Stop Cloning Your Hard Drive As a Backup

Many people still use cloning as a method of backing up a Mac. However, this method is not nearly as useful or robust as a standard Time Machine backup. Files you may think are safely backed up to a clone can actually be completely missing. If you use a clone as a secondary backup, better solutions exist such as online backups, cloud storage, or simply a second Time Machine backup.

Comments: 64 Responses to “Stop Cloning Your Hard Drive As a Backup”

    Cavalry Jobs
    1 year ago

    Silliness!

    One cannot boot from a Time Machine Backup. It also often fails to update. Long gone are the days of automatic every hour back up. So, talk about MISSING files.

    Much rather use Carbon Copy Cloner and have a full, bootable backup.

    But, in fact, I do both types of backups!

    Even more crucial is storing a physical backup offsite somewhere and replacing it regularly. If your office, room, or house has a fire, you could lose your main co outer and your backup drives!

    1 year ago

    Cavalry: My point is that most (almost all) users would not want to boot from a backup. The days of those being useful are gone. My Mac doesn’t fail to update. Perhaps you have an issue you need to investigate? A clone will miss 100% of those old files you deleted, which is my point.

    melgross
    1 year ago

    Backups can be done in a number of ways. There is no one way is best situation. I use Time Machine for continuous backups. But Time Machine isn’t yet the best way for everything. As was mentioned by Cavalry Jobs, you can’t boot from it, or create a bootable drive. So it’s a lot more work using it.

    I use SuperDuper to create clones of my drives. An advantage is that they can create a clone from a newer drive thats bigger than your original drive. It also has incremental backup.

    Snafu
    1 year ago

    Full clones have saved my bacon more than a few times, like when Disk Utility had trashed my partitions while doing First Aid work, letting me be back in business in a matter of seconds because I was able to boot from them, something neither Time Machine nor a cloud copy would allow for.

    Time Machine is inherently a more complex solution than a clone, and has enough horror stories behind as to give me pause as a primary back up technique. That said, it is invaluable as a file history system.

    1 year ago

    melgross: But why would you want a bootable backup? In 2018? When was the last time you used one and what situation would you see yourself using one, realistically?

    1 year ago

    Snafu: What was your situation where you needed to boot from a clone? And how would that apply to a typical Mac user with a MacBook or iMac today in 2018?

    Robert M
    1 year ago

    Bad advice in the video. Incremental backup system like Time Machine are entirely different than clones. They serve a different purpose and compliment each other rather than replace each other. The irony is the video actually offered valid reasons why cloning is beneficial.

    You should _never_ rely on a single type of backup. I’ve had Time Machine and Migration Assistant fail on a number of occasions. I’ve yet to have a clone fail. Use clones in conjunction with Time Machine.

    1 year ago

    Robert: Did you watch the whole video? I agree to use another backup method. I gave three better alternatives than clones.

    James Ludtke
    1 year ago

    I totally disagree with the conjecture. After I updated to High Sierra, the Time machine back-up went bonkers. The Time machine “synced” my mac by deleting files on my mac, which somehow had been lost in the Time machine copy. I had to get several Apple support call to get rid of time machine without touching files on my mac.

    When I make a clone backup, I know what is in it. Nobody monkeys with the content. I am responsible for the content. This worked form the day CCC was released.

    1 year ago

    James: Sorry you had a problem there, but that’s not what it is supposed to do. Haven’t had any issues myself. I suppose cloning software isn’t flawless either. So how do you deal with the situation I show in the video of the deleted file?

    Robert M
    1 year ago

    Gary, yes. I watched the entire video. My issue is you seem to be dismissing clones to the point that people shouldn’t use them. That’s just foolish. The systems you describe all compliment each other. I actually use Time Machine, clones _and_ dropbox. They compliment each other and have saved my butt on more than one occasion. Gotta say, though, the only method that has dropped the ball is Time Machine.

    Tim McManus
    1 year ago

    I use both Time Machine and disk cloning. When I work on other folks’ computers, I’ll do a drive clone and a file-level backup. Always two backups.

    I upgraded recently to a Mac Pro, and rather than using my network-based TM backup, I cloned the drive to an external 4TB USB drive. I didn’t want to restore from TM during this upgrade and manually migrated the data. Can’t do a manual data migration with TM.

    There are reasons to backup using both ways. One isn’t necessarily better.

    Tim McManus
    1 year ago

    Gary, when you refer to cloning I think you’re only referring to file-based cloning. I clone disks with Disk Utility which does a block-level clone of the drive with verification. There is no way that I’ll miss a file that way unless there was an error with the original disk or in the cloning process, which would fail with an error.

    When I work on other machines, I ALWAYS do a block-level clone prior to working on the drive. Without a doubt, I can restore that drive to it’s original state.

    1 year ago

    Robert: I am saying that people shouldn’t use them. How many backups will you have? Two is a good number if you do work with your Mac. I use Time Machine and a remote backup. You could say that having my files on cloud servers is a third. If I did a fourth, it would be a second Time Machine backup. A fifth would be a second remote. I’d have a lot of backups before I used a clone as an alternative. But I hear from people with JUST a clone as a backup (and thus they are surprised when they can’t retrieve a deleted file). I wouldn’t recommend a clone to anyone unless they had a good reason for needing to boot from it.

    Robert M
    1 year ago

    Gary, to be honest, I nearly stopped the video when you described clone failure in relation to incremental backups and/or restoring a file that was deleted by mistake. Clones aren’t and never have been intended to serve as incremental backups or to restore files deleted mistakenly. Why wasn’t this pointed out?

    1 year ago

    Tim: This is one of the uses for a clone that I mention — for migration. But people use them for daily backups which I don’t think is a good idea. Block-level clones and file clones both have the same basic issue: no deleted or modified files. And that’s probably the most common use for a backup for typical users.

    1 year ago

    Robert: I know clones aren’t intended for that. But people are using them as backups without think about this. That’s my whole point. That’s what I am trying to show here. Then they get burned when they need a deleted file.

    Robert M
    1 year ago

    Gary, the issue is some of your reasons why clones are good, which you list in your video, undermine that argument. FWIW, for my office Macs, I have Time Machine backup up to multiple drives. One hardwired, one network. I have a local clone. I have two off-site clones. I have Dropbox. And, until it failed, I also had Crashplan. I have the same configuration for my home machine. and even have a second laptop configured in an identical manner to my primary office machine that is kept offsite.

    Robert M
    1 year ago

    Gary, if you meant this: “I know clones aren’t intended for that. But people are using them as backups without think about this. That’s my whole point. That’s what I am trying to show here.” then your video is unsuccessful. You definitely did not get that point across.

    1 year ago

    Robert: Sorry about that then. I think it demonstrates the deleted-file-flaw for clones pretty well.

    Tim McManus
    1 year ago

    Gary, thanks for your reply. I think we are lumping a lot of things into Backup that aren’t truly Backup. There are three distinct things we’re discussing: Backup, Replication, and Archive.

    Backup is just that, a methodology that protects data loss. Some backup methodologies save multiple versions of files, like Time Machine, others don’t.

    Replication is just duplicating data at a point in time. This is what cloning does, and CCC adds some features to allow for incremental updates.

    Tim McManus
    1 year ago

    Archive is just old or infrequently accessed data moved to lower-cost storage. It could be tape, slower disk, etc. But the data is generally accessible, maybe as read-only, but it’s more about data than files (splitting hairs, I know).

    TM is an adequate backup tool.
    CCC is an adequate cloning tool with the benefit of allowing you to manage incremental updates to your clone. But technically, it’s not a robust backup tool (again, spitting hairs).

    DrMacBackup
    1 year ago

    Click Bait. Moronic Post

    1 year ago

    DrMacBackup: I don’t think the masses are that passionate about cloning to make this a click-bait post. I think my points are valid and I think way too many people are given bad advice to use a clone instead of a good backup (Time Machine, remote, or other incremental backup solution). They will get burned by it because of the issue I describe in the video.

    Robert M
    1 year ago

    Garry,

    It demonstrates the deleted-file-flaw for clones but in a backwards manner that also dismisses clones entirely. If you wanted to say a clone doesn’t offer a means to recover a file that was accidentally deleted, then you should’ve just said it. You didn’t have to make seem like clones are awful and shouldn’t be used at all. Honestly, you let your bias and good fortune with Time Machine color what could have been a very straight-forward video.

    Al
    1 year ago

    This is some heated discussion. I partition my hard drive (iMac) and do both a Time Machine (hourly) backup and an occasional manual clone (CCC) to my external drive. In my mind, I’m getting the best of both worlds. Am I missing something?

    Ravi
    1 year ago

    Wow, so many fault finding comments!! Amazing. Anyway, I use Time Machine for my internal SSD and Carbon Copy Cloner for the external SSD. And I have iCloud Drive, backup of other-i. e. that are not in Documents- folders to online services such as google drive, sync, box, one drive!

    melgross
    1 year ago

    I’ve booted from a cloned backup a number of times, always successfully. Time Machine doesn’t work properly with APFS, by the way, yet.

    As I said, you should use several types of backup, including clones, particularly when the clone software allows incremental backups.

    If your drive has a hardware failure, you need to replace it, SMART software gives you info on what’s happening before it fails. Clone your drive and replace it.

    1 year ago

    Robert: I don’t think it dismissed clones entirely as I have a whole segment on things that clones are good for, and list three.

    1 year ago

    Al: I think what you could be missing is that if the primary reason for having a clone is for it to be bootable, then I don’t know if a partition is going to get you that. If your primary reason is to have a second backup, then an online backup is better (though I realize it may not be an option if you don’t have a good connection). But other than that, having a second backup of some kind is better than not having a second backup.

    1 year ago

    melgross: Time Machine’s problem with APFS is that the TM drive itself can’t use APFS. But it can back up files from APFS just fine. I’d argue that a clone backup that offers incremental backups IS an incremental backup solution, not just a clone. So it is much better than just a clone.

    MrEdofCourse
    1 year ago

    I think the problem with this video is that the intended audience of the video should likely still continue to clone their drives. Grandma isn’t using CCC, but at best is already using TimeMachine (or should be).

    Those of us who are cloning their drives with CCC, likely do have the need to instantly be up an running from an external boot instead of a lengthy restore, be able to swap…

    I may have missed it, but you didn’t mention that CCC can archive deleted files, which most of us do.

    1 year ago

    MrEdofCourse: Actually, the inspiration for this video came from several “typical” Mac users (non-IT-pros) who were using cloning instead of TM. So I think there is a middle audience there of people using clones as backups, but who shouldn’t be, which is who i am trying to speak to.

    Russ Tolman
    1 year ago

    My take on this discussion. I use both. I have a two TM drives one local and one stored in the Safety deposit box. I have three clones of my iMac and my wife iMac. Two clones on site in different enclosures with different power supplies. Both TM and Cloned Drives are connected to UPS’s. I use CCC and would never be without it; have used for years. It has saved my life multiple times. Cloned Drives are cloned once a day. TM is set to Backup every hour. Also, using Backblaze.

    Mar D
    1 year ago

    I agree with you Gary. I think there are a small amount of users that will still like a “second” backup to be a clone, so that if their main drive fails, they won’t have to reinstall all of their applications…especially if they have several that are not purchased from the Mac App Store. Great video, keep up the good work that you do!

    Phyllis Steele
    1 year ago

    Excellent info, clearly explained. A bonus was reading all the snarky comments! Pretty entertaining.

    Bodi
    1 year ago

    Why doesn’t anyone mention that with Carbon Copy Cloner and its feature “SafetyNet” you can have both a bootable clone and an incremental backup of the newest of your old files until the external drive is full?
    It’s much faster and more reliable than TM. And: So much easier to browse through all your old (now deleted) files, you can even finder search them!
    That’s my first “line of defence”, especially when travelling. My 2nd is Cloud, the 3rd is TM on two NAS (at home and at work).

    Dave G
    1 year ago

    I think everyone here should agree to disagree. I too agree that clones are amazing ways to backup and save me tons of time reinstalling apps and other settings. Time machine and migration assistant gave me issues so at least I have a clone to refer back too. I use Dropbox, Google drive, Box, and iCloud to back up all my important files in real time and love having a clone to restore in less time. I don’t worry about real time backups vs full restores.

    Ed Berggren
    1 year ago

    Last month the hard drive in my 2012 iMac died with little to no warning, so even though I had a full Time Machine backup, I was dead in the water. Fortunately, I also had a SuperDuper clone and was able to boot up from that and continue to work until the new iMac I ordered arrived. The Time Machine backup was, of course, useful for restoring files, applications and settings on the new iMac. This experience convinced me to continue to maintain both TM and clone backups.

    Robert M
    1 year ago

    Gary, the tone of the video is part of the problem. You aren’t a fan of cloning a drive as a form of backup and it’s readily apparent from the start. The way information is presented is the other issue and it’s due in part to bias and, what I feel is misleading information. I’ve detailed those issues previously. You even make it seem that cloning a drive shouldn’t even be a part of a regular backup system and that is a huge issue. We’ll most definitely have to agree to disagree.

    1 year ago

    Robert: Yes, and I value your opinion and glad to have it as a counterpoint on this page. Thanks!

    Ross Michael R
    1 year ago

    Time machine backups are most useful for user error data losses – the most common type. They also should be good for media (disk) failure and migration to a new machine. At the user level it is very simple. Under the covers it is complex and I have had issues with it and have read of other folks’ problems.I use Time Machine. My user homes except photos and music are in dropbox – disaster recovery such as fire, Music and photos in the cloud (iTunes and Photos). Also create auto weekly clones.

    Ross Michael R
    1 year ago

    My super duper clone is on a TB3 SSD which isn’t much slower than internal iMac drive. I use it to test major updates before taking the plunge.

    Al
    1 year ago

    I have a 10 yr old Mac that won’t boot. I know the disk is about to fail completely. If I had a bootable clone on another disk, I would be able to boot from it. Save files I might be missing and not sweat it as I am doing now. Acronis is what I use in the MS world. I have not been able to find something similar in the MAC world. Ideally I would prefer akin to Linux a OSX Boot Stick with a live version of any OSX.

    Philip Noguchi
    1 year ago

    Appreciate the varied responses to your presentation. I have a specific question on TM that I have not been able to find an answer.

    I cloned an internal hard disk to an external SSD using CCC. I used the same name Sierra for both drives. I dual boot the internal using Sierra and the external using Mojave beta 7.

    Would it be possible to use TM to restore an external (or internal) drive with a different name; e.g. HD to HD1? I assume that simply changing the disk name would not be appropriat

    Doug Hogg
    1 year ago

    Sorry, poor advice — use both. A few months ago, I recovered a friend’s data when her hard drive and Time Machine backup failed, using the clone that I had also set up for her. A second Time Machine backup is also a good idea, but do not rely on Time Machine only — it is complex and its backups sometimes have to be erased to get it going again.

    1 year ago

    Philip: You could just restore the drive and then change it’s name, right?

    Frank Fariello
    1 year ago

    Gary, As. An avid long-term follower I offer the following suggestion; Rethink your view of the average user. The large number of decents show that many do not have as much confidence in Time Machine as you do and also feel more comfortable with a clone backup. For me, Time Machine for quick restore and startup of a new machine is best. For disaster,Super Duper (Super Clone) saves the day.
    your advice is valuable, keep up the good work.

    Richard B
    1 year ago

    I understand and agree with Gary that using a disk clone will not keep version history, that’s why I use Time Machine, plus an Automatic copy of “data” to iCloud plus a weekly clone using SuperDuper. My BIG CONCERN is with the possible threat of data encryption due to ransomware, my TimeMachine and iCloud copies would be encrypted and lost. My clone is not online so would not be infected and at worst I lose 1 week of data when I have rebuilt my Mac.

    melgross
    1 year ago

    Gary, all the cloning software I’ve ever used had incremental auto backups too. The entire idea is to clone so that you get an entire drive, usually larger, and, if needed, an up to date backup in case something goes wrong with your startup drive.

    I also use it to backup my 32TB of other data. They usually doesn’t need incremental backups on a regular schedule. The cloud isn’t a good option if you have a lot of data, unless it’s corporate. 2 clones of important data, take 1 offsite.

    David
    1 year ago

    Gary, all of your comments seem so far from reality. I’ve used Carbon Copy Cloner for ages. CCC has snapshot support (https://bit.ly/2Mm5OVx), so I have history going back months. I used to clone to a pair of rotating disks, one would go to work with me every Friday. Now I use CCC to “clone” to a Mac at my brother’s house – boom, offsite backup. “In the rare case you need to use your clone, it’s not time sensitive” Huh? I guess you’ve never had the panic of a failed disk. That’s time sensitive!

    Bruce
    1 year ago

    Some see this as “stop cloning.” I think they missed the key “AS A BACKUP.” This distinction isn’t new. Incremental backup and point-in-time bootable cloning are used for different purposes. The video DOES say this. It doesn’t say “never clone.” Tolerance for data loss, malware, operational downtime affects a choice to add a cloning routine. Reasonable folks can disagree if a regular cloning routine is needed by the “average” user. I feel lucky if I can get folks to even do backups!

    Robert M
    1 year ago

    David, agreed. I rarely restore single files or an entire drive from a Time Machine backup. My docs are stored in the cloud and synced across machines. If I accidentally delete something, I use the cloud to restore it or even an earlier version of it. If an entire drive goes kablooey, I restore from the clone. The cloud syncs all of the files and ensures they are up-to-date. I might have to reinstall an OS update or app update but that’s not even always necessary. Easy, fast and reliable.

    David
    1 year ago

    Bruce, I think you missed my point. I use CCC *as a backup*, because it makes a better backup than Time Machine. I have a clone *and* history with CCC. I can do point-in-time restores *and* boot from the backup if the source disk fails. And I can even do offsite backups with CCC. Of all the solutions presented here, only CCC covers *all* of the bases, making it the best *backup* software. CCC = Time Machine + Clones + Offsite Backups.

    Robert M
    1 year ago

    Bruce, I don’t think we missed the key “as a backup”. I know I didn’t. As a backup, cloning is rock solid option and definitely should be used as a part of a well-rounded backup system. Gary feels otherwise and promotes Time Machine and backing up to the cloud while dismissing cloning. That’s poor advice. ‘course, as you said, tech people like ourselves are fortunate if we can get other people to backup their data, let alone an entire drive, at all.

    Carl Geis
    1 year ago

    I guess this conversation is like beating a dead horse now.

    John Carter
    1 year ago

    Gary, you repeatedly discount the very obvious need for a bootable clone. In your case, you find no need for it, and that’s fine. But others here seriously question that you would advise the public that a bootable clone is unnecessary. I, like others here, have used a bootable clone to work from (followed by updating it from Time Machine) until I had the free time to clean up and restore the trashed internal hard drive–from the bootable clone.

    John Carter
    1 year ago

    One way to recover a trashed operating system is to restore from the network followed by a Time Machine restore. But if the hard drive is so completely trashed that you can’t even boot into the Recovery partition, a clone IS the only viable option.

    1 year ago

    John: The other option would be to replace the drive, boot into Internet Recovery mode, then restore from Time Machine. You’d need to do that anyway even if you worked from the clone for a short while. Unless you happen to have a Mac with an easily replaceable drive and you happen to be cloning to a drive that you are OK with making your new permanent drive. That’s rare with today’s setups.

    Jared
    1 year ago

    Excellent video, Gary. I see a lot of comments complaining about it, but it looks these complaints are coming from advanced Mac users. For a casual user who doesn’t know much about this topic, this is really good advice. Time Machine is a solid solution for the average Mac user. Personally, I currently do Time Machine as my main backup and use Superduper’s smart updates for my secondary backup. I usually restore from time machine if something goes wrong. It has saved me many times.

    Nate
    1 year ago

    Count me among those who includes a clone backup in my standard routine and can recall several times over my many computer years when I needed access IMMEDIATELY after a disk failure and only a clone could provide that. I use continuous Time Machine, continuous cloud backup and a clone updated via SuperDuper every Sunday. How would you otherwise deal with disk failure while doing a tax return, while needing access to various random unpredictable portions of your disk using Spotlight?

    Doug
    1 year ago

    I use Chronosync to do hourly incremental backups. I then use Carbon Copy Cloner to make a weekly clone. Totally works for me.

    Andy Dennis
    1 year ago

    Granted its unusual but I take a clone with me on Doctors Without Borders Missions. I then have all my photos, videos and music in an area no internet access. I take a MBA with 128gb drive but have a bootable clone of a 1Tb drive with all my files on it.

    Peter W
    1 year ago

    Gary, I might agree with you if Time Machine could be relied upon, but it just isn’t that good. Twice TM lost my entire backup history and I had to restart from scratch. Just today I triggered TM manually, but on returning an hour later found a warning that I’ve had no successful backups since January, which is totally untrue. A clone is essential for last resort and off-site protection against risk of fire and theft. I am not yet willing to consider cloud backup. Carbon Copy Cloner for me!

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