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. 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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 or documents, you can do it all in a couple clicks.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.