Time Machine is a great backup solution, one I highly recommend, but it isn't the end-all for backups. There are a few things it's not designed to do that I want in my backup strategy. The most important of these is to have a bootable copy of my startup drive.
Having a bootable copy of your startup drive takes care of two important needs. First, by being able to boot from another hard drive, you can perform routine maintenance on your normal startup drive. This includes verifying and repairing minor disk issues, something I do routinely to ensure a startup drive that works well and is dependable.
The other reason to have a clone of your startup drive is for emergencies. From personal experience, I know that our good buddy Murphy loves to throw disasters at us when we least expect them and can least afford them. Should you find yourself in a situation where time is of the essence, perhaps a deadline to meet, you may not be in a position to take the time to buy a new hard drive, install OS X, and restore your Time Machine backup. You'll still have to do these things to get your Mac working, but you can postpone that process while you finish up whatever important tasks you need to finish by booting from your cloned startup drive.
SuperDuper: What You Need
A copy of SuperDuper.
An external hard drive that's at least as large as your current startup drive. Mac Pro users can use an internal hard drive, but for the most versatility and safety, an external is a better choice.
SuperDuper has many attractive and useful features. The one we're interested in is its ability to make a clone or exact copy of a startup drive. SuperDuper calls this 'Backup - all files.' We'll also use the option to erase the destination drive before the backup is performed. We do this for the simple reason that the process is faster. If we erase the destination drive, SuperDuper can use a block copy function that is faster than copying data file by file.
- Launch SuperDuper.
- Select your startup drive as the 'Copy' source.
- Select your external hard drive as the 'Copy To' destination.
- Select 'Backup - all files' as the method.
- Click the 'Options' button and select 'During copy erase backup location, then copy files from xxx' where xxx is the startup drive you specified, and backup location is the name of your backup drive.
- Click 'OK,' then click 'Copy Now.'
That's it. In a short time, you'll have a bootable clone of your startup drive.
When to Create Clones
How often to create clones depends on your work style and how much time you can afford for a clone to be out of date. I create a clone once a week. For others, every day, every two weeks, or once a month may be sufficient. SuperDuper has a scheduling feature that can automate the cloning process so you don't need to remember to do it.