Cheap and Free Back-Up Solutions for Mac OS X

Every hard drive will fail, it is just a matter of when. One way to minimize the disastrous effects is to do a regular backup. This may be once per week, once per day, once per hour or even more often. Backup can be done one of several different ways: data only backup and Cloned backup. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. We’ll start with backing up data only.

Data only backup is the most basic form of backup. The basic idea is to create a copy of your data to be stored on a separate drive. This drive can be internal, external or even an online storage location. This can be done simply by selecting the files you would like to make sure you have a copy of, and dragging them to the separate hard drive. The advantage to this method is that it will take less time to complete a single backup cycle. One of the main disadvantages is that you may not have the most up to date copy if something does go wrong with your internal hard drive. Other than the manual copying method you can also use .Mac backup ($99 per year) from Apple Inc. There is a way to combat the manual copying of data by using synchronization.

Synchronizing data locations can be done to make sure that two drives have the same data on both. This can be a double-edged sword. Let’s say you have a spreadsheet with all of your banking information on it. You have done your basic backup and now you want to keep two drives synchronized. That is all set and working, but one day while cleaning up some old files, you deleted your important bank file. If you have automatic synchronization setup to do the same operation on your backup drive as your internal drive. Guess what’s happened? That’s right, your file is now completely gone off both your internal drive and your backup drive. This can be hazardous if used incorrectly. A couple of programs for doing synchronization for the Mac are Chronosync ($30) from EconTechnologies and Synchronize! Pro X ($99.95) from The final way to backup files is do a complete clone backup.

With a clone backup, every single file from your internal hard drive is copied, including the part of the hard drive that tells the computer how to boot up. This can be useful in case you need to be able to continue working, even if your internal drive completely fails. Clone backups allow you to use that backup drive to boot from in case of failure. This method is slower, both in terms of time to complete and if you do boot from that drive, it will take longer to complete tasks, but should be usable. There are several programs that can be used to do clone backups. They include SuperDuper ($27.95) from and Carbon Copy Cloner (Free) from Bombich Software.

No matter which method you decide is right for your needs, you should do at least one backup type, in order to preserve the irreplaceable files, like your photos, downloaded music and documents you have created.

Wayne Dixon

I'm into everything technology related, particularly anything Apple related. I enjoy programming and tend to lean towards server-based technologies over client-based. You can contact me on twitter, via e-mail, or follow me on friendfeed.