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Some Big Sur startup volumes don't appear in the Startup Disk Preference Pane

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Among the many backup tools available for Mac, Carbon Copy Cloner or CCC is one of the most reliable. What Is Carbon Copy Cloner? Aside from being used to create file backups, Carbon Copy Cloner can also make complete images of your computer or clone your hard drives. Carbon Copy Cloner by Mike Bombich is one of the best cloning and backup Apps in the Mac universe. It has been around for a long time, is super supported and is a very versatile cloning and backup App. With all the changes in the upcoming Mac OS Catalina, CCC has had to make changes too as will all backup cloning software.

In the past, the Startup Disk Preference Pane would list all available startup volumes, including volumes cloned by CCC (whether CCC used ASR or its own file copier). Some Big Sur cloned volumes do not appear in the Startup Disk Preference Pane, despite being perfectly bootable.

We have reported this issue to Apple (FB8889774) and we are currently awaiting a response.

Workaround: To boot from the cloned volume, restart your Mac while holding down the Option key, then select the cloned volume in the Startup Manager. When your Mac has completed booting, you can optionally choose to set the startup disk to the current startup volume (i.e. if you want the Mac to always boot from the cloned volume).

CCC will not update the System volume on a Big Sur bootable backup

Starting in macOS Big Sur, the system now resides on a cryptographically sealed 'Signed System Volume'. That volume can only be copied using Apple's proprietary APFS replication utility ('ASR'). Right now, ASR will only copy whole volume groups (System and Data), we can't choose to clone just the System volume. As a result, every time an OS update is applied to the source, we would have to erase the whole destination volume (including any existing snapshots on that volume) just to update the system on the destination.

To avoid deleting your snapshots and the rest of your backup, CCC will not update the System volume on the destination when System updates are applied to the source.

We made a feature request to Apple in September 2019 (FB7328230) to allow ASR to clone just the System volume. Apple's APFS team acknowledged the request in June 2020 and clarified the requirements, and now we're waiting on the implementation.

Our recommendation: We recommend erasing the destination only for the purpose of establishing the initial bootable backup. CCC can then use its own file copier to maintain the backup of your user data, applications, and system settings. If you would like to update the OS on the backup volume, you can boot your Mac from the backup and apply any updates via the Software Update preference pane in the System Preferences application. This is not something that we anticipate you would need to do frequently, nor even proactively. You could apply updates before attempting to restore from the backup, for example, if that need ever arises.

Apple Software Restore doesn't yet support the storage in Apple Silicon Macs

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In the current shipping version of macOS Big Sur (11.2.3), Apple's ASR utility cannot replicate the startup disk in an M1-based Mac. Attempting to do so results in an error:

'Apple System Restore Tool': Source volume format not yet supported in this version of macOS

Apple is aware of the problem and is working towards resolving it for a future update to macOS. CCC 5.1.23+ will automatically perform Data Volume backups on M1 Macs and avoid any attempts to copy a System volume on those Macs — that's a complete backup of your data, applications, and system settings. If you would like to make your Apple Silicon Mac backup bootable, you can install Big Sur onto the CCC Data Volume backup. Please keep in mind, however, that your CCC backup does not have to be bootable for you to be able to restore data from it.

When Apple posts an update to macOS that resolves the ASR problem, we'll post an update to CCC that adds back support for copying the System volume on these Macs.

Finder will not show, nor allow you to set custom icons on other Catalina and Big Sur startup disks

Finder will show and allow you to customize the volume icon for your current startup disk, but not for other Catalina- or Big Sur-bearing startup disks that your Mac is not currently booted from. This problem is not specific to CCC backups, but we see this frequently because CCC creates bootable backups. This problem is the result of a design flaw in the implementation of custom icons in an APFS volume group. Up to macOS Catalina, the custom volume icon is stored in a file at the root of the startup disk named '.VolumeIcon.icns'. To keep the System volume read-only, yet allow the apparent modification of this icon file, Apple chose to create a symbolic link at the root of the startup disk that points to System/Volumes/Data/.VolumeIcon.icns. For the current startup disk, this path resolves correctly because the Data member of the volume group is mounted at /System/Volumes/Data. That's not the case for external volumes, those Data volumes are mounted at /Volumes/CCC Backup - Data (for example). As a result, the symbolic link to .VolumeIcon.icns is unresolvable for any volume that is not the current startup disk.

We have reported this issue to Apple (FB7697349) and we are currently awaiting a response.

Other Catalina and Big Sur startup disks can't be renamed in the Finder

Finder will let you rename the current startup disk, but you won't be able to rename any other startup disks that have an installation of Catalina or Big Sur because the System volume is mounted read-only.

Solution: Unmount and remount the volume in Disk Utility, then right-click on the volume in Disk Utility's sidebar and choose the option to rename the volume.

We have reported this issue to Apple (FB8912480) and we are currently awaiting a response.

The System volume is not encrypted when FileVault is enabled on a Big Sur startup disk

This is not a bug, this appears to be a deliberate change on macOS Big Sur. When you enable FileVault on a Big Sur startup disk, the System volume member of the APFS volume group is not encrypted. Considering that this volume is identical on all Macs, encrypting its contents is not going to prevent someone from knowing what's on it, so the encryption does appear to be unnecessary. There is one undesirable effect of this change, however, regarding an encrypted, bootable backup disk. When you attach the device to your Mac, the System volume is mounted automatically, regardless of whether you unlock the associated Data volume. If you specifically choose to not unlock the Data volume, there are three results that range from confusing to annoying to alarming:

  • The volume appears to be mounted in the Finder, despite not wanting to mount it
  • None of the data on the volume is accessible because the Data volume isn't mounted, so you might be led to believe that your data has been lost
  • There is no apparent way in the Finder to get the Data volume unlocked and mounted

You can unlock and mount the Data volume in Disk Utility to access the data. If you provided the volume's password to CCC, then you can simply run your CCC backup task and CCC will automatically unlock and mount the Data volume.

We have reported this issue to Apple (FB8918177) and we are currently awaiting a response.

Apple's SMB filesystem client causes system stalls on M1 Macs, leads to kernel panics

We have received several reports from M1 Mac users of kernel panics that occur while copying files to an SMB-mounted NAS volume. The kernel panic reports have confirmed that the SMB filesystem client (implemented via the smbfs.kext kernel extension) was stalled, which led to a 'watchdog' panic. These panic reports are automatically submitted to Apple, so we can presume that Apple is aware of the problem and working on a solution.

Workaround: Users have reported that using AFP rather than SMB consistently works around the panic (in cases where using AFP is an option):

  1. Eject the NAS volume if it's currently mounted
  2. Choose 'Connect to Server' from the Finder's Go menu
  3. Type in 'afp://{server address}' to connect to the NAS volume via AFP
  4. Open CCC and select the applicable backup task
  5. Drag the currently-mounted NAS volume (or folder or disk image on that volume) onto CCC's source or destination selector (whichever is applicable for your particular task)

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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