SuperDuper: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Backups, Clones, Smart Updates, and Scheduling: Quite the Super Hero

SuperDuper with Option window
SuperDuper keeps you informed during every step. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

SuperDuper 2.8 from Shirt Pocket is one of the easiest backup apps I've ever come across for creating a bootable clone of a startup drive. If that was all SuperDuper could do, it would still be an excellent choice to be part of your Mac’s backup strategy, but SuperDuper has a few more tricks up its sleeve that almost every Mac user will find extremely helpful.


  • Creates bootable clones of a startup drive.
  • Easy-to-use interface.
  • Smart Update feature performs incremental updates to a bootable clone.
  • Can create Sandbox clones, for testing new systems and applications.
  • Supports scheduling to automate the backup process.
  • Lets you create custom backup scripts.
  • Compatible with OS X El Capitan.


  • Creating custom backup scripts can be intimidating.
  • No time estimate is given during backup.


  • Requires OS X 10.7 or later.
  • Includes 60-page user guide in PDF format.
  • Free trial available.
  • Works well with other backup tools, such as Time Machine.
  • Sandboxes are perfect tools for beta testers and developers.
  • Can use disk images as backup destinations.
  • Supports network backups.

There’s no need to fear, SuperDuper is here! With apologies to Underdog, Shirt Pocket attempts to be the superhero of Mac backup software by taking what for many is a difficult problem (making a bootable backup of a startup drive) and turning it into a simple, repeatable process that encourages you to keep your data backed up.

SuperDuper has long been one of the leaders in Mac cloning software, making its first appearance in 2004, back when OS X Jaguar and Panther were the big news in operating systems. Over the years it has acquired both new features and a large following that help it remain a popular cloning app for the Mac.

Smart Updates

For the most part, Shirt Pocket has succeeded in creating an easy-to-use backup application that not only creates bootable clones but can also perform incremental updates, called Smart Updates, to an existing clone. Keeping the clone current is one of the most often overlooked aspects of creating backup clones.

That's where Smart Update comes in. Smart Update only copies files that have changed to the clone, resulting in files either being updated or deleted, to ensure the clone and the source are a match. Because only the changes are being copied over, the process is extremely quick.


A nifty feature that will appeal to bleeding-edge Mac users, who spend their days downloading and test-driving new applications, plug-ins, or beta software, is Sandbox. Sandboxes are special bootable clones that share either your User data, or your User data and the Applications folder, with the startup drive. A sandbox can effectively isolate your normal system while you try out new system software, updates, and drivers, or test beta applications.

Sandboxes are a handy way for Mac users participating in the OS X Beta program to test their favorite applications with the latest beta versions of OS X.


The scheduling feature is a great way to automate the Smart Update process, and ensure that you have a very recent clone to work from should something dastardly, such as your startup drive failing, happen to your Mac.

Using SuperDuper

SuperDuper opens as a single-window application, with almost all of its features and capabilities available from drop-down menus and sheets with items to check off. The top of the SuperDuper window has two drop-down menus; the first one is labeled Copy; selecting this menu will list all of the available attached storage devices you can use as the source for a clone or backup. The second drop-down menu is similar, although this time, you select the destination for the clone or backup.

Just below these two dropdown menus is a third dropdown menu (did I mention that SuperDuper loves drop-down menus?), for selecting the type of backup that will be performed. This menu actually selects a backup script to run, which instructs SuperDuper how to perform the backup you wish to do. SuperDuper comes with pre-made scripts that cover 95 percent of all backup scenarios, but if you’re an advanced user, you can create your own script, either by modifying an existing script or creating your own from scratch. The built-in backup choices are:

Backup – all files: This is the classic clone, creating a duplicate of the selected storage device. If the source device is a bootable startup drive, the clone will also be bootable.

Backup – user files: Similar to the all files backup, except it ignores the system files and creates a non-bootable backup of the various Home directories on your Mac.

Sandbox – shared users and applications: This creates a bootable clone of your selected startup drive but doesn't copy the user data or applications. Instead, it creates links to the source drive's copies of these items. You can then use the sandboxed clone you created to install beta software and use the beta with your existing user and application data.

Sandbox – shared users: This creates a bootable clone of the system software and applications residing on the selected startup drive. The user data, however, isn't copied over; instead, a link is created that allows you to access your present user data, even when working from a clone that will likely contain beta software for testing.

Below the drop-down menus, SuperDuper displays text describing what will happen when you click the Copy Now button. At this point, you can start the backup process by clicking Copy Now, select additional options, or schedule the copy to occur later or on a recurring basis.

Final Thoughts

SuperDuper 2.8 is an easy-to-use cloning and backup app that should meet the needs of almost all Mac users. It works well with the latest version of OS X  (OS X El Capitan at the time of this writing). The handy scheduling feature, which allows you to automate the Smart Update process, is a bonus.

SuperDuper v2.8 is $27.95. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.