Carbon Copy Cloner 4: from peace to mind to enjoyable backups

Backing up your Mac isn’t something you do for pleasure. It’s a necessity and necessities are seldom fun. But when the day comes your hard disk or Mac gives up, you’ll be happy to have a backup you can start from. That is: if you can start up from your backed up volume in seconds. Chances are that, if you are using Carbon Copy Cloner, you can.

I’ve tested “enterprise” level backup software in my time. PresSTORE, BRU Server and EMC’s Retrospect were among the contenders. Neither of them would win the prize for easiest restore, let alone fastest and most brainless return to your daily return. Desktop apps like Get Backup and a whole bunch of others fell short in one area or another, with the most often failing feature the cloning part and the speed of copying files to the destination disk. Carbon Copy Cloner 4 proved to be an exception to the rule. It’s the first and so far only backup app that I find truly helps you getting back on your feet within minutes after disaster has struck.

Carbon Copy Cloner 4 -1

I tried Carbon Copy Cloner somewhat reluctantly last week. After all, if all other backup apps that some people shout about fail to copy files, forget to let you set admin permissions before you start cloning a disk, or are so slow copying a disk with 200GB of data takes all day, then why should another shouted about desktop backup program be any better?

Carbon Copy Cloner 4-4

Version 4, just released by Bombich Software, did look good with its beautiful, Yosemite ready, unified working window — a relief after all those clumsy interfaces — so I decided to give it a shot. It turns out Carbon Copy Cloner is truly the best backup app out there. It cloned my disk in under an hour. The application asked about my admin password before it started cloning. The clone Carbon Copy Cloner created held all of the files on the original disk, including the OS X restore partition — it actually asked if I wanted to copy that one as well. If I would have preferred to back up only select files, I could have — you can select individual files from a nice pop-up menu.

The interface is so simple, it almost made me weep. Even the “Advanced” capabilities are implemented in such a way that you won’t make a mistake. I turned on the “Set as the Startup Disk” option and Carbon Copy Cloner effectively set the cloned disk as startup volume. Cloning, incremental backups, incremental cloning… it’s all there in that one desktop app.

Carbon Copy Cloner 4-3

In the Preferences, you can set up an email notification system, for unattended backups. Yes, you can create unattended backups. Carbon Copy Cloner will even let you set a preflight script, for example to check for source and destination volumes to be mounted and ready. You can set up schedules with a nice, granular level of control. It even has a feature that will prevent a good backed up file to be overwritten with a corrupt one!

Most importantly, Carbon Copy Cloner has a SafetyNet feature: it will cache files that have been modified and deleted instead of just overwriting them as a dummy — unless of course your disk is too small for the cache.

Last but not least, Carbon Copy Cloner has a menubar applet so you can access your saved tasks easily and quickly. It’s inexpensive too at 40 Euros. OK, so Time Machine is free, but it won’t clone your disk, won’t let you choose your files, and basically doesn’t give you the peace of mind you need. Carbon Copy Cloner does all that and is a pleasure to work with — imagine that: a backup app that makes backing up a pleasure!

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