems, but because I was fed up with the latest garbage Windows operating system, Windows Vista).
        Apple computers are not bulletproof from viruses, the backup drive should be treated as described above (I always do that), but they are much safer than Windows computers.
        Besides that you will get a super safe operating system, first quality computer and world class customer support.
        Apple computers are not more expensive than PC’s having the same quality components as Apple computers. My own research has confirmed that after purchasing my first Apple computer.
        You cannot compare a Toyota Tercel vehicle with a BMW, only a Lexus would be comparable.
        The same applies to computers.

        Please note: I am not a paid promoter of Apple computers, I strictly speak based on my own experience.

        • Dann Albright
          April 18, 2016 at 1:47 pm

          George, I have a couple comments on your backup thoughts above. First, what happens if your external hard drive fails? All hard drives fail eventually, and some of them fail really quickly. What happens if yours dies while you're not using it, and then when you need it, all of your data is gone? It seems to me like hard drives tend to fail when you need them most. :-)

          Second, yes, Macs are great. I've been a committed Mac user for quite a while now, but just because they generally run very well doesn't mean they're immune to malware, dropping, or just a bad drive. I had the SSD on mine fail not too long after I got it, just because it was a bad drive. They warrantied it and everything was fine, but I had to restore a lot of things from my backup.

          And, finally, if you're running a single backup, running one or even two more really isn't that much more work, especially if you're using an online solution that does it automatically. Why take the risk?

          Thanks for your comments!

      • Dann Albright
        April 18, 2016 at 1:44 pm

        Thanks for your reply, Gee Deezy; that's a perfect example of why you might want to use the 3-2-1 method!

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