Welcome! If you want to compare features in Mac backup products and services, you’re in the right place. The content here is free to all, but it is associated with a commercial book, written by Joe Kissell and published by alt concepts inc. The book helps you figure out your best strategy for making backups in OS X, and then it covers all the details of set up, testing, maintenance, and restoration.
There are nearly 100 apps and services you can use to back up a Mac, and the list is constantly changing. In Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide, I go into great detail about developing a backup strategy, selecting media, setting up a backup system, and recovering data when the need arises. I also discuss the criteria you should consider when choosing backup software. But rather than list them all in the book, I’ve moved most of the details to this online appendix for easier updating. This appendix covers only consumer apps (not enterprise-oriented software or command-line tools).
Although I’ve tried to be thorough and accurate, I haven’t listed every single feature, nor do I rate or rank backup apps. However, I do make specific recommendations in Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide. I will update this page from time to time as features and prices change, and as errors are discovered.
On other tabs:
The products in this table enable you to back up data from your Mac to the cloud, and except as noted, they automatically maintain multiple versions of each file. Most of these are services that include their own Mac software, but a few (including Arq and Jungle Disk) are apps that work with storage space you buy separately, such as Amazon S3. In any case, you’ll be paying monthly for cloud storage. (Some of these products also appear on the Backup Software tab.)
Last updated: December 4, 2016
|Product Name||Version||Price||Versioning||OS X
|Online Storage||Syncing||Sharing||File Retention||Delta
|Acronis True Image Cloud||Prices start at $99.99/year for one computer for unlimited storage.||Last 10 system states||10.8–10.11||Windows||Proprietary||No||No||Indefinite||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Min. once/day||Not tested||Creates images that can be restored to a bootable state, as well as a recovery drive, but not bootable duplicates as such. Can store full images in the cloud, bandwidth and data caps permitting.|
|Arq||5.1.7||$49.99; cloud storage extra||Yes||10.5–10.11||Windows||Amazon Cloud Drive, S3 (and S3-compatible targets), and Glacier; Dropbox; DreamObjects; Google Drive and Google Cloud Storage; OneDrive; SFTP; local, network, and NAS folders||No||No||Indefinite||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Min. once/hour||A+|
|Backblaze||184.108.40.2060||$5 per month or $50 per year for unlimited storage of data from a single computer||Unlimited||10.6–10.12||Windows, iOS||Proprietary||No||No||4 weeks||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes; personal key available||See note.||No||Yes||Continuous (see note), once per day, or manual||Dynamic||C||To restore files, you can download a ZIP file or request a USB flash drive or hard drive with your data. In all cases, though, you must manually put files back where they belong. "Continuous" backups may involve delays of 2 hours or more after a file is added or changed before it is backed up.|
|Carbonite||1.1.18 & 2.5.2||$59.99 per year for unlimited storage of files from a single computer; business plans also available||NO (Windows only)||10.6–10.12||Windows, Android, iOS||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||30 days||Yes||No||Yes||Yes, but no personal key option for Mac users.||Yes||No||No (Windows only)||Min. once/day||Dynamic||C|
|CloudBacko||220.127.116.11||Home version: free; Lite version: $19; Pro version: $49; cloud storage extra||Yes||10.6–10.11||Windows||Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon S3, Dropbox, FTP/SFTP, Google Cloud Storage, Google Drive, Microsoft Azure, OneDrive, OpenStack, Rackspace Cloud Files, others||No||No||See note.||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Only with Amazon S3||No||Min. once/day. See note.||Not tested.||Can spread backup data across multiple cloud destinations. Home and Lite versions have limited control over retention; Pro version offers complete control. Home version has no scheduling (manual backups only). Uses (and includes) Java, requires the user to install Java from Oracle, and has a pretty ugly, un-Mac-like user interface.|
(previously FA Sync)
|5.73||1 GB free; Professional plans start at $12/month for 100 GB from three users.||Yes||10.5–10.7||Windows, Linux, Android, iOS||Proprietary (FTP, SFTP, SSL/TSL available with paid plans)||Yes||Yes||Indefinite (user preference)||Paid plans only||Yes||Yes||Min. once/hour||C||Hasn’t been updated since 2012.|
|CrashPlan||4.8.0||Prices for CrashPlan online storage subscriptions start at $5 per month for unlimited data.||Unlimited||10.5–10.12||Windows, Linux, iOS||Proprietary||No||No||Indefinite (user preference)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes; personal key available||Yes||No||No||Continuous; min once/minute||Dynamic||A||Uses (and includes) Java.|
|Depositit||Prices start at £10 (about $15) per month for 3 GB.||Yes||10.2–10.12||Windows, Linux||Proprietary||No||No||User preference (up to 10,000 versions of each file)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Min. once/hour||Unable to test||Uses third-party Java app, and requires the user to install Java from Oracle.|
|DollyDrive||3.24||Prices start at $10/month for 250 GB.||Yes||10.5–10.12||iOS||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||Indefinite||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Syncing (Dolly Space) is continuous; for backups, min. once/hour||Dynamic||Not tested|
|ElephantDrive||5.8.8||2 GB free; prices range from $9.95/month (for 100 GB) to $169.95/month (for 2 TB) for up to 3 computers.||Yes||10.5–10.12||Windows, Linux, Android||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||Indefinite||Yes||Automatic on file change||Dynamic||Not tested||Uses a Java app, and requires the user to install Java from Oracle..|
|IBackup for Mac||18.104.22.168||Prices start at $9.95 per month for 500 GB.||10 versions of each file||10.5–10.11||Windows||Proprietary||Yes||30 days||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Automatic on file change or min. once/hour||Not tested|
|IDrive Online Backup||22.214.171.124||5 GB free; prices start at $69.50/year for 1 TB (discount available for first year only).||10 versions of each file||10.5–10.11||Windows||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||Indefinite (See note.)||Yes||No||Yes||Yes; personal key available||Yes||Yes||Yes||Continous or min. once/hour||Dynamic||C||User-specified pruning is optional.|
|JustCloud||Prices start at $134.64 per two years for 75 GB of storage.||7 versions of each file||10.5–10.11||Windows, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Kindle Fire||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||Indefinite||Yes||Yes||Yes, but no personal key option.||Yes||No||No||Not tested|
|Jungle Disk||126.96.36.199||$4–$5 per month depending on edition; 10 GB free storage; additional S3 storage extra||Yes||10.5–10.11||Windows, Linux, iOS||Amazon S3, Rackspace||Yes||See note.||Indefinite (user preference)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Automatic on file change or min. once/5 minutes||Dynamic||A+||Sharing among within an organization is available with Workgroup Edition.|
|Livedrive Backup||3||Prices start at $8/month for unlimited storage for one computer.||30 versions||10.6-10.11||Windows, Android, iOS||Proprietary||No||No||30 days||Yes, but no personal key option.||Not tested|
|Memopal||3 GB free; €79/year for 500 GB||Yes||10.5–10.11||Windows, Linux, Android, iOS||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||Indefinite||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Automatic on file change||Dynamic||C|
|MozyHome||2.15||$5.99/month per computer for 50 GB of storage from one computer, or $9.99/month for 125 GB of storage from up to three computers; additional storage and computers available||Yes||10.7–10.11||Windows, Android, iOS||Proprietary||Yes, via Mozy Stash||No||30 days||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||DVD||Automatic after file change when computer is idle, and/or scheduled, min. once/day||Dynamic||C||Unable to copy some of the metadata test files.|
|Norton Online Backup||188.8.131.52||$49.99/year for 25 GB of storage from up to 5 computers||Yes||10.6–10.8||Windows||Proprietary||90 days||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||?||Not tested|
|Rhinoback||Prices range from free (500 MB) to $49.95/month (20 GB); additional storage available.||Yes||10.5–10.8||Windows, Linux||Proprietary||Indefinite (user preference)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Min. once/day||Dynamic||Unable to test||Uses AhsayOBM software.|
|SOS Online Backup||3.5||Prices start at $4.99/month 50 GB of storage.||Unlimited||10.6–10.12||iOS, Windows, Linux, Android||Proprietary||No||Yes||Indefinite||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes; personal key available||Yes||No||Yes||Continuous or min. once/hour||Scanning||Not tested|
|Zoolz Home||Prices start at $14.99/year for 100 GB.||Unlimited||10.7–10.11||iOS, Windows, Android||Proprietary||No||Yes||Indefinite||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes; personal key available||Yes||Yes||No||Min. once/12 hours||Not tested||Includes local storage option, but only in addition to (not instead of) cloud backup.|
This table lists services designed primarily to sync files from your Mac to the cloud, and from there, with your other devices. Most of these also let you share files and folders with other people. Because in most cases they automatically store versioned backups of your files, too, they provide a basic backup function. But they aren’t designed to back up all your data or to restore it as conveniently as a true backup app, and their prices are often far higher than the backup services listed in the other table on this page. (Some of these products also appear on the Backup Software tab.)
|Product Name||Version||Price||Versioning||OS X
|Online Storage||Syncing||Sharing||File Retention||Delta
|Amazon Cloud Drive||3.5.4||$59.99/year for unlimited storage||No||10.7–10.11||Windows, Android, iOS||Proprietary||No||Yes||Indefinite (?) for deleted files||Yes||No||No||Not tested|
|Box Sync||4.0.7571||10 GB free; $10/month for 100 GB||Yes||10.9-10.11||Windows, Android, iOS||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||Indefinite||Yes||No||No||Automatic on file change or manual||Dynamic||Not tested|
|CloudMe||1.9.7||3 GB free; paid plans start at €1 per month for 10 GB.||Yes||10.6–10.11||Windows, Linux, Android, iOS||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||Not tested|
|Cubby||1.0||5 GB free; prices start at $6.99/month for 100 GB (not counting introductory offer).||Yes||10.6–10.11||iOS, Android, Windows||Proprietary||Paid versions only||Yes||Unlimited||Yes||Not tested.|
|Dropbox||6.3.13||2 GB free; $9.99/month for 1 TB.||Yes||10.5–10.11||Windows, iOS||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||30 days (see note).||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||Automatic on file change||Dynamic||C||Stores old/deleted files for up to 30 days unless you buy the optional ($39 per year) Extended Version History option, which provides 1-year retention.|
|Google Drive||1.30||15 GB free; pricing starts at $1.99/month for 100 GB||Yes||10.7–10.11||Windows, Android, iOS||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||30 days or 100 revisions (See note.)||No||No||No||No||No||Automatic on file change||Dynamic||Not tested||You can disable automatic deletion for individual items.|
|IDrive Sync||184.108.40.206||5 GB free; prices start at $49.50/year for 150 GB.||30 versions of each file||10.5–10.11||Windows||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||30 days||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Automatic on file change||Dynamic||Not tested|
|Livedrive Briefcase||Prices start at $16/month for 2 TB of storage.||30 versions of each file||10.5–10.11||Windows||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||30 days||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Automatic on file change||Dynamic||Not tested|
|Microsoft OneDrive||17.3.6378||15 GB free; pricing starts at $1.99/month for 50 GB||Yes||10.7–10.11||Windows, Android, iOS||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||Automatic on file change||Dynamic||Not tested|
|SpiderOak ONE||6.1.5||2 GB free; $12/month or $129/year for 1 TB; other plans available||Yes||10.8–10.12||Windows, Linux||Proprietary, FTP, SFTP||Yes||Yes||Indefinite||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Automatic on file change or min. once/minute||Dynamic||C|
|Strongspace||0.3.6||The Strongspace Mac app (see note) is free; storage prices range from $3.99/month for 15 GB to $18.99/month for 200 GB.||Yes||Windows, Linux||SFTP, rsync||No||Yes||Yes, via rsync||No||No||Automatic (within 10 minutes) on file change||Dynamic||Not tested||This entry refers to the Strongspace app for Mac with the Strongspace service.|
|SugarSync||3.7.2||30-day, 5 GB free trial; prices start at $7.49/month for 100 GB.||Yes (See note.)||10.6–10.11||Windows, iOS||Proprietary||Yes||Yes||Limited (See note.)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Automatic on file change||Dynamic||C||Can sync between Macs (and PCs and handhelds). Keeps up to five previous versions of files indefinitely.|
Cloud services such as Dropbox and iCloud let you store and share photos along with the rest of your files (up to the limits of your paid plan). In addition, numerous companies provide extensive (or, in some cases, unlimited) stand-alone storage for your digital photos and videos, along with complete control over which ones are shared and with whom, sometimes for as little as zero dollars! Here are some examples of popular photo sharing sites:
Except for Fotki, all these services offer Mac-compatible photo upload software; iPhoto has built-in connections to Flickr and Facebook. Fotki offers uploading via email, and Fotki Premium members can upload photos via FTP.
Versioning: A versioned backup starts with a complete copy of all the files in one or more folders. The next time the backup runs, your backup software performs an incremental update, which means it copies only those files that are new (or newly modified) since the last backup. If the software supports versioning, it means the backup program adds the new or changed data to the backup without overwriting the files already there. That way, you can retrieve many different versions of a given file, and if you delete it on your hard disk, you can still find it in your backup.
OS X Compatibility: This column lists the versions of OS X the program supports, as reported by the developer. A “?” in this column simply means the developer hasn’t specifically stated compatibility (beyond the version listed, if any).
Available for Other Platforms: A number of these Mac backup programs also come in versions for Windows and/or Linux. If you need to back up several computers running different operating systems, you may appreciate the convenience and familiarity of a single tool that works on all of them. Usually, though not always, if you create versioned backups with a multi-platform program, you can open and restore your files from another platform than the one you used to back them up. On the other hand, note that a few of the cross-platform programs have truly hideous user interfaces that were either written in Java without any consideration for the Mac aesthetic, or very badly ported from another operating system. Some cloud backup services also offer mobile apps that let you access your backed-up data from a tablet or smartphone.
Online Storage: Nearly all online backup services use their own proprietary transfer systems that require special software, but some of them also let you access their storage via common protocols such as SFTP. In addition, some of the software listed here can work with online services that use a variety of protocols.
Sharing: Once you’ve stored a file or folder in the cloud somewhere, you may want to give someone else access to it. Although services differ widely in how they implement sharing, as long as there’s some way to do it, you’ll see a Yes here.
File Retention: When you’re backing up to a destination with a fixed capacity (a local hard drive or an online service that puts an upper limit on how much you can store), it’s nice to have the option to automatically remove older versions of files, and deleted files, from your backups to save space. However, you may want to make that decision yourself—and if your online storage is unlimited, you may prefer never to delete anything. Therefore, in the File Retention column, I’ve indicated (where known) the length of time the provider will hang onto old versions and deleted files. (In some cases, retention is based on number of file versions rather than time.)
Delta Encoding: Historically, most backup software has performed versioned backups on a file-by-file basis. In other words, if just 10 bytes of a 10 GB file change, that marks the file as modified, and the whole file must be copied on the next backup run. Some software, however, can copy only the individual bytes that have changed since the last backup, while other software copies slightly larger units called blocks. Copying just the delta—that is, the differences between the file at time A and the file at time B—is known as delta encoding, though you may see other terms, such as “sub-file,” “byte-level,” and “block-level” incremental updates. The advantage of such an approach is that backups go much faster after the initial run and take up far less storage space; this is particularly important when backing up over the Internet. The disadvantage is that restoring a file requires the backup software to reconstruct it by putting together the pieces from all its incremental backups. If even a single one of those incremental bits were to become damaged or lost, you might be unable to restore the file.
Deduplication: Simply put, deduplication is the process of ensuring that data stored on your backup destination volume isn’t duplicated—which reduces the amount of storage space required (sometimes dramatically), and can also speed up backups considerably. For example, if you have two copies of a file on your disk, a program that features deduplication will store only one copy on your backup media, along with a pointer to the other one (so that the file can be restored to either location with equal ease). In most cases, deduplication is done on a block-by-block or even byte-by-byte basis, so that when files are quite similar, only one complete copy of the file is stored, along with the differences found in the other version(s) so that any of them can be reconstructed. In other cases, it’s done at the file level—two identical files won’t be duplicated, but if the files are only 99 percent the same, they will be. Some implementations of deduplication can compare data from multiple computers, while others can deduplicate data only from a single source.
Compression: When a backup application compresses your files, they take up less room on your storage media—usually a good thing, as that reduces your costs and lets you store backups for longer periods of time before having to reuse your media. Compression is even more important when data is traveling over the Internet, because compressed data takes less time to send, and online storage costs are often much higher than the cost of local media. On the other hand, compressing files taxes your computer’s CPU, RAM, and disk, and having compressed files may add an extra complication when it comes time to restore data.
Encryption: As long as your backup media is under your physical control, encryption isn’t especially important. But if you store backup media offsite in any fashion, or if anyone else (a thief, say, or a nosy coworker) can get access to your backups, you might prefer that they not be able to see all your data. Almost all online backup and storage providers offer some form of encryption, but most of them use an encryption key that they (the providers) hold, meaning they can access any of your encrypted files. Providers with better security let you use a personal key that only you know, and that is stored only on your own computers—not on the server.
Restore Feature: A restore feature simply means that, with a button click or menu command, you can instruct your backup program to return files that you previously backed up to their original location (or, if you prefer, another location). Quite a few programs expect you to simply switch the “source” and “destination” and, essentially, redo your backup. A restore feature is most important with backup programs that store multiple versions of your files, because otherwise, sifting through a lot of different file versions by hand is going to be a real pain.
Seeding: When backing up your data online, the initial backup (which could be tens or hundreds of gigabytes) is always the most painful. Even with a fast broadband connection, it could take weeks. Seeding lets you perform an initial backup to a local hard drive and send that drive to the cloud provider, which then loads your data onto its servers. Thereafter, you need only copy new or changed data, which is much quicker. Most companies charge an extra fee for seeding.
Physical Restore Media: This is the opposite of seeding—if the need arises to restore a large quantity of data, the storage provider can copy your data onto physical media (a hard drive or DVD) and send it to you (for a fee, of course). The benefit is that restoration is much faster this way than downloading all your data.
Scheduling: Traditionally, most backup programs have used a fixed schedule: you set a time (once a day, twice a week, or whatever—maybe in the middle of the night) and the software does its thing only at that time. For software that uses a fixed schedule, this column lists the most frequent option available (such as once per hour or once per day). Increasingly, though, backup programs offer some form of automatic operation (either by default or as an option), such as backing up files continuously, as they change, or running in the background every hour. In general, if a program can run once an hour or more frequently and it dynamically detects changed files (see just ahead) so that it needn’t do a full scan with each run, it is effectively schedule-free. On the other hand, some backup programs don’t support any kind of scheduling—they run only when you activate them manually. The majority of online backup and storage services can copy your data to the cloud immediately when it changes (see the next point).
Change Detection: Some programs can detect file changes in real time, either by using OS X’s FSEvents (file system events) framework or by running in the background and employing proprietary methods to watch for changes. In whatever form, dynamic change detection reduces or eliminates the need for a time-consuming scan each time your backups run and, in some cases, enables continuous, real-time backups as your files change. (Even so, occasional full scans may be necessary.)
Metadata Support: Even though a file may appear to copy correctly, some important information about the file may be missing or incorrect—things like ownership, permissions, modification date, Finder flags, access control lists, and many others (collectively known as “metadata”). Theoretically, backup software should copy every piece of metadata perfectly, though in practice, many types of metadata are so insignificant or seldom used that no harm is done if they’re missing in your backups. Faithful copying of metadata is most crucial when making a bootable duplicate.
I used a tool called Backup Bouncer to test metadata support for as many of these programs as I could. Backup Bouncer checks a great many attributes, but it divides its results according to how significant the developer feels each one is: “critical,” “important,” and “other.” I’ve used the Backup Bouncer results to assign a “grade,” as follows:
Although metadata is in some cases very important, I urge you to take these test results (especially the “C” grade) with a grain of salt, for two reasons. First, because of the way Backup Bouncer groups its results, a fairly insignificant problem can sometimes result in a failed test in a “critical” category. And second, depending on the way a given backup program is designed and used, it may be irrelevant that certain attributes (such as file ownership) aren’t always copied correctly. Also, the difference between an “A+” and an “A” is effectively meaningless. So basically: don’t freak if your favorite program gets a less-than-perfect score—but do consider contacting its developer to suggest that they look into using Backup Bouncer to improve its metadata support in the future.
Where you see “Not tested” in this column, it means I haven’t taken the time to run the test—it’s time-consuming and not always worth the effort. “Unable to test” could mean any of several things: the software may not be compatible with the version of OS X on my test machine; it may be designed in such a way that it can’t work with Backup Bouncer’s test suite; or I may not have had access to a version of the program suitable for testing.