Let’s talk backup

As of late, I’ve been suggesting a few great applications that are still available for PowerPC Macs (where by ‘PowerPC Macs’ I generally mean ‘PowerPC G3/G4/G5 Macs running Mac OS X’). For this article I thought I could gather a few resources and reading material related to the essential practice of backing up data.

A necessary preamble: up to the advent of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard in October 2007, my personal backup strategy was a selective, manual backup of all the data I considered vital, so I never really used any tool to perform automated backups, therefore I don’t have any real direct experience with some of the applications mentioned below. The majority of them have an impeccable reputation, though, so I guess they’ll be useful to you.

Backup tools for PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X (and Mac OS 9.2.2)

  • If you’re running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, don’t forget that a basic backup tool is built in the system itself: Time Machine. I started using it since I upgraded to Leopard and I’ve never lost a backup. Considering a few horror stories I’ve heard, I may have been lucky. My only bit of advice: let Time Machine do its job, no matter how long it takes. I never interfered, nor tinkered with it, and never had a problem.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner — A great tool to clone disks and make bootable backup copies of them. And this is just one of the many features this application offers. You can download version 3.4.7, which is compatible with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard from this download page.
  • SuperDuper! — I have actually used SuperDuper! and it was extremely helpful in a few key circumstances. I like its interface because it really guides you every step of the way and explains what the app will do according to the options you choose. The links to download older versions of the app are provided in the sidebar of the page I’ve linked to. There are versions for Mac OS X Leopard, Tiger, Panther and even Jaguar. Customer support is fantastic. One thing worth quoting from SuperDuper’s page is this bit: Please note that SuperDuper! is not designed to back up to CDs, DVDs or Tape, and needs a location (other than the boot volume) to store the backup – typically a volume on an internal or external (FireWire) drive. SuperDuper! only copies HFS+ (Mac-native/Mac OS Extended) volumes.

SuperDuper’s developer offers another important reminder. Old-time Mac users know this already, but it may be useful especially for those who are discovering vintage PowerPC Macs only now:

Note also that USB drives do not allow booting Power PC based Macintoshes under any version of Mac OS X: this is not a SuperDuper! limitation, but one of the OS. If you would like to boot from a backup stored on an external drive, and have a Power PC based Mac, please purchase a Mac compatible FireWire drive. Intel Mac users can boot from either USB or FireWire drives.

  • Dantz Retrospect — Probably one of the backup applications for the Mac with the longest history. This is commercial software, and a licence is required even for older versions. Explore the Retrospect website and see if such software meet your needs. Older versions of Retrospect (for Mac, Windows, Linux) can be found at this page. I never used this product, but heard much praise for it over the years.
  • SilverKeeper — A free utility that used to be made available by LaCie. If you look for it on the Web, you’ll probably find the newer 2.0.2 version (for example on MacUpdate), which requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later. I have made available for download the older 1.1.4 version which supports Mac OS X 10.0 to 10.4 and can also be used under Mac OS 9.2.2. It’s a Zip archive of the SilverKeeper installer and related documentation. Let me know if you have problems extracting it.
  • SimpleBackup — I found this little utility by chance. It may be a simple solution for even older Macs. The developer calls it a “Finder alias-based backup utility.”

    In the readme file he explains how the application works: SimpleBackup is a very simple and easy to use file backup utility. I wrote it because I wanted a quick-and-easy way to back up all those files that are spread out over the hard disk, in the preferences folder, in the documents folder, certain folders and files in the applications folder, etc… I decided that I didn’t want to write a user interface for the utility, so I got the idea of letting the Finder do the work for me by using aliases. The result is a backup program that is actually easy to use! You simply navigate through your hard disk and find the files or entire folders that you want to backup that are buried in the System Folder, Applications, Documents folders etc., and tell SimpleBackup about those files/folders by using aliases.

  • SimpleBackup website (There are other interesting utilities you may want to check out there. The website is old, but the links appear to work.)

Some reading material

I think that this four-part essay on backups by Adam Engst is still worth reading and saving. It was written in 1998 but it’s full of essential pieces of advice and links to other backup software I haven’t mentioned here.

Check also this other piece by Adam Engst, written in 2001: What About Backing Up to FireWire Hard Disks?

This is a start to help you find some backup solutions and ideas, but feel free to chime in and share your suggestions/experience in the comments. Thank you!

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