Regularly backing up data should be at the top of every Mac user's to-do list (Windows users, too). Over the years, every drive in every computer I've ever owned has failed at some point. But because I maintain current backups of my data, and routinely check the health of my Mac and its drives, I've never been devastated by a drive failure; only inconvenienced.
If you haven't yet set up a backup routine to keep your data safe, this list of free Mac backup applications will help you get started. Don't delay; tomorrow may be too late.
Time Machine, which is included with OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and later, is the backup app of choice for many Mac users. And why not; it's easy to set up and easy to use. It's also easy to forget about. Once you set it up, you can go about your daily business without giving backups a second thought; Time Machine will automatically take care of everything for you. Time Machine also works with OS X's migration assistant, making it an effective choice for moving data to a new Mac as well as performing backups.
While it offers a number of attractive features, Time Machine isn't perfect. We recommend using Time Machine as the core of your backup strategy, and relying on other backup apps for additional capabilities, such as cloning or remote/cloud backup.
SuperDuper is a backup application that supports the traditional full and incremental backup approaches many of us are used to, but it's also capable of creating bootable clones of a startup drive. This is one feature that Time Machine lacks and which SuperDuper performs quite well.
SuperDuper's core features (creating clones and backups) are free. The paid version of SuperDuper includes additional features, such as the ability to set up schedules to automate your backups or clone creations; Smart Updates, which are incremental versions of a clone and greatly reduce the time it takes to update an existing clone; and user scripts, so you can create your own backup routines and schedules.
Carbon Copy Cloner is the granddaddy of Mac cloning software. It has long been a favorite of the Mac community, and regularly wins or places in our annual Readers' Choice Awards.
Carbon Copy Cloner is widely used for creating bootable clones, but it can also create full and incremental backups, schedule tasks, and back up to any networked share that your Mac can mount on its desktop.
Get Backup from BeLight Software is available in free and paid (pro) versions. The pro version has some nice feature enhancements that are worth the small additional charge, but the free version has all of the basic features that many Mac users will ever need. This includes the ability to create full and versioned backups, exclude files and folders, synchronize files and folders, and create bootable clones of a startup drive.
One thing to note: The Get Backup app is available from both the Mac App Store and from BeLight Software's web site. The Mac App Store version of Get Backup doesn't include the cloning capabilities because Apple doesn't allow apps that require administrative privileges to be sold through the Mac App Store.
CrashPlan is primarily an off-site backup application that uses the cloud for storage, however, there's a free version of CrashPlan that lets you create your own local cloud, so to speak.
You can designate any Mac, Windows, or Linux computer on your network as the destination. CrashPlan will use this computer as the backup device for all of your other computers. You can even back up to remote computers that aren't your local network, say the computer of a good friend who lives next door. In this way, you can easily create off-site backups without trusting your data to the cloud.
The free version of CrashPlan supports full and incremental backups, file encryption (a good idea if you're backing up to a computer that you don't control), running automatic backups on a daily schedule, and the ability to back up any external drives attached to your Mac.