It seems a little mini-series has emerged on getting backups sorted. The original post, Backup Solutions For The Mac, mentioned three different methods of backup, Time Machine, Bootable Drives and Online Backup Solutions. I can’t stress enough how important backup’s are. I know many of you do use Time Machine and you should continue using it. Today’s post is going to focus on how you can create a bootable backup for your data. I feel this type of approach is more ballistic. It designed for the worse case scenario, when you hard drive completely fails and you can’t use it any more and you need something to get your Mac running again.
Bootable backup’s, I feel, are methods to get into your system with all of your data intact. As the name suggests you can run and use a bootable backup, like it was your original disk. This means you can, hopefully, sort out your system and make sure your original hard drive can work again while retaining your data, so you can still work on that very important project that is due in tomorrow. I also find it a quicker way to solve problems, since I don’t have to run off the install disk, which is inevitably slow, and I have all of my bookmarks in Firefox to find solutions to problems.
Creating a bootable backup needs an external (or internal if you have me than one drive slot) hard disk. Its not wise to create a bootable backup on any disk you currently use regularly, such as your main disk or one you use to store data. Ideally you need a new fresh disk, however one you haven’t used for a while will still work. You just need to make sure the disk you have chosen works and is the same size, if not bigger, than the one you want to clone.
With you new fresh disk attached to your computer, either through a USB or Firewire hub, the best way to start is by formatting the disk so it is blank. Open up Disk Utility in Applications > Utilities. Select your disk from the sidebar. In the main window go to the partition tab and set the Volume Scheme to one partition, and the format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled). The disk formats need to be the same for a clone to work properly. Finally give you partition a name.
You now have your target disk in the same format as you main disk. Its now time to clone the data. The best tool for the job is Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC). There are a variety of tools out there which do a similar job. CCC, is designed to copy everything on your disk, while making sure all of the permissions and links are correct. The last thing you want is to copy every file (including system files) and find it wont boot because the permissions are wrong.
In CCC, on the left hand side, select your main disk. On the right hand side select your target disk which you formatted in Disk Utility. There are a variety of cloning options, if it is your first clone you will want to select “Backup Everything”. If you want to have an up to date backup of your main files you can select “Incremental Backup Of Selected Items”. For more details on the different settings have a browse through the help. For the purposes of this tutorial you need to select the first option.
When you are ready to go, press Clone. Depending on the size of your disk, this process could take a long time. So either sit back and watch the progress bar move or do something else. I did mine over night. I found that the app does lock your computer up every so often, since the program is accessing your disk a lot and reading a lot of files, applications will slow down. Just leave the application to run and it will do its job.
When everything has finished you now have a bootable backup. To test the disk, to make sure it works, restart you computer and hold Option. Before boot you should see two hard disks on screen, your original drive and your backup. Select the backup disk with the arrows keys (I think you may be able to use the mouse as well) and press enter to boot into the disk. The boot process should proceed to run. It may take longer to boot, since you are running off USB which is usually slower than SATA. I suggest you log in into the boot disk and checking out a couple of applications to make sure they work properly and load all of your preference files etc. To be double sure that your Mac is running off the right disk, select the Apple Menu Option > About This Mac. The little window will tell you which disk you are running from.
You now have a bootable disk. You can now restart back into your normal disk and proceed as normal. If you want to recover a cloned drive, just do the process in reverse. Boot into your backup, wipe your new drive which you have installed into your Mac, and then clone your backup drive to your new main drive. Make sure you select “Delete items that don’t exist on the source” to make sure everything works. Once as the clone from your backup has completed you should be good to go. However I recommend you read the help topic on this before your start anything to make sure you don’t waste a lot of time with incorrect copy options. Help can be found within Carbon Copy Cloner.
Overall the process is simple. Wipe, Clone, Relax. You should have at least one bootable backup for when things inevitably go wrong. If you have any tips on this process please leave a comment below.