When Your Mac Crashes (Carbon Copy Cloner vs Time Machine)

If the unexpected happens, you want to get back to work as quickly as possible with all of your data. Here is an elegant solution to backup you Mac and the pros and cons of Carbon Copy Cloner Vs Time Machine backups.

My Backup and Restoration Experiences

I have been an avid Apple user for over a decade. Between my wife and I, we have had over a dozen Macs. I have gone through the pain of a fail graphics card on both an iMac and a MacBook Pro. Neither of these issues were hard drive failures but both preventing my Mac from booting. So I was so happy that I had a backup of all our stuff. I have also upgraded to a new mac multiple times and wanted to have all of my data ready to go as quickly as possible.

How I Back My Computers Up and Why

There are a lot of ways to reach the backup solution that you want. I use a combination of backup methods and they are relatively transparent on a daily basis and best of all the software is free. My primary backup method is a Time Machine backup on a Synology NAS 412+. This Network Attached Storage (NAS) is used to back up an iMac, a MacBook, and a MacBook Pro all over ethernet or wifi automatically. Additionally, the NAS is not only used for backup it also hosts my Plex Media Server. I occasionally make backups using Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper, usually using a free trial, or software that came with a hard drive purchase. The most common times I do a clone is when I am upgrading a hard drive or upgrading my whole computer.

You Should Ensure Your Backup is Backed-up

A down fall of backing up to a single drive is that drive could also fail. We have 4, 4TB hard drives setup using Synology Hybrid Raid (SHR). Which gives me a total of 12 TB of usable space with single hard drive failure redundancy. Now, this is not total backup protection, since it will not prevent loss from things like fire or theft. If you want an internet based backup method you are going to have to pay a subscription for it. Some good internet-based options are iCloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Backblaze. Now, most of these services have free options, but none of which provide enough storage to backup most peoples computers.

Backup the Most Important Things Online

You can back up the most important things online for free, at least I can back up my most important things. If my house was destroyed in a fire, the most important things that I would want back off my computer are my memories. The pictures of my family are the most important thing on my computers. Everything else is just not that important. Fortunately, Google Drive will let you backup all your photos for free with no limit in “High quality”.

What the Difference Between High Quality and Original Quality For Google Drive?

You may be wondering why I said “High Quality”. Because Google Drive backs up your photos with two options “High Quality” or “Original Quality”. If you select “High Quality” Google will backup all your photos and they won’t count towards your 15GB, the curent free storage limit. If you choose “Original Quality” every photo will count towards your 15GB free limit. Here is the answer from Google on what happens if you select “High Quality” storage for unlimited storage.

  • Photos are compressed to save space. If a photo is larger than 16MP, it will be resized to 16MP.
  • You can print good quality 16MP photos in sizes up to 24 inches x 16 inches.
  • Videos higher than 1080p will be resized to high-definition 1080p. A video with 1080p or less will look close to the original. Some information, like closed captions, might be lost.

I think this unlimited picture storage is great, most of my photos are already under 16MP and most of my videos are under 1080p. So for the things that really matter, I can have a free cloud backup with unlimited storage. If they can’t convert the photo or video then it will count towards your data usage.

This is an Error I got for a few photos that couldn’t be reduced by Google Drive.

Carbon Copy Cloner vs Time Machine Benefits

The Main Benefits of Carbon Copy Cloner

You Have a Bootable Clone

This is the most advantageous benefit for Carbon Copy Cloner vs Time Machine. If your original hard drive fails, your computer is stolen or damaged. You can plug your CCC backup into a computer and boot from it and it has all the information from the last backup.

The Backups are Fast

Well fast is a relative term, but CCC backup is touted to be faster than Time Machine and SuperDuper. The speed of your backup depends a lot on the hardware that you are using as well.

Very Customizable

Instead of ease of use, you get options galore. You may find this very handy that you can customize the backups to meet your needs.

Find and Repair Corrupt Data

CCC can check your backup drives health. Drive health is an advanced option and you must turn it on. This will add additional processing overhead, but will help ensure the health of your backup.

The Main Benefits of Using Time Machine

You Already Have Time Machine

Having a Time Machine backup can be very convenient, it is the easiest backup system to use on a Mac. It is built in very elegantly into Mac OS. For this reason, once Time Machine is running if you deleted something that you need to recover you can easily get it back with Time Machine. I have probably used this feature more than any other feature of Time Machine. Additionally, if you change a file and you want to get back the original file, you can do that as well.

This is what it looks like to “Enter Time Machine”

You Only Need One Additional Thing – A Drive

The only extra thing you need to get your Time Machine backup going is an external hard drive or cloud storage, the same as you need for any other backup system.

Time Machine Does all the Work – Set it Up and Forget It

Once you plug a drive into your Mac and go to format it, you will be prompt you to use the drive as a Time Machine volume. After you click yes, you are done with setup and your Mac will regularly back itself up to that drive. If you disconnect the drive, Time Machine will prompt you to connect the drive occasionally.

Create Multiple Backup Seamlessly

Your ease for setting up one backup is just as easy to set up two or more. Every time you format a new hard drive, the first thing you mac will ask is if you want to use it as a Time Machine backup.

Easy Encryptions

So you want your backups to be encrypted, Great! With Time Machine all you have to do is check the box Encrypt Backups when you setup Time Machine.

Carbon Copy Cloner vs Time Machine Drawbacks

The Main Drawbacks of Carbon Copy Cloner

Does Not Integrate with the Cloud

Now you may be able to create a volume with CCC that you can store on the cloud, but this is not a beginner process. Additionally it removes the primary benefit of having a ready to go bootable backup at your fingertips.

Does Not Create Encrypted Backups

CCC doesn’t in itself create encrypted backups, even if the drive that you are backing up is encrypted. There are work arounds, essentially, you will get your Mac’s built in File Vault to encrypt the drive and handle the encryptions. Making the drive encrypted takes a few additional steps and is not a beginner process you can find it here.

The Main Drawbacks of Time Machine

Hard to Customize

You have far fewer options to customize your backup method. There are third-party applications that can solve many of your desires for this. TimeMachineEditor is one third party application that allows you to change the backup interval and when Time Machine runs.

Slow Backups

The reason you may want to change your backup intervals is that backups are slow. Additionally, you may not want to waste time running Time Machine every hour while you are sleeping.

No Drive Health

Many of the cloning methods have system checks that are performed routinely on the drives that hold the backups. This is not the case with Time Machine. Though if you are using a NAS, which should have its own health checks or the cloud you won’t have to worry about this.

Not a Bootable Clone

Your Time Machine Backups are not bootable. Meaning you can’t just plug it in and use it as your primary computer drive. Instead to recover your backup or set up all your stuff on a new computer you have to use Migration Assistant.

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