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Don’t panic, but one way or another, data loss and troublesome software updates will happen. Regular Time Machine backups help protect your Home folder from these hazards, but missing or messed up system files can prevent your Mac from running properly or even starting up. And who wants to perform tedious reinstalls? Snow Leopard’s installer is great and all, but seeing it once was enough.
SuperDuper is a backup app with a difference--or, more accurately, no difference at all. It makes bootable duplicates of your Mac’s drive, from the most crucial invisible files to the latest Twilight podcast, and that means you can transfer a working copy your entire system to another drive when trouble strikes. Like Time Machine, SuperDuper is intended to turn a tricky process into something mere mortals can do. Apart from some glaring rough edges, it succeeds.
In SuperDuper’s main window, a handful of buttons and pull-down menus let you quickly select a source and destination drive, schedule backups at specific times or when a particular drive is mounted, and pick scripts that determine what SuperDuper will copy. Scripts can make full or incremental copies of an entire drive or just its Users folder, and those copies can be saved on local and networked drives or disk images. You can customize scripts, but the process can be a bit complex. Excluding all users’ Movies folders from a backup, for example, is a multistep process that requires you to sort through lists of files and edit a string of text. It works, but implementing it might be a bit scary for rookies.
Newbies might balk at some of the advanced features, but SuperDuper brings reliable, easy-to-understand system-backup tools to your Mac.
A polite app, SuperDuper always explains itself before making your system twice as nice.
We also accidentally broke our backup by saving a custom script to the folder storing built-in scripts, something that we weren’t explicitly warned about in the instructions. We resolved the issue by moving the file, but we shouldn’t have had to.
Advanced options let you shut down or sleep your Mac, run Unix shell scripts, and perform other handy functions before or after a backup. These settings can be saved for later use, and no matter what you choose to do, SuperDuper explains in plain English everything that will happen to your source and destination drives before it begins. Inclusion of these pre-backup pep talks is a welcome feature for users of any skill level. SuperDuper even recognizes Time Machine backups on destination drives and peacefully coexists with them.
SuperDuper’s most impressive feature is its Sandbox backup, which duplicates only your system files to create a new startup disk based on your original setup. Booting from the sandbox gives you full access to your documents and other stuff so you can keep working (or, uh, listening to podcasts) while you install system updates and applications that affect the sandbox, not your original system. When you’re satisfied the new software isn’t going to bork your Mac, you can reboot from the original drive and apply updates with your data--and peace of mind--intact.
Throughout our tests, duped drives worked perfectly. We booted, restored, and swapped systems with confidence, launching applications and documents without a hiccup. Shirt Pocket claims that this latest SuperDuper copies files up to two times faster than previous versions, but full copies of our 29GB test drive took about 80 minutes with the old and new versions of the app. Incremental backups of the same system with both versions took just under 15 minutes. Still, waiting around while SuperDuper does its thing beats the utter hell out of reinstalling a system and all our files and programs.