No Excuses: 7 Free Mac Backup Apps

There's No Excuse Not to Maintain Current Backups

Laptop with CD-R for backup
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Regularly backing up data should be at the top of every Mac user's to-do list (Windows users, too). Over the years, every drive in every computer I've ever owned has failed at some point. But because I maintain current backups of my data, and routinely check the health of my Mac and its drives, I've never been devastated by a drive failure; only inconvenienced.

If you haven't yet set up a backup routine to keep your data safe, this list of free Mac backup applications will help you get started. Don't delay; tomorrow may be too late.

A word about free; some of the selected apps are indeed free, such as Apple’s Time Machine, which is included with every copy of OS X. And since OS X has been free since OS X Lion, I’m going to consider Time Machine a free backup app. Others are a free/paid composite. They will operate without issues as a backup app, but the paid version has additional features and niceties that are usually well worth the price. There's not a single app in this list I wouldn't pay for myself, and in fact, I already do.

If you don’t currently use a backup app, I highly recommend giving one of these Mac backup apps a try. You're going to feel a lot better knowing that, should something happen to your Mac’s storage system, you can quickly retrieve any lost data and get right back to work.

Time Machine, which is included with OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and later, is the backup app of choice for many Mac users. And why not; it's easy to set up and easy to use. It's also easy to forget about. Once you set it up, you can go about your daily business without giving backups a second thought; Time Machine will automatically take care of everything for you. Time Machine also works with OS X's migration assistant, making it an effective choice for moving data to a new Mac as well as performing backups.

While it offers a number of attractive features, Time Machine isn't perfect. We recommend using Time Machine as the core of your backup strategy and relying on other backup apps for additional capabilities, such as cloning or remote/cloud backup.

Time Machine website

Setting up Time Machine More »

SuperDuper ready to clone startup drive
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

SuperDuper is a backup application that supports the traditional full and incremental backup approaches many of us are used to, but it's also capable of creating bootable clones of a startup drive. This is one feature that Time Machine lacks and which SuperDuper performs quite well.

SuperDuper's core features (creating clones and backups) are free. The paid version of SuperDuper includes additional features, such as the ability to set up schedules to automate your backups or clone creations; Smart Updates, which are incremental versions of a clone and greatly reduce the time it takes to update an existing clone; and user scripts, so you can create your own backup routines and schedules.

SuperDuper website

Time Machine and SuperDuper Make for Easy Backups More »

Carbon Copy Cloner 4
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Carbon Copy Cloner is the granddaddy of Mac cloning software. It has long been a favorite of the Mac community, and is a must have app earning a place in my list of applications I always install on my Macs

Carbon Copy Cloner is widely used for creating bootable clones, but it can also create full and incremental backups, schedule tasks, and back up to any networked share that your Mac can mount on its desktop.

Carbon Copy Cloner website More »

Get Backup app
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Get Backup from BeLight Software is available in free and paid (pro) versions. The pro version has some nice feature enhancements that are worth the small additional charge, but the free version has all of the basic features that many Mac users will ever need. This includes the ability to create full and versioned backups, exclude files and folders, synchronize files and folders, and create bootable clones of a startup drive.

One thing to note: The Get Backup app is available from both the Mac App Store and from BeLight Software's website. The Mac App Store version of Get Backup doesn't include the cloning capabilities because Apple doesn't allow apps that require administrative privileges to be sold through the Mac App Store. More »

Mac Backup Guru icon
Courtesy of MacDaddy

Mac Backup Guru is another backup app that specializes in cloning, that is, creating an exact copy of a selected drive. So exact that if the target drive is the one you use as your startup drive, the resulting clone will also be bootable.

Of course, in today's backup market, cloning a drive is nothing new, and most backup utilities can perform this service. Mac Backup Guru has a few additional tricks it can perform. Besides cloning a drive, Mac Backup Guru can sync any selected folders, and create incremental clones, which cuts down on the time it takes to keep a backup clone current.

It also has a full scheduling system so you can automate your backups. More »

CrashPlan backup app
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

CrashPlan is primarily an off-site backup application that uses the cloud for storage, however, there's a free version of CrashPlan that lets you create your own local cloud, so to speak.

You can designate any Mac, Windows, or Linux computer on your network as the destination. CrashPlan will use this computer as the backup device for all of your other computers. You can even backup to remote computers that aren't your local network, say the computer of a good friend who lives next door. In this way, you can easily create off-site backups without trusting your data to the cloud.

The free version of CrashPlan supports full and incremental backups, file encryption (a good idea if you're backing up to a computer that you don't control), running automatic backups on a daily schedule, and the ability to back up any external drives attached to your Mac. More »

IDrive online backup
Courtesy of IDrive, Inc.

 IDrive is another online-based backup service that can be used with your Mac. Besides your Mac IDrive can backup your PC as well as your mobile devices.

IDrive offers a free basic level, allowing you to backup up to 5 GB of data from any device. If you need more backup space you can choose the Personal 1 TB plan which at the time of this writing was $52.00 a year.

iDrive offers a bit more goes beyond basic backup service, it allows you to synchronize files between devices, and files can be marked for sharing, using the free IDrive app. More »