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Thread: OS cloning, Data Backups, and Folder Synchronization

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    on the landline, Mr. Smith

    Default OS cloning, Data Backups, and Folder Synchronization

    Common Backup Tool Features:

    • Mac OS Cloning
    • Data Backup
    • Folder Synchronization
    • Scheduled (automatic) Jobs
    • Multiple Destinations
    • Versioning
    • Pruning
    • Compression
    • Security/Encryption

    Mac OS Cloning

    Making a Bootable copy of an existing OS; including all data, applications, settings and preferences. An exact, complete clone of a a system. Can be made to a different hard drive (internal, external via USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt or over a network), or to a partition on a hard drive.

    Lots of tools to do this, perhaps 20 or more. Cloning used to be a challenge back in the early days of OS X, as one could not do a manual copy of an we could back in the dark ages of OS 9. Now the challenge is finding the right tool(s) for your needs. Considerations: simple, complex, feature set, interface, reliability, and cost.


    • While a clone will include all user data, typically users need more protection than a simple clone of their system to protect content that gets created and updated regularly.
    • Cloning a system before any significant updates/upgrades is the only practical way to roll back and have everything exactly as it was....before the update.

    Data Backup

    Backing up data usually means backing up specific user content, primarily being files and unique information that is not part of the OS, nor installed applications. Sure, making a clone gets everything, but often it is overkill to bet a fresh copy of just a few recently changed files. This is typically the most important data on a Mac, as it is typically irreplaceable. Think: photos, documents, user-created movies/videos. Beyond these more obvious items, user data these days often includes, settings, preferences, browser history & bookmarks, saved passwords & keychains, and might include unique software licensing or other hard-to-replace files. And Apple and others continue to build in more feature that rely on databases for, contacts, calendar events and more.

    All of this data and info is unique and must be backed up to prevent loss and serious work flow disruption. Optimally it will get backed up nearly constantly to minimize the risk of loss. Remember that often the latest version of user content is the most important, but paradoxically is often the least likely to be backed up.


    • Best practices usually include backing up user data very frequently, while OS/systems backups can be less frequent, and may use a different tool and a less frequent schedule.
    • In a typical system, backing up the user home directory will capture all unique data for that user, including Mail, Calendar, iTunes, iPhoto and Contacts databases.

    Folder Synchronization

    The third main function of some backup tools is synchronizing directories/folders. This can be use as specific backup tool to sync one folder contents to another, but is also a great asset for moving large data sets. Moving terabytes of data with the Finder usually works, but as it can take hours....and a single error or hiccup can leave one in state of not being sure exactly what has been copied, and where the problem might be. Folder sync tools can do this, skip a bad/locked file, and give a report as to exactly what happened. What if two folder contents are 80% the same? Manually sorting through hundred or thousands of files can be daunting. A sync tool can do it for you automatically, and show you exactly what is different, and move only files you want.

    Scheduled (automatic) Jobs

    [coming soon]

    Multiple Destinations

    [coming soon]


    Apple makes our lives easier by including versioning in recent flavors of Mac OS X. Want to roll back? File damaged? It is easy to roll back to earlier versions of files with supported Applications. What about older/unsupported applications? What if you want a version older than what is kept? What if you have a hard drive failure or other hardware issue. Keeping your own, separate, searchable versions of important data is the answer.

    Good backup software will detect changes and additions and capture copies and retain multiple versions. Great backup software will do this all automatically or by a schedule you choose, and will keep as many versions as you want, as long as you want.


    [coming soon]


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    Last edited by unclemac; 07-02-2014 at 12:52 AM.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

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