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Carbon Copy Cloner vs Time Machine: best backup software for Mac

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I have primarily used Time Machine on two external HDD as primary and secondary (weekly/monthly) backups.  I am experiencing some slowdown in the time it takes to backup.  I'm unsure if it is the HDD or Time Machine causing this unusual (it seems to me) long back up time (several hours vs a few minutes).  I have used Carbon Copy Cloner in the past but I would consider myself very novice in understanding the set up and advantage of using one or the other.

 

I want both my MacBook and my Music Library which is on an external SSD to be backed up at the same time.  Can you advise which software solution would be best and how to properly set it up?  Additionally the HDD I use now are external portable 4TB units.  I have a reason to use external portable versus desktop units for backup and storage.  I've thought about getting two more 2TB SSD like my SSD now used for my Music Library to use as the backups.  Do you feel a 2TB size is sufficient to back up a music library with a current size of 850GB.  It will grow but not by any dramatic rate increase over the next few years.


"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

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In my experience, sudden issues with Time Machine are an indication that the destination drive is going bad.


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You might want to check out this thread:

 

 


Girl, you want it, you take it, you pay the price

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I use Time Machine and create a full backup bootable drive with SuperDuper monthly.  I believe two backup strategies work best.  I have used Carbon Copy cloner and prefer SuperDuper.


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At least using TimeMachine backup to transfer everything from an old Mac to a new one failed miserably. Although according to Apple it should work fine. Both had Mojave, so differing OS versions weren't the reason either.

 

Afterall, transfer succeeded properly using Thunderbolt cable between the Macs (booting the other one into Target Disk Mode). But if the old Mac would have been broken, it would have been pretty bad thing...

 


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I am generally averse to using any proprietary backup software.  Why? Because if you use an application to back up your files you also need to use it to restore them. Add in a dose of reality and this is what will happen:

 

1. You've been backing up for 5 years using an app. Suddenly your computer has a catastrophic failure. Everything is lost. OK you think, I have a backup and will buy a replacement computer. You get it home and try your backup. Oh, you haven't got the backup app on your new computer. No worries. Just download it. Then you find that they're not there, they went out of business six months ago. Or ; Great, here it is downloaded. Now just click restore and ... not recognised. You were using Fab Backup 3. Your new download is years later and they now have Fab Backup 7. Not compatible. Fab Backup 3 is no more and there are no obtainable copies. Your files are there somewhere but it now requires a specialist to retrieve them at some cost.

 

Frankly IMO, although it requires more effort,  it is more secure to just copy and paste your files to an external HDD or, better three of them. If you only make one backup then you have one shot at a restore. Then you find that your one backup drive is corrupt! Make two to try to avoid this using drives from two different manufacturers to minimise production batch errors. The third copy is kept offsite or alternatively try cloud backup for that copy even though it does risk some of the above downsides. It doesn't matter how many backups you keep at home they are not proof against fire, flood, or burglary.

 

Incidentally this is obviously not aimed specifically at mac users but I think that the principles are more universal in application.

 

You can already see people reporting difficulties in restoring from backup apps in this thread alone. That's why I do what I say.

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13 minutes ago, PAR said:

I am generally averse to using any proprietary backup software.  Why? Because if you use an application to back up your files you also need to use it to restore them. Add in a dose of reality and this is what will happen:

 

1. You've been backing up for 5 years using an app. Suddenly your computer has a catastrophic failure. Everything is lost. OK you think, I have a backup and will buy a replacement computer. You get it home and try your backup. Oh, you haven't got the backup app on your new computer. No worries. Just download it. Then you find that they're not there, they went out of business six months ago. Or ; Great, here it is downloaded. Now just click restore and ... not recognised. You were using Fab Backup 3. Your new download is years later and they now have Fab Backup 7. Not compatible. Fab Backup 3 is no more and there are no obtainable copies. Your files are there somewhere but it now requires a specialist to retrieve them at some cost.

 

Frankly IMO, although it requires more effort,  it is more secure to just copy and paste your files to an external HDD or, better three of them. If you only make one backup then you have one shot at a restore. Then you find that your one backup drive is corrupt! Make two to try to avoid this using drives from two different manufacturers to minimise production batch errors. The third copy is kept offsite or alternatively try cloud backup for that copy even though it does risk some of the above downsides. It doesn't matter how many backups you keep at home they are not proof against fire, flood, or burglary.

 

Incidentally this is obviously not aimed specifically at mac users but I think that the principles are more universal in application.

 

You can already see people reporting difficulties in restoring from backup apps in this thread alone. That's why I do what I say.

 

I agree with much of what you have written and the need to be wary of apps that store backups in a proprietary format certainly applies to Time Machine which needs Time Machine for a proper restore.

 

I don't think anyone needs to worry though about cloning apps like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper which simply create a clone of your drive which can be freely accessed by any program.

 

Essentially what these cloning apps are doing is the same copy and paste operation that you advocate but in a much more efficient way that only copies the files that have changed.

 

Your advice on keeping offsite backups is very sound and is exactly what I do. I also upload to Backblaze as well.

 


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I still haven't made a move to back up with CCC.  I did order the 2TB SSD to use with CCC.  I am having a bit of difficulty in understanding how to set it up so that two sources, my MacBook SSD and my Music Library SSD, can be backed up to the same destination at the same time.  With Time Machine this task was quite easy to include/exclude drives.


"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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The way I would do this in CCC would be to partition the 2TB SSD into two virtual drives using Disk Utility to match the two drives you want to clone files from.

 

Then select the directories containing your music files using "Copy Some Files". You can leave SafetyNet On but note it might fill up the backup drive quickly if you make a lot of changes to your music files such as modifying metadata, etc., as old versions will be archived.

 

1623561431_ScreenShot2019-11-24at9_35_54AM.thumb.png.8493d1df618443edd3f0d8ed269f2cc3.png


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I've used TimeMachine for years, restored a fair number of single items as well as entire system restores without issue.  By default, TM runs with a very low disk priority causing the backups to take far longer than I think they should.

 

The priority can be changed to dramatically improve backup times.  https://www.imore.com/how-speed-your-time-machine-backups

 

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I use also - works fine.  Worked fine at least 2x to transfer everything from an old Mac to a new one.

 

When the backup disc fills up - I move it off-site and buy a new one.

 

I also put some files up in the cloud as backups.

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Two (or multiple) backups is a great idea, as is storing at least one off-site (houses burn, disks get destroyed, etc).

 

For things like music files, where versioning isn't necessarily a good idea, a simple rsync backup is free and easy.

 

For MacOS system files, use a utility that is resource-fork aware. (Some of the generic unix utilities like rsync might not be. Apple's is, but you have to give the -E flag ).

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7 hours ago, wgscott said:

For things like music files, where versioning isn't necessarily a good idea, a simple rsync backup is free and easy.

 

Not true. I've discovered music files missing in my iTunes/Music library at times, so going back in Time Machine means that I can recover them.


I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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If you copy (rsync) a file from A to B, and then the file on A subsequently goes missing, your backup on B is still present.

 

 

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On 1/15/2020 at 1:57 AM, kirkmc said:

I've discovered music files missing in my iTunes/Music library at times, so going back in Time Machine means that I can recover them.

 

Have you done a Spotlight search for the file when that happens?  I've never found a music file to disappear, but iTunes often claims a music file is missing when the file actually exists but iTunes somehow loses track of it.  

 

(I'm chagrined Apple doesn’t store a unique identifier tag in each music file to enable iTunes to always find it.)


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11 minutes ago, Bob Stern said:

 

Have you done a Spotlight search for the file when that happens?  I've never found a music file to disappear, but iTunes often claims a music file is missing when the file actually exists but iTunes somehow loses track of it.  

 

(I'm chagrined Apple doesn’t store a unique identifier tag in each music file to enable iTunes to always find it.)

 

Yes, these are files that have simply disappeared. It happens a dozen or so times a year; I don't know why, I certainly don't mess around with the files themselves. 


I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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On 11/24/2019 at 7:58 AM, mwheelerk said:

I am having a bit of difficulty in understanding how to set it up so that two sources, my MacBook SSD and my Music Library SSD, can be backed up to the same destination at the same time.  With Time Machine this task was quite easy to include/exclude drives.

 

Time Machine's method of backing up multiple source volumes to a single destination volume is to create a sparse bundle disk image file on the destination for each source volume.  

 

Disk images are perfect for backing up non-bootable volumes such as your music library volume.  

 

For backing up a bootable volume, a disk image has the disadvantage of not being bootable itself, so if the source disk completely fails and you need to get the source computer running, you must restore the backup to another volume.  On the other hand, if you backup a bootable volume to the root level of a volume rather to a disk image, you can immediately boot the source computer from the backup without having to do a restore.

 

Therefore, my recommended solution for using Carbon Copy Cloner to backup one bootable volume and one volume of music files is to not partition the destination volume.  To backup the music volume, specify a sparse bundle disk image on the destination volume as the target.  (Let CCC create the disk image rather than creating it yourself.)  To backup the MacBook's startup volume, specify as the target the destination volume itself, not a disk image, and tick the checkbox to "Protect root-level items on the destination."

 

The advantage of this over kumakuma's advice to create two partitions on the backup volume is that you don’t have to guess how much space to allocate to each of the two backups.


Mac Mini (2012 i7) > HQPlayer or Audirvana > exaSound e32 > Parasound JC-1 > Thiel 3.7

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No, that's not correct. That's the case for multiple computers being backed up to a remote computer, not for volumes. I have three volumes on my iMac that are all backed up to one normal folder on an external drive. 

 

And I disagree with the recommendation to make a sparse image. Disk images can be corrupted, as you have probably seen over time with Time Machine. Better to copy the files to a normal volume. 

 

And regarding partitioning, with APFS (macOS Catalina or later) you no longer need to worry about specifying volume size. As Apple says (https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/disk-utility/dskua9e6a110/mac😞

 

Quote

Apple File System (APFS) allocates disk space on demand. When a single APFS container (partition) has multiple volumes, the container’s free space is shared and can be allocated to any of the individual volumes as needed. Each volume uses only part of the overall container, so the available space is the total size of the container, minus the size of all volumes in the container.

 


I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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19 minutes ago, kirkmc said:

And regarding partitioning, with APFS (macOS Catalina or later) you no longer need to worry about specifying volume size.

 

Excellent point.  I forgot about that because I don’t have Catalina on any of my Macs.  However, APFS has some disadvantages for spinning disks rather than SSD's.

 

 

19 minutes ago, kirkmc said:

No, that's not correct. That's the case for multiple computers being backed up to a remote computer, not for volumes. I have three volumes on my iMac that are all backed up to one normal folder on an external drive. 

 

And I disagree with the recommendation to make a sparse image. Disk images can be corrupted, as you have probably seen over time with Time Machine. Better to copy the files to a normal volume. 

 

I'm not sure I understand the first paragraph.  If all you're saying is that you can backup a non-bootable volume to a folder on a backup volume rather than to a disk image, then I agree.  However, I disagree that an inherent flakiness of disk images is why Time Machine often gets corrupted.  The developer of Carbon Copy Cloner would not recommend disk images as targets if that were true.


Mac Mini (2012 i7) > HQPlayer or Audirvana > exaSound e32 > Parasound JC-1 > Thiel 3.7

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On 11/18/2019 at 2:16 PM, sfseay said:

I use Time Machine and create a full backup bootable drive with SuperDuper monthly.  I believe two backup strategies work best.  I have used Carbon Copy cloner and prefer SuperDuper.

I use the same strategy.  Superduper has been reliable for me since a CCC failure- made a non-bootable copy.

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