Carbon Copy Cloner Backup

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Though SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner are my favorite drive-cloning tools, a third backup app, Econ Technologies’ $40 ChronoSync (4.5 mice) earns an honorable mention here. With Carbon Copy Cloner, your data and the operating system’s data are all preserved on a bootable volume, ready for production at a moment’s notice. When disaster strikes, simply boot from your backup and get back to using your Mac. For backing up my external drives, I use SuperDuper. But for my bootable clone, I use Carbon Copy Cloner. It's the most reliable choice and I've been using it for years (and I appreciate the.

Procedure to create bootable backup:-Erase/Format Target drive using Disk Utility, ensure you use GPT partition scheme, select HFS or APFS; Clone existing MacOS partition to Target drive using Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper; Mount Source EFI partition; Mount Target EFI Partition; Copy EFI folder form Source to Target using Finder. A little while ago, I deployed Trenzalore, my new backup server. Toward the end of the video covering that beast, I touched on my secondary backup setup.

I was watching the news last week during the awful California fires, and they interviewed a guy who only had time to grab his family and run out of their home before it was engulfed in flames. He told the reporter that he didn’t have time to get his laptop which had his children’s baby photos on it … and they weren’t backed up.

I’m sure if you’ve been listening here and to other tech podcasts for any length of time, you have backups. I hope you also have off-site backups just in case of fire, flood, hurricane, tornado or even burglary. In the old days, it was hard to do backups, but nowadays you really have no excuse. Between Time Machine, cloning apps like SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner, Backblaze for offsite backups. Syncing services like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and iCloud, which are not truly backups, do give you some level of protection from disaster.

I’ve been using SuperDuper! for my local clone backups for ages. I don’t remember how long ago I bought it it’s been so long! You can download SuperDuper! from… and use it for free to do a full clone backup. The developer, Dave Nanian, allows you to do that and entices you to buy the product by offering extra features.

With the licensed version you can schedule your backups, which I think is essential to make sure they actually happen. You can also do incremental backups, so you don’t have to wait for the entire disk to be cloned every time when only a few things have changed. You can exclude items as well. Maybe you don’t want to back up Dropbox because it’s already in the cloud; you could exclude it with your licensed version of SuperDuper!.

As Bart would say, “SuperDuper! does what it says on the tin”, but it’s not an elegant, pretty application. It’s more what I would call utilitarian. The website is worse than utilitarian, it’s ancient. The menu bar looks like the old aqua interface from 2000. That’s 19 years ago folks. The text on the menubar is also is fuzzy and hard to read.

Not to pour gasoline on the fire, but the second tab on the shirt-pocket website is for a product called netTunes, and there’s a banner saying that it’s not yet Leopard compatible. Seriously. While the website was pretty accessible on VoiceOver, there were a few crucially unlabeled buttons in the app, like the one you need to press to start the clone.

Catalina Time

When it came time to upgrade to macOS Catalina, I repurposed the mind map I created for my clean installs to keep track of which apps were ready to go. I track apps in three categories: mission-critical, important, and less important. With the dumpster fire that has been Apple’s recent OS releases, I wasn’t in any hurry to migrate my production Mac anyway so I took my time.

I had one irritant in not going to macOS Catalina right away and that was the Reminders app. While Apple gave a HUGE warning on iOS that if you allowed Reminders to upgrade to their brand new database you would lose your Reminders on all of your other non-upgraded devices, I didn’t heed the warning and upgraded. Apple then did exactly what they said would happen, and erased all of my Reminders on my Mojave Mac. I use Reminders quite a bit and it was annoying as heck that I wasn’t getting reminded of things and couldn’t create new reminders on my Mac.

Finally, I got to the point where all of my mission-critical apps and most of my important apps were painted green in iThoughts, designating them as Catalina ready. Except for one, SuperDuper!. When I researched the app on Shirt-Pocket, I learned that the app was still in beta 4 for macOS Catalina. I truly enjoy running beta software when it’s not mission-critical. The last thing I would beta test would be my backup software!

Carbon Copy Cloner

I tend to be loyal to the products and services I use, which is a bit of a curse. I can’t drop one brand and jump to another easily and it’s an instinct I have to actively fight, but it was time to look elsewhere for my clone backups. I decided to check out SuperDuper!’s main competitor, Carbon Copy Cloner from…. I’ve long heard great things about Carbon Copy Cloner and its founder, Mike Bombich.

The first thing I did was check for compatibility with macOS Catalina and I was delighted to learn that Carbon Copy Cloner version was working way back in August even in the betas of macOS Catalina. That’s kind of a miracle that it didn’t break during the anarchy that has been the Catalina development cycle!

Carbon Copy Cloner is $40, compared to the $28 of SuperDuper!, but having a current, modern app is well worth the difference in price to me. This might be a great example of “You get what you pay for.” When you think about what you’re protecting with a clone backups solution, does $40 sound like very much money? Your child’s first dance recital video? Your honeymoon photos? Your tax records? Yeah, I’d say $40 is a steal.

You don’t have to shell out any money to find out if Carbon Copy Cloner will work for you because they recommend that you download it and use it for 30 days first. I used it for about 24 hours and I was sold.

The interface of Carbon Copy Cloner is clean and modern with just a few buttons across the top, a left sidebar and a center pane that’s called the Task Plan. Carbon Copy Cloner allows you to save different clone operations as separate tasks. I can see maybe you want to make a copy of just your tax folder onto a thumb drive that you keep in a safe, but you have another task that’s your full clone backup that you take to your mom’s house every week.

In the left sidebar, you create these tasks and name them. The bottom left of the pane shows the volumes Carbon Copy Cloner has recognized from which you choose to copy from and to for your backups. Then in the center Task Plan area, you’ll see three big areas inviting you to select to choose a source, a destination and set a schedule.


The graphics are gorgeous (and more importantly intuitive) as you set these options. When selecting a destination for example, you’ll see nice icons for your internal and external volumes, but you can also choose a folder, a new disk image, an existing disk image or a remote Macintosh.

I’ve only ever backed up to a local drive before but the idea of backing up from one Mac to another is kind of intriguing. I’ve got a perfectly good Mac mini sitting across the hall from me as my PLEX server, connected via Ethernet, I could actually use some of its extra disk space to back up my files.

When I chose the remote Mac option, I was asked to authenticate. Carbon Copy Cloner then informed me that for future connections to this remote Mac it will use Public Key Authentication (PKA) and asked my permission to install my public key over on the remote Mac. Very secure, very modern and awesome. I chose a folder on my Mac, pointed to a folder on the remote Mac mini as a backup destination and boom, I had a backup from one Mac to another.

Carbon Copy Cloner has an option to send mail when a backup fails and I’d really like to use this option but it doesn’t work for me. I suspect this is not Carbon Copy Cloner’s fault. When Bart helped me set up what’s called a cron job in linux-land to download a backup from my website every day to one of my Macs, we tried to have it send mail and it wouldn’t work either. Bart says it’s my ISP blocking it and I never got around to figuring out if there was a way to fix that.

Ok, that was cool but what about the big clone job? I keep my backup drive plugged in (a 2TB Samsung T5 only $300 on Amazon right now and of course available in smaller sizes. ). I chose the T5 as my clone backup destination and my internal drive with “copy all files” selected in the pulldown. In the third pane, I chose a schedule to run at 11 am every day.

Carbon Copy Cloner includes an interesting feature called SafetyNet. They explain that when people buy giant drives for their backups, they often can’t resist the temptation to use some of that storage space for other things. If you’ve got a 512GB internal drive and a 3TB spinning backup drive, could you resist that temptation? With SafetyNet turned on, those items that aren’t part of the source destination can be preserved.

I’m just now learning about snapshots so I don’t entirely understand another function of SafetyNet. According to the documentation, if you back up to an APFS-formatted destination volume, Carbon Copy Cloner creates a SafetyNet Snapshot on the destination. I suspect this is why my clone is taking up 1.84GB, while my source disk is only 1.01TB. I’ll be poking around in here via the terminal to learn more but for now I’ll assume that’s why.

Carbon Copy Cloner Adopted SuperDuper! Backup

In the old days of backups, programs saved your data in arcane data structures inoperable by anything but themselves. You had little opportunity to verify your backups and you could never migrate a backup to a new tool. One of the great joys of modern-day clone backups is that they look just like the source data. With a clone, you should see a duplicate of your entire file structure.

When I ran Carbon Copy Cloner for the first time, I didn’t bother to reformat my backup drive, figuring Carbon Copy Cloner would give me a warning that it was about to erase my drive before beginning, but I didn’t get that warning. I thought that was kind of odd, but it went to town running a backup and in short order it claimed to be finished.

And that’s when I realized that it was able to simply pick up where SuperDuper! had left off. It recognized that the destination drive had most of what I had on my source drive and simply brought it up to date. At least I think that’s what it did! There’s a very nicely formatted Task History list that shows the task name, the source, the destination, the start time and elapsed time. It also shows how much data was copied and the status, either a green circle with a check mark or a red circle with an X.

I can see that my first backup with Carbon Copy Cloner took 29 minutes and copied 176GB, but my daily 11am backups are only averaging around 8 minutes and moving around 15GB. I’m not 100% certain why that first backup is big but not huge. I thought it might have something to do with this snapshot capability in Carbon Copy Cloner, but I checked my destination volume and it shows snapshot creation is off. I looked to see if it had created a SafetyNet folder because it thought some of this data was from some other source, but there’s nothing there. Curious.

With SuperDuper!, my clones never took less than a half hour on their daily schedule, even though it was only incremental backups and it was going between wicked-fast SSDs. Seeing that Carbon Copy Cloner does the backups in about 8 minutes every morning, I might let it do this more often. Maybe I’ll go crazy and back up twice a day!

Speaking of incremental backups, on SuperDuper! there was a specific pulldown to select to do incremental vs. a full backup each time. I hunted everywhere in Carbon Copy Cloner for how to make an incremental backup before I realized that it always uses incremental. I guess if you want a full backup, you’d have to erase the destination first. I might do that just to figure out why the backup is taking up so much space.

Before I forget, remember to test your clone backup when nothing is going wrong to make sure it looks just like your internal disk. If you’re running a T2 Mac, also don’t forget to go into the Startup Security Utility and check the box to allow booting from external media.

It’s turned off by default so you won’t be able to boot from your clone if you don’t change that first. Better now than when you’re in the middle of a critical task and your Mac drive goes belly up and you need to keep working. If you want to stick with Apple’s choice on this that’s fine, but make sure you understand the repercussions if you do!


For those of you who are VoiceOver users, I poked around a bit with VoiceOver on and I wasn’t able to find a menu or button that was unlabeled or didn’t function and I didn’t find any. Keep in mind I’m a novice VoiceOver user so that’s not a full seal of approval but usually, I stumble across problems pretty quickly if the developer hasn’t done their job properly.

DATA Volumes on macOS Catalina

In my article about the MacTech conference, I explained that with macOS Catalina we now have two volumes on our boot drives. You can see them in Disk Utility as your hard drive name followed by ” – Data” which is where your data lives, and a second one without the suffix which is your operating system. This design gives us further protection from malware.

I remind you about this because in Carbon Copy Cloner you can inspect your volumes as well. For my internal SSD, playfully named Hippo) I have Hippo – Data, and plain old Hippo. Likewise, I can see two volumes for my backup drive. The first of these in each pair is kind of terrifying at first. I inspected my backup drive and it said “Operating System: macOS not installed”. Wait, what? You’re supposed to be a bootable clone darn it! Then I calmed down and looked at the backup disk volume without ” – Data” after it and it said “Operating System: macOS Catalina (10.5.1)”. Whew.

Bombich Ccc

I wanted to walk you through that so you don’t think Carbon Copy Cloner is doing something crazy here, it’s Apple who has made this new structure for us. By the way, it’s also in this inspector area that you can turn on and off CCC Snapshots. As I said, I need to learn more about snapshots before I make any recommendations here.

This week, Time Machine told Steve that his internal drive was nearly full even though Get Info said it should be only half full. Luckily I’m an avid listener of the Mac Geek Gab, and I’d learned that there was this whole concept of Time Machine snapshots and how sometimes they go rogue and fill up your internal drive. I did some searching and learned about thinning said snapshots and we recovered his lost space. I don’t understand what caused them to turn against Steve so I’m going to stay away from them in Carbon Copy Cloner until I learn more.


The last thing I wanted to mention about Carbon Copy Cloner is the licensing. Like I said $40 to preserve what’s important to me is chump change, but I was wondering if I’d have to buy a separate license for Steve.

Luckily, the answer is no. In a support article on… it says, “The CCC License allows you to install and use Carbon Copy Cloner on any computer that you own or control for personal, noncommercial use.” He’s got other licensing for commercial or institutional use, including academic purchasing options.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that I’m delighted that I’ve moved off of the ancient SuperDuper! and onto the more modern Carbon Copy Cloner. I probably should have done this ages ago and half of you are thinking, “What took you so long?” But hey, I got there in the end. If you’re not doing local clone backups and you need that little push to get started, I can really endorse Carbon Copy Cloner. There’s a free 30-day trial, what do you have to lose?

macOS’ built-in Time Machine is a fantastic way to easily back up a Mac, but it has its limitations. The utility’s archiving ability is extremely useful, but on the recovery end of things, Time Machine isn’t as flexible as power users may require their backup solution be.

Primarily, a Time Machine drive cannot be plugged in and booted from. Bootable backups can be great for quick turn-arounds in the case of a failed or replaced disk. Simply plug in the drive, boot your Mac with the option key held down, and boom — you’re off to the races.

The best way to make bootable backups of your Mac is Carbon Copy Cloner. It’s an excellent way to diversify your backups beyond Time Machine. Moreover, there are some advantages to having a bootable backup of your Mac.

(Obviously, you’re going to need a hard drive dedicated for this. We recommend one that is similar — if not the same — as your Time Machine drive for convenience, but just about anything will do as long as it’s equal to or larger in capacity than your boot drive.)

Unlike some nerdy utilities, Carbon Copy Cloner’s user interface is easy to use and understand.

Creating a Backup

Creating a new backup task is pretty straightforward, but Carbon Copy Cloner offers a lot of customization. After clicking the + button in the sidebar, the interface shows three steps:

Carbon Copy Cloner Backup


Assuming you are backing up your Mac’s internal SSD or hard drive, select Macintosh HD. The drop-down menu offers two options: Copy All Files and Copy Some Files. The first is the way to go if you want a complete clone of your Mac. If for some reason you don’t, select the latter option and Carbon Copy Cloner will walk you through selecting what files and folders you wish to exclude from the backup.


This panel will let you select the hard drive you are backing your data up to.

The SafetyNet drop-down is worth addressing. Here’s how the developer explains it in the app’s help file:

When CCC copies files to the destination, it has to do something with files that already exist on the destination — files that are within the scope of the backup task, and items that aren’t on the source at all. By default, CCC uses a feature called the SafetyNet to protect files and folders that fall into three categories:

  • Older versions of files that have been modified since a previous backup task
  • Files that have been deleted from the source since a previous backup task
  • Files and folders that are unique to the root level of the destination

In short, this option helps protect you from overriding an old backup in a way that would remove a file you may need later. I have it enabled on my backups, and recommend you do as well.

However, if you always want the destination to match the source volume exactly, and you have no need for retaining older versions of modified files deleted from the destination since a previous backup, you can flip it off here.


The last panel sets how often the backup should run. There are several options:

The time-based options are pretty self-explanatory. If the destination drive isn’t available at the time, Carbon Copy Cloner will simply try again later.

I use the last option: When source or destination is reconnected. Carbon Copy Cloner’s helper app is running in the background, and as soon as the destination drive (which is a portable USB drive I keep off-site) is mounted, the backup starts up on its own.

I like this option because it means I don’t have to remember to open Carbon Copy Cloner. I can just plug in the drive and let the utility do its thing without any intervention on my part.

Lastly, Carbon Copy Cloner can send you an email when the task is complete. It uses the email accounts setup in This is configured within the app’s Preferences.

Advanced Settings

The Advanced Settings section will let you set all sorts of things up, including custom scripts to run before or after a backup. The app can also be configured to prune the SafetyNet at a set size, but I leave the default Auto adjust option enabled.

Carbon Copy Cloner can be configured to eject the destination drive when the backup is complete and sleep, restart, or shut down the Mac after the backup task is completed.

Creating a Backup

To create or update a backup, plug in the destination drive and ensure that Carbon Copy Cloner starts. This can be done via the settings of the task, as outlined above. Backup tasks can also be run manually by right-clicking the task name in Carbon Copy Cloner’s sidebar and selecting Run Now.

Carbon Copy Cloner For Windows

When a task is running, the main window of the app will provide feedback about what is going on:

Once the task is complete, you’ll be alerted. You can then eject the destination disk and remove it from the computer.

Carbon Copy Cloner Where Is My Backup

Recovery HD

Carbon Copy Cloner can create an archive of the macOS Recovery HD that is present on every Mac running 10.7 Lion or higher.

Carbon Copy Cloner can use this archive to restore the Recover HD at a later time, in case you replace your computer’s internal hard drive or have to completely reformat it.

Data Recovery

Carbon Copy Cloner Backup To Dropbox

Backups are only as good as the data recoveries they enable.

As Carbon Copy Cloner-created disks are bootable, you can hold down the Option key when powering on a Mac and select your destination drive to boot from if your internal disk is failing.

Clone Carbon Copy

Once booted from a destination drive, Carbon Copy Cloner will automatically open and walk you through restoring your data with a helpful, simple guide. In the guided restore, CCC will create a new restore task, select the startup disk as the source and copy your data back. It’s as easy as it gets.

Go Get It

Carbon Copy Cloner is regularly updated, and as of version 5 supports APFS, the new file system Apple introduced with macOS High Sierra.

Bombich Carbon Copy Cloner

Bombich ccc

Carbon Copy Cloner M1

You can buy Carbon Copy Cloner for $39.99 directly from the developer’s website.