Practice safe computing, use a clone

Backup, backup, backup! The three most commonly uttered words from any experienced computer user to more care-free users. After moving to OS X as my sole computing solution, I mistakingly adopted the mantra that Apple products were rock solid, unwavering, trouble-free dream machines. For the most part – during the better part of my Apple experiences – they were. That was until I convinced myself to acquire certain Revision A. product – cough Apple cow.

The secret to a worry-free computing experience? Reliable cloned hardrive backups allowing anyone to move and continue working with critical data as though nothing inconvenient had happened. The necessary tools?

The tools – USB 2.0 / Firewire external

An external drive should be part of every computer users hardware collection. Larger externals can be partitioned allowing for a dedicated drive for clones while the remaining can be used for various archival reasons. Booting from an external drive carries with it certain requirements. PPC based Macs can only boot off of Firewire while Intel Macs switch hit booting off of Firewire or USB 2.0. Keep that in mind while shopping. Personal recommendation? Any drives which offer USB 2.0 & Firewire 400 / 800 connectors.

Keep in mind that the type of Mac hardware you run will dictate the type of drive worth investing in. Going with a USB 2.0 / Firewire combo drive will offer the most flexibility for users with multiple computers.

The tools – OSX cloning / backup software

OS X users enjoy a great number of backup solutions. From the original favorite Carbon Copy Cloner, to Deja Vu and iBackup, users have no excuses as far as software is concerned. For this particular walk-through, we will utilize Shirt Pockets SuperDuper utility.

SuperDuper comes in two robust flavors: a functional free version, and a fully featured $28 version complete with smart updates, scheduling, and additional functionality to fine-tune & customize your backups. Fortunately, the free version is everything the average OS X user would ever need with support to create bootable clones [minus the options].

Bootable disk clone in three steps

Creating a bootable image using SuperDuper

Assuming SuperDuper is installed and the external is mounted on the desktop, fire-up the backup utility embrace the simplicity of the interface. Rather than bombarding users with too many options. Copy [XX Drive] (your internal) to [XX Drive] (your external). The specifications read in an intuitive manner for beginners and experienced users alike.

superduper interface

As you can see from the screenshot, my internal drive – ‘Udon’ – will be copied / cloned to one of two partitions on an external drive. I have conveniently titled the future clone “SuperDuper” to alleviate any confusion as to the exact contents of the drive. The third drop down menu defaults to “Backup – all files” which means “SuperDuper, create an exact copy, byte-for-byte, of my internal drive”. Once your internal and external drives are designated in the drop down menus, continue to click ‘Proceed’ after which SuperDuper will confirm that your settings are correct.

Testing your disk clone – Live boot

After completion, you will have a completely bootable backup clone of your existing hardrive. Care to test?

startup disk preference pane

Open System Preferences and select ‘Startup Disk’. In the following window, you should see two startup folders: Mac OS X, 10.X.X on [Internal] & Mac OS X, 10.X.X on [External]. Select the backup clone on the external drive and select ‘Restart’. Note again that PPC based Macs require a Firewire drive while Intel based Macs can boot off of USB / Firewire.

OS X will proceed to reboot using the external as the source. The familiar Apple startup chime will sound, followed by the reassuring loading status bar before your desktop, icons, applications, and personal files are displayed on your screen. Everything is as you left it last before the backup – software licenses, preferences, and system settings – all where they should be. Ah, the beauty of bootable backup clones. Congratulations, you are now running OS X directly off your external hardrive.

Restore your backup clone using Disk Utility

Laugh at the inconvenience of loosing your computers due to hardrive failure or cough having to send your main machine off to Apple – for weeks on end – due to random shutdowns. With a bootable clone in-hand, you can restore your personal work environment on a backup computer using Apple’s Disk Utility.

restore with disk utility

Thankfully, Disk Utility is as simple to use as SuperDuper. Assuming you are currently running off of the external clone drive, continue with the following Disk Utility steps:

  1. Select the internal drive on your computer from the source-list on the left. This is usually the topmost drive.
  2. Select the ‘Restore’ tab in the right-pane.
  3. identify your external drive in the source pane and drag it to the ‘Source’ field in the right-pane.
  4. Drag the internal drive into ‘Destination’ field.
  5. Tick the ‘Erase Destination’ option and proceed to select ‘Restore’.

Once the process is completed, shut down your computer completely, unplug the external, and restart. Your computer will boot off the internal drive which you successfully cloned using your backup.

Practice safe computing, use a clone

Now that you possess the knowledge, continue to make regular backups of your hardrive. The licensed version of Shirt Pockets SuperDuper offers the convenience of scheduled backups reducing the time spent manually cloning your disk. Whichever route you elect to adopt, remember that your hardware is will crash, disappear, break, or possibly require multiple visits to the repair depot. Don’t break stride and maintain a current disk clone of your system for restoring.

Discuss - 36 Comments

  1. David says:

    Nice tutorial. For my backup purposes i wrote a small script to use rsync whenever the daily and weekly maintenance scripts ran. It’s quite convenient, as it just does the backup without any interaction or software usage from the end user. The only downfall, is that it doesn’t make a bootable copy of the disk, although i’m sure the code can be tweaked to do that. Useful for pure file backups. If anyone’s interested, the tutorial i posted can find it here:

    http://www.sdjl.co.uk/2006/04/05/how-to-backup-mac-os-x-with-rsync/

    David

  2. Jerry Chacon says:

    Very Nice tutorial. Thanks.

    I have been too comfortable in my reliance on the “rock solidness” of Mac. It took the woes of Paul and others to convince me to update my “months-old” back up….which I did just yesterday. It never occured to me to look for a program that automated or simplified the process…now, I don’t have to do so much research.

    Again, thanks for the very well done tutorial.

    — Jerry

  3. shorty114 says:

    Great tutorial! I really should get off my butt and start backing things up.

    I like your drive names, lol…

  4. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”7143″]Nice tutorial. For my backup purposes i wrote a small script to use rsync […][/quote]

    Nice tut. I actually experimented with Rsync for a bit until finally settling on SuperDuper. Less setup time 😉

    [quote comment=”7154″]I like your drive names, lol…[/quote]

    A very much themed titling schema going on…

  5. Eli says:

    I dread the thought of hard drive death. Every time it makes a little sound I freeze and wonder if that was a death throw.

    I’d heard about super duper and its fans, but have yet to try it. Isn’t it possible to do a live backup straight out of disk util for free? Awesome post either way.

    My little Rev. A is already to be boxed up and sent back to the depot for:
    -screen defect
    -mouse defect
    -wireless defect
    -the list goes on.

  6. Yeah, I too thought Apple was fail safe at one point in time. I’ve recently had a problem with this very same situation. Last week OS X decided it was time to delete my entire user account, without letting me know. And being that I’m only using this mac because my MacBook is still in for repairs, I didn’t put a lot of thought into doing frequent backups (like I normally do on my MacBook) because I didn’t think I would be using it for very long. As it turns out, that was a bad idea. I love everything that I had been working on over the last 4 – 5 weeks. Quite depressing.

  7. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”7158″]Isn’t it possible to do a live backup straight out of disk util for free?[/quote]

    From what I’ve gathered, it is possible to create a clone using the Disk Utility. Unfortunately, I have yet to find the instructions or options. I’m thinking that you need to create a blank .dmg with enough space to move your entire boot drive on to. Right away, unintuitive in comparison to dedicated cloning utilities like SuperDuper. And damn, sucks with the issues you’re having with your MacBook.

  8. Josh says:

    I was blown away by the fact that you can get a 160GB external hard drive for under $100 now.

    I paid almost $100 a while back for a 70GB internal drive.

    Grrr…

  9. Petteri says:

    [quote comment=”7143″]The only downfall, is that it doesn’t make a bootable copy of the disk, although i’m sure the code can be tweaked to do that.
    David[/quote]

    These commands create or update a bootable backup. Change the word “Backup” to your volume name.

    To create or update the backup:

    $ sudo rsync -Eavx / /Volume/Backup/

    To make it bootable:

    $ sudo bless -folder Volumes/Backup/System/Library/CoreServices –bootinfo –bootefi

    That will append the files to the target drive. If you don’t want to keep the files you don’t anymore have in the source disk, use the –delete-after option.

    $ sudo rsync -Eavx –delete-after / /Volume/Backup/

    Best,
    Petteri

  10. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”7176″]I was blown away by the fact that you can get a 160GB external hard drive for under $100 now.

    I paid almost $100 a while back for a 70GB internal drive.[/quote]

    Prices are only dropping further. Consumers are going to have easy access to TB drives soon enough. That 500GB external FW400 that I’ve have my eye on will soon hit $200 I’m sure.

  11. Eli says:

    [quote comment=”7184″] Prices are only dropping further. Consumers are going to have easy access to TB drives soon enough. That 500GB external FW400 that I’ve have my eye on will soon hit $200 I’m sure.[/quote]

    I picked up a 1.5 terabyte gigabit NAS for under 600.

    The future is here!

  12. MrChucho says:

    [quote comment=”7143″]The only downfall, is that it doesn’t make a bootable copy of the disk, although i’m sure the code can be tweaked to do that.[/quote]
    bless –verbose –folder /Volumes/Clone/System/Library/CoreServices

  13. MySchizoBuddy says:

    Can superduper copy directly to a DVD, since my drive is around 16GB used. it will have to compress the files and split them to fit in 2 DVD’s, and then have a program that will uncompress all that if i want to recover

  14. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”7196″]Can superduper copy directly to a DVD, since my drive is around 16GB used. it will have to compress the files and split them to fit in 2 DVD’s, and then have a program that will uncompress all that if i want to recover[/quote]

    SuperDuper can create a .DMG but it can not write directly to a DVD.

  15. Keith says:

    It has been known, the more professional you are, the less likely you are going to backup your data. However, that can prove to be extremely critical when the data crashed. Well, always backup!

  16. I might actually start doing this now that my iMac has enough room so I don’t have to rely on an external hard drive. Cloning them will be the way to go.

  17. Sam says:

    Thanks for this tutorial! It’s the first time I’ve backed up my iBook which is a really good idea since I have everything on it. I ought to ghost my PC sometime soon…

  18. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”7303″]I might actually start doing this now that my iMac has enough room so I don’t have to rely on an external hard drive. Cloning them will be the way to go.[/quote]

    Don’t rely on cloned disks to an internal drive. What if your iMac dies and you can’t boot? Your clone won’t be of any use.

    [quote comment=”7304″]Thanks for this tutorial! It’s the first time I’ve backed up my iBook which is a really good idea since I have everything on it. I ought to ghost my PC sometime soon…[/quote]

    Hey! There’s a first for everything right? I’m really no different. Routine backups were not part of my regular computing experience until just recently after I was forced to admit that there was no recovering lsot data without a backup.

    I was working for about 30 mintues when the MacBook shut down randomly. If I had been browing the web, or composing an email, I wouldn’t have thought much about it. Unfortunately, a lot of code can be written in half an hour and contrary to what some may have said they would have done differently, there really were no “I would have done..” or “you should have…” scenarios that would have avoided the mess after loosing crucial work.

  19. Be Safe, Clone Your Hard Drive…

    Derek has written a thorough tutorial showing Mac users the basics of cloning their hard drive. With an effective hard drive clone, if your primary drive ever goes down you can just boot from your clone, whether it be a second internal hard drive in y…

  20. Mackarus says:

    Hopefully I won’t have to worry about this anytime soon because I am getting my first Mac this week after being a PC user for so long. I’ll bookmark just in case.