Thanks for a wonderful article. I recently upgraded to Big Sur on my 2015 MBP and like it so far. I take it that it is possible to make a simple, non-bootable backup on Big Sur using SuperDuper! but am confused about how to go about it. Dave’s post on the SuperDuper! Blog mentions a “new APFS backup volume in the destination”. Does this mean that HFS+ formatted drives can no longer be used a destination? I would like to continue using my spinning hard drive and was wondering if it is possible.
At this point, I think there’s no reason to use HFS+ for even a spinning disk backup; the only potential downside is performance, and that’s not a big deal with duplicates anyway, since they take a long time regardless.
I followed Dave’s steps and had no problems making a simple data-only backup with SuperDuper 3.2.5. I’ve subsequently erased that backup, installed Big Sur on it, and am testing ChronoSync’s bootable duplicate workaround, which seems to be functioning as well, though it took a while to set up (mostly the Big Sur installation).
Is the TM disk turning read-only purely a Big Sur thing or is it related to APFS vs. HFS+?
A big reason I like the idea of a bootable backup is simplicity and the flexibility that comes with that. I haven’t used CCC for many years, but when I did, it always worked. I do not have that confidence with any other type of backup.
Nevertheless, I’ve been relying on TM forever because I hadn’t updated my Mac for that long, which means it has been a dog to use so it got used little. I finally got a new iMac (Intel of course) and to my surprise, I liked Catalina instantly and found that things hadn’t changed as much (for the worse) as I had feared. I got an external HD for a TM backup and an external 970 EVO SSD on the T3 bus. I anticipated using the SSD for cloning but instead I installed Big Sur on it in the meantime. I found that I do not like Big Sur. Nevertheless, I boot into Big Sur once in a while and I know someday I’ll have to go with the flow. Now finding out about cloning complications with Big Sur, I’m not going to partition the drive for a clone.
I wish Apple had seen (what I think) is the wisdom in allowing easy cloning. For my use, there is no security issue that needed solved. I would put myself in at least a 50% group on this, not a 1% or a .1%. The cloud is the security issue I see, so what I’m left with is locally storing and encrypting anything that has to be private. Everything else, especially the cloud, I do not have absolute faith in.
All of this feels a bit like deja vu all over again, or what’s old is new again – since the days of OS something, with my beige G3, I have always kept all my data files on a partition and/or external drive separate from operating system. Backed up regularly, including iCloud files, to external drives. The only stuff in “Documents” is app-generated stuff that must be there. So, even though I do still keep a system clone, I won’t really have to change much of my usual backup procedure when the time comes to say Yes Sur (staying with Mojave as long as I can). Feeling just a little bit relieved, possibly even smug :), which is so unexpected since I increasingly feel like the cranky old dinosaur doing things the “old way” in the face of all this new technology.
ICloud and other cloud storage services are great. However, there are a lot of us out here in the hinterlands whose Internet service is inadequate for full-time cloud storage. Until that situation improves, it’s nice to have alternatives.
If the only problems were loss of ‘data’ then this would be fine. But I would say that more often than not, I need to restore when I have screwed up applications by losing all my favorites or presets. Even worse are times when I installed something that I really want to get rid of. These days, itss nearly impossible to get that correct without performing a much more comprehensive restoration. Users folder, Library folder, Application folder may need restoration, unless you want to spend all those hours trying to get all your photoshop presets set up again. Or maybe something happened to Mail or Books - are you 100% certain where stuff is anymore?
When I say “data-only” duplicate, I’m referring to everything other than macOS itself: apps, preferences, documents, etc. In essence, it’s shorthand for “everything that’s on the Data volume of the APFS volume group.”
As you say, it’s a fool’s errand to try to select specific folders for backup. Almost guaranteed to fail.
Unless I missed it, I have not seen mentioned the main reason I make a bootable clone. It’s not for backup purposes, it’s for testing a new (usually major) version of MacOS. I make the clone, boot off of it, go through the upgrade process on it, make sure everything I need to have working works (no showstoppers), and then if all is OK, repeat on the production disk.
Unfortunately, Apple seems to really believe their old “it just works” which is a problem when things don’t “just work”. Apple seems to think there is no reason for anyone to need to know anything about what is going on behind the scenes (completely unrelated to this but I am currently dealing with Apple regarding an on-line order where the payment processing system has now twice not “just worked” and that system is so opaque that their customer-facing support people can’t see anything about what has happened). Couple that with Apple’s attitude that there are two way to do something: the Apple Way and the Wrong Way and what was the Apple Way a couple of years ago may be the Wrong Way today and I start to wonder when Apple loses its competitive advantage. Apple thinks they know best how their product should be used and we need to constantly change our practices to keep up with how they think we should use their products.
What if there is no cloud? what if there is a major power outage (like in Texas), or you are collecting data in the Arctic? This is really a game-stopper. A no-go for any field science. Without data, you can’t tell the fakes from the reality.
For my work, I go into the “field” alot (Oceanography, so the field includes the Arctic. If you think you can connect to “the cloud” from there, well, we can stop talking.) So I don’t just bring a backup disk, I bring a whole duplicate laptop. If one fails, I’d be working on the other, but if I can’t get the first one back up and running, even on a backup SSD, I no longer have a working backup. This is so anti-science, I can’t even begin the argument. And if you think this is unique to working at the poles, all I can say is: have you been to Texas lately? This will not turn out to be a singular event, but rather one that will become more common.
AppleII developer; 1984 Mac developer #1234; suffered with 7 Lisas, 10 Powerbook 100s, and everything in-between then and now. Longtime reader but never posted. I need ‘real’ backups because I don’t trust Apple’s cloud or iTunes or whatever. Sometimes I’ve lost data I’ve paid for or curated when Apple’s licenses changed. That said, I use two MBP 2010s running 10.15.4 with SSDisk and backup (not often enough) using Target Disk Mode, one to the other, via SuperDuper, to create a bootable clone in order to avoid downtime as much as possible; it’s sometimes inevitable when I finally have to upgrade Mac OSX in order to run the latest xCode.
Dreading the time when I break down and buy a new fast 16" MBP with Apple silicon. Every time there has been a major shift, a lot of stuff stops working and we are fighting utility programs now as well, such as FireFox that trashes previous setups on upgrade.
My whole world will come crashing if I can’t migrate my data.
Until Apple kills off iCloud and replaces it with their latest brainstorm. Apple’s track record with online storage has been abysmal.
I agree, having been using macs since the mac II (~1990). I use CarbonCopyCloner daily to back up my “usr” data (did you know CCC can do folders?), and a whole bootable copy every month or so. It has clearly been a constant battle for CCC to keep these basic functions working, as Apple seems more and more determined to undermine everyone else. If Apple succeeds in making the system un-clonable, I will have no choice but to move on to another system. Unworkable for me.
I’ve been using a symbolic link to put apple email on a separate partitioned volume on my macs (mostly minis ) since 2011. So far with catalina, and time machine seems to be working well. Am using a 2014 mini with 250 gb ssd as a server- backup for my 2019 mini with 250 gb ssd via time machine about once per week, Have three other partitioned volumes also backup up at same time, plus a solid state 250gb time machine backup of all but mac system volume. Have not yet had the cojones to go to big sur. Will that finally break my old symbolic link arrangement for my mac mail ?
Been using CCC for mac system volume backup for a decade or so and makes a bootable backup of system volume on an SSD with no real problems to date.
Been using mac since !! plus
Do I dare change to big sur ?
Bootable backup is the only absolute advantage of the Mac system over others. Once it’s gone, I feel as though I might be better of running Windows.
I feel that this issue is the result of a larger and more serious problem. That is Apple behaving with a dystopian, ‘Big Brother’ mentality by dictating how users manage their own machines that they have bought and paid for. For Apple it seems to me to be a legal and profit issue as well. For any company to institute highly effective and protective security systems, along with maintaining it for their users can cost some serious money. So, it seems to me, likely thinking of their profit margins, Apple. like many other companies has decided to shift the responsibility and costs of security onto their users, instead of doing what is necessary with their own network to properly protect their users. From a legal paradigm, by doing this, should users find workarounds or defeat the annoying and dystopian securities Apple has attempted to force you to use on your own machines to protect themselves to minimize their lawsuit exposure from what they should have done with their own security infrastructure. This policy relies on users/customers to provide Apple with securtiy at a reduced cost while increasing profits, by relying on users to provide the security to prevent Apple’s network from being compromised by malicious code on an users device instead of Apple investing in products to protect their own systems. It also increases profits using the paradigm of restricting bootable backups to coerce uses to pay for extra storage on iCloud as an alternative. Examples: for password issues if you forget your Apple ID password there are no tools to recover it, especially if you own a single Apple product. The only option is to create a new password after going through the ‘the tortures of the dammed’ with annoying and cryptic messages that annoying pop up at times on your screen that finally allow you to do so. Just try and turn off 2 factor ID once it is on for over a week, say for troubleshooting. Additionally, Apple assumes that everyone needs Enterprise level security. As an individual, living alone, with no corporate secrets to hide and using a 50lb desktop computer, I don’t need Enterprise level security. Yet I am forced by Apple to use it. The Mac computer I purchased and paid for is my computer, and not Apple’s property. If Apple wants to make various security options available to me, I am fine with that. But it is still my machine, and as such I should be able to choose if I wish to use them and not have them forced upon me as a condition to allow the use of the machine I bought and own. I should be one deciding on the balance between security and productivity, not Apple!
I agree with pdotmunz but would like to add that not everything is stored in the cloud - I will not use the cloud for my photos even tho it seems apple is trying to force us to use the cloud for everything - I still use time machine and CCC for my bootable backup - I think they will change their minds re continuing to support bootable backups and so will apple re the usb vs whatever plug and play wire they want to change to next it is not the reason bootable backups are still not necessary in my opinion and that will continue for as long as I run a computer - allowing apple to make everything forced to the cloud where they continue to have issues with music and photos among other issues - I will not rely on they’re forced compliance with upgrades and the other issues that are too long to list here but make me rely on older os’s and bootable backups along with time machine being the third line not the first and the cloud being the fourth!
I will be using Intel Macs for some time to come, since my most recent Mac purchase is less than a year old. That being said, I find that having a bootable backup (which I make every Saturday with Carbon Copy Cloner in Catalina) a lifesaver. I guess I could get away with just backing up my data and then using Migration Assistant (if that’s still included in Big Sur) to move it to a repaired, restored, or new Mac if I HAD to. I just like the fact that the bootable drive can be used in the event of hardware failure to start up the Mac and then CCC can clone the internal drive again. I fully realize I can’t use the bootable drive I currently make with any of the new M1 Macs, but that’s a moot point for me at this particular time. I did take note in looking at Disk Utility recently that the system makes more partitions than it used to on its own, as I know I didn’t make 5 volumes on my internal disk! In fact, I haven’t partitioned the 2T internal drive at all.