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First Look: Carbonite Online Backup for the Mac

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Get ready for yet another cloud-based backup offering for the Mac. The folks at Carbonite are now shipping a beta version for us Mac folks. Should we be excited? Well, let’s see…

After trying out their software, I can’t say that it does anything more useful than my current solution, Backblaze. In fact, I can say it is less useful. Read on for details on the positives and negatives.

Installation & Main UI

Installing Carbonite is pretty straightforward. You download the package from the Carbonite site and follow the standard install process. Once installed, Carbonite adds a menu item and System Preference Pane.

Main UICarbonite Primary UI

Within this screen, you can define if the Backup is Enabled, Disabled, or Paused. There is also a checkbox for using low-priority mode to conserve bandwidth. Honestly, I can’t tell if this is useful or not, as it took the app over 10 minutes just to calculate 100GB of data. Let’s say that from what I can tell, Carbonite is not speedy.

If you choose to disable Carbonite, this screen changes by adding an Uninstall button for quick and easy removal of the software.

Backup UI

What’s interesting here is that Carbonite works similarly to Mozy in terms of backing up specific data rather than just backing up all of your data like Backblaze or Time Machine. On the flip side, you can completely customize what you want to backup. However, you cannot specify applications or system folders.

Backup UICarbonite Backup UI

Restore UI

Carbonite can restore your files via this simple UI. Just select the files you want to restore and then specify the drive for restoration.

Restore UICarbonite Restore UI

It also has a restore wizard. So, if your drive fails and you need to restore to another Mac, you can simply walk through this wizard and wait patiently for your files to download.

Restore WizardCarbonite Restore Wizard


Carbonite has done a reasonable job providing a simple Mac client for users who want offsite backup. The product is easy to set up and is competitively priced. However…

If given the choice between Backblaze, Carbonite, or Mozy, the answer appears to be simple: Backblaze. For the money (each service is approximately $50/year), you get more coverage with Backblaze and more recovery options as well. Mozy is a great alternative if you want some free storage (2GB) and then decide to add more.

In the end, what Carbonite is offering for the Mac is decent. You get roughly a two-week trial, so if it fits your needs, then please give it a shot. If you’re a small office and have been running Carbonite on your Windows PCs, then to maintain consistency it makes sense to use Carbonite with your Macs.

However if you are looking at all of the options available to Mac users for online backup, I would recommend looking elsewhere.

90 Responses to “First Look: Carbonite Online Backup for the Mac”

  1. Thanks to you so many of you for analyzing the options for a recent convert from 25 years on pc machines. I left my Windows laptop at Mom’s place because I got tired of software daemons running the fan and CPU ragged. Looks like Carbonite is a bad actor in that department. My Windows friends love it. But I bought the Mac so my CPU would work for me on demand.

    The issue of which one of these services will survive is one seen repeatedly. The problems which folks report with Mozy are typical of firms trying to conserve cash, often creating a downward spiral in service and products.

    BTW, thanks for outing the guy who wasn’t experienced enough to just tell us where he worked and then pitch his product.

    I’ll report back on my experience with the chosen product. I think I’ll look at Backblaze. But, since SimplyGrand has described pretty much my own uses in a tiny law firm that deals with technical stuff, I may take a look at a couple of products in his/her list.

  2. Hi,

    I made my choice 2 months ago, and I finaly chose Crashplan, simply because I can synchronise 40 Gig of my MacBook in a snap with both my external WD HD and online. The first initial 40 Giga upload was a little bit long ( a week 24/24) due to my internet connection but after that all of my ‘precious content’ such as children’s photos and so on are backuped up quickly.

    No possibility to have access to you files via a web interface or with your iphone, but I did not want that kind of gadgets : no gadget for my files just secure backup please ! That was my words :)

    I wish a long life to Crashplan team wich made a fantastic job : the tool (50 USD) is simple enough, and the online service is very efficient.

    Hope this helps :) please let me know !

    all the best,


  3. SimplyGrand

    I know this is a review of Carbonite, but it actually seems to be a discussion comparing Carbonite vs. BackBlaze vs. Mozy vs. Jungle Disk …mostly. Several other options are compared/contrasted, but I couldn’t help noticing that nobody is commenting (or taking seriously) a few of the mentioned options:
    – CrashPlan (looks VERY interesting to me, but based really on just on one person’s message above)
    – Seekup
    – IDrive
    – LiveDrive (their web site looks AWESOME, and they even have an iPhone app that looks great, but their Mac support is via web only for the moment – says full Mac support “coming very soon”)
    – Steelgate (looks very expensive)
    – DataDepositBox (looks very good, but very expensive)
    – SpiderOak (noticed that it’s recommended on Apple’s web site)
    – SugarSync
    – Elephant Drive

    The most interesting seem to be:
    – CrashPlan
    – LiveDrive
    – SpiderOak
    – SugarSync

    I’m running an Intel-based MacBook Pro with about 300GB on it, and I also use an iPhone. I work in a small company (5 of us) and we all use only Mac products and iPhones (and a 2TB Time Capsule backing everything up). I want an online backup in case the Time Capsule is stolen/damaged/crashes, plus I travel a lot and it would be nice to backup and retrieve files on the road.

    Could anyone please comment seriously on the above four systems?

  4. Technical Ted

    BackupandShare?!?!?! Are you kidding? Their “UNLIMITED” plan is 3-TIMES the price of most others ($150), and as far as that website goes, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that site wasn’t built as a private advertising ploy by BackupandShare themselves. Did you click through ‘s reviews on the different sites. They have a handful of reviews, all posted within a 5 day time period in March of 2009. If you do a WHOIS search on you’ll also notice that it’s been registered through a “PRIVACY PROTECTION SERVICE” so you can’t see who actually owns or operates that scam of a review site. They even list’s unlimited price as $49.95, which is FALSE.

    Come on Williamson_Alex… One of the following scenarios must pertain to your backup situation:

    1. You really haven’t researched other unlimited backup solutions
    2. You only need 10GB of backup.
    3. You don’t mind spending $150/yr for an unlimited backup solution
    4. You work for and are trying to back link to your site.

    Which is your scenario?

  5. Williamson_Alex

    In my way online backup is best solutions for storing your data. I have just switched to for online backup. This service is very reliable and user friendly. They do encrypt backed up data using 128-bit AES format which is most difficult to hack.They also provide windows mobile backup solution for free. No wonder they are the current topper in

    • @Zero – thanks for noting these two additions.

      A quick look at the Elephant site shows a restriction on file size of 1 (or 2 with family plan) GB, which knocks them out of consideration for me. I have a number of movie projects and Devonthink databases that go over that mark.

      WRT Memopal, I’m going to try the trial. They have a 30% switcher price going as well so at $35 I just might go for it. Problem: I can’t even download their app so how will fast will backups/restores operate?

      Regarding Mozy, I’ve finally located the name and address of the CEO of the Mozy division as well as the CoB of the parent company. snail mail letters about Mozy’s atrocious support will be mailed Monday.

    • The drawback for MemoPal is that the Mac client is in beta for now … I emailed them and they said it works, but doesn’t have the full feature set of the Win client. They expect v1.0 by end of October.
      (FWIW, they’re out of Italy, and their English was so-so…)

    • @ zero, Yeah, I tiptoed through all Memopal’s web pages looking for interesting bits. They’re on via Nepal in Roma. I’ve had nothing but great experiences dealing with European shops – Ragtime and DevonTech out of Germany, Freeway from London, Jumsoft in Lithuania, a couple of utilities from Italy, contract programmers in Hungary and the Ukraine, probably a few others as well.

      I’m *still* not having any success with the download! I just sent off an email to the support group. We’ll see what happens. :-)

    • I got Memopal up and running Sunday evening. I uploaded about a gig’s worth file files as a test and they went up without a hitch. Downloaded them and no problems there either. I just signed up for 150gb/two years using their promo code for switchers ($60). I’m now uploading about ten GB and when that’s done, I’ll upload a bunch from the second Mac.

      So far, so good.

  6. Followup comments based on recent experience:

    1. My position on Jungle Disk is now deep in the negative zone, primarily because of cost. By necessity we had a bunch of financial files, scanned documents, DevonThink databases, etc, that were constantly in a state of flux, and over the past three months it’s cost us over $60 in Amazon S3 fees. Goodbye Jungle disk.

    2. We had also been using Mozy since 2007 and began having uploading problems at about the same time – the connections to their servers kept breaking, client error 3s, etc. I wrote daily reports to their tech support and included Mozy log files, and got absolutely no response. I’ve tried phoning and their online chat and all I get are people from somewhere in Asia (can you say “curry?”) whose English is abominable and who have no concept what customer service and the lack of the backup service means to us clients. Heck, I can’t even get them to cancel my service and refund the seven months that I haven’t used in my latest renewal.

    I’m off to give Carbonite and SpiderOak second looks for cloud backups.

  7. I’ve used carbonite, mozy and backblaze in Europe (on osx). I’ve had major problems with carbonite, would not recommend that. The daemon that runs in the background on your mac keeps freezing and while it does that it hogs 99% of your CPU. I’ve tried this on multiple macs over the past year, and even with new sw versions this hasn’t changed. Mozy is good, but a bit slow to upload – this may have changed now. Backblaze is by far the best, with an easy-to-use UI.

  8. Thought I’d give Carbonite a try. Went to the website, clicked the Mac link, and was greeted with the following:

    Carbonite Online Backup installation is not possible.
    Unfortunately, it is not possible to install Carbonite Online Backup at this time.

    The software requires an Intel-based Mac running OS 10.4 (Tiger) or 10.5 (Leopard). PowerPC-based Macs are currently not supported. Your computer is currently running Unknown

    Interesting. Could be my anti-virus or firewall I suppose, but I’d think they’d let me know if that was the case.

    Anyway, after reading the comments here, the external drive thing is a deal breaker! Excuse me while get back to searching for a viable solution.


  9. Rob A

    @David + @Gleb: Although both of your company’s products sound good, why have you elected to only support Intel Macs? What about the rest of us that still have PowerPC Macs? I don’t get it.

  10. Edward H

    To save you the trouble contacting Carbonite here are the instructions from their customer services dept:

    Here is how to remove Carbonite for Mac after your trial has expired:

    Hello and thank you for contacting Carbonite Customer Support.
    Please follow the steps below to manually remove the Carbonite program files:

    Restart your Computer.

    Control click on Finder on the dock and select Go to Folder.

    Type /Library/Application Support/ into the window that appears.

    Move the Carbonite folder to the Trash.

    Control-click on the Application Support folder in the header bar and click the Library folder.

    Go to the Contextual Menu Items folder and move CarboniteCMM.bundle to the trash.

    Go back to the /Library folder and go into the LaunchAgents folder.

    Delete com.carbonite.launchd.carbonitealerts.plist and com.carbonite.launchd.carbonitestatus.plist.

    Go back to the /Library folder, and to into LaunchDaemons.

    Move com.carbonite.launchd.carbonitedaemon.plist to the trash.

    Go back to the /Library folder, and to into PreferencePanes.

    Move Carbonite.prefPane to the Trash.

    Restart your computer again.

    Empty your trash.

    Carbonite Customer Support

    Now wasn’t that easy..? no? We didn’t think so either…

  11. Edward H

    We have tried pretty much everything else and eventually decided on CrashPlan.

    We have had good experiences with CrashPlan which is very easy to remove should you want to.

    Although sometimes huge files >2gb sometimes get stuck on restoring from CrashPlan backups every other feature of CrashPlan has worked without fault for us.

  12. Edward H

    BEWARE if you want to uninstall Carbonite.

    The only automatic way to uninstall Carbonite for Mac is from the pref pane.

    The uninstall button is available only until your trial expires.

    If after your trial expires you wish to uninstall the software you need to contact Carbonite support for the manual uninstall instructions (which require digging around in your system folders for the daemons and the pref panes etc.)

    In our opinion any low level background software like this should always have an easy way of uninstalling. We do not think it is acceptable to disable the uninstall button when your trial expires, thus forcing you to contact the vendor to get manual uninstall instructions.

    We contacted support who, while helpful, were unrepentant about this inconvenience. We are not comfortable about using low level software such as this which does not provide easy uninstall at ANY time.


    Edward H

    • Edward,
      You are so correct! I’m suffering through this right now. There is an “uninstall” button on the preferences pane but it won’t work. I’m now waiting on their support to send me instructions. My wife has had this nagging popup for weeks now. How stupid.

  13. I’m with you zero. I’ve tried several already and run into problems that caused me to cancel them all, including JungleDisk. The only one that came close to being easy to use, flexible and robust (although pricey) is SugarSync.

    So far I’ve tried JungleDisk, SugarSync, CrashPlan. I can’t try BackBlaze or any of the services that do not support PowerPC Macs.

    Still searching as well…

  14. Dang! I take back my praise re Jungle Disk. It’s doing all kinds of WRONG things.
    It’s backing up non-existent files (that begin with ‘.’ or ‘._’);
    and backing up files/folders to the wrong folders on my backup volume!
    It’s putting folders/files from my ‘Pictures’ and ‘Library’ folders into my online ‘Movies’ backup folder.
    My online disk has tons of duplicated folders as a result.
    A restore would be futile.

    Still searching…

    • @zero: those files that you’re referring to that begin with a dot are so-called invisible files that are used by the system. They aren’t usually anything that we users need bother with so they’re tucked away out of sight. There are utilities that will uncloak invisible files and if you do this, you’ll see all sorts of these all over the place. Don’t worry if you see dot files being uploaded.

  15. Some of these backup services (i.e. Carbonite, BackBlaze) are for Intel-based Macs only. What’s up with that? There are many of us with PowerPC based Macs that need service as well. CrashPlan works on any Mac, AND allows you to backup to your own storage as well as the cloud. I’ve tried them all and I’ll stick with CrashPlan. Code 42, you guys rock! We need to get the word out.

  16. I’m also looking for that perfect off-site backup solution for my MBP. I started with F-Secure’s online backup program, and that was the biggest piece of crap I’ve used in a long time. It has 5 (!!) backup options that you can either enable or disable: Emails, Personal Documents, Pictures AND Videos (no I don’t want to backup 140GB of junk tv but those pics WOULD be nice to get backed up) etc. There was no way to include or exclude individual files or folders. Well, I still stuck with it since I got a 3-month free trial. Next thing I noticed, the initial backup only uploaded less than 1 GB /day. Sloooooow. And, finally, I started wondering why my mac’s so sluggish and the fans are raging all the time. Oh yes, f-secure was hogging 70%-80% of CPU at all times. It was time to uninstall.

    Then I downloaded Carbonite. I was a happy Carbonite user in my PC days, and I still think it’s an awesome program, just not for macs. First of all, I couldn’t transfer my subscription from my PC to my new Mac (I still had my old backup in Carbonite). Apparently it only works from PC to PC and from Mac to Mac. So I lost a bit of money there AND my whole backup. Well, I thought that’s a minor issue considering all the bullshit that F-Secure put me thru. If only I was that lucky… Although I like the UI of Carbonite, and the way you choose files/folders to back up, AND it uploaded my files swiftly, all these pros were shadowed by a 110% CPU usage. 110%!! And I really did purchase my MBP ’cause I wanted a completely quiet laptop!

    After rammaging thru all these online forums about offsite backup for macs, I decided to go with Backblaze. So far I’m annoyed that choosing files to be URGENTLY backed up is a PITA, but everything else seems to go smoothly. My Mac’s back to being absolutely silent. Can’t say anything about the upload speed since it’s only been running for a few hours.

    How can it be so hard to find a program that just WORKS?

  17. 2 GB in 24 minutes vs. 2 GB in 2 hours. You heard right. That’s what CrashPlan is capable of. Exactly the same data, with a cable broadband service. Unbelievable. Easy to use. Fully Mac application. Why haven’t I heard of these folks before? I’m sold.

  18. I had the same problems. I posted an article on March 25, 2009, then got a reply from the CEO (I verified it was from him as I emailed him directly from the site, and it was indeed him) very quickly.

    Carbonite said at the time they had not heard of this issue, but a quick check online it seems others had this same problem. It’s yet to be fixed. I just keep Carbonite paused all the time, except when I do a backup.

    The bad news, is that I’ve tried Mozy, Amazon S3, and I think one other one, and they all have problems. Some with interface, some with backup, etc. I had like a 4 part series of articles on my site explaining the different ways I tried, but Carbonite seemed the best, even with this CPU issue. It was also the fastest to restore a backup file from what I tested.

    I really hope a new version will be released soon. Hopefully in time for Snow Leopard.

  19. Bret Patterson

    I’m a big fan of Carbonite for windows and used it regularly for a long time, as well as recommending several friends to use carbonite. I had serveral windows machines being backed up to carbonite. I have recently, the past 6 months, moved my entire household over to MAC and was excited when the Carbonite for Mac was finally released. I downloaded it and purchased an account. This was the biggest mistake I’ve made since owning my MAC.

    While carbonite for Windows is very good, carbonite for MAC is worse than garbage. The problem is multi-fold but primarily singles around a single issue:
    The way carbonite determines if files need to be backed up is it continuously scans your entire hard disk for changed files. Yes, SCANS your hard disk. Carbonite was constant using 160% of my CPU (dual core) AND thrashing my hard disk so much that I could barely use my computer.

    I contacted support several times and always got quick reply’s from support which clearly indicated not only did they not read my email, but they didn’t know what they were talking about. The first email was cut and paste template email (not the initial automated response, but a human fed template) which was useless and didn’t address anything I mentioned in my email. The second email I sent I complained about CPU usage and they wrote back about how I can turn on bandwidth throttling. As if that even mattered.

    The next email I sent told them that carbonite was using 160% cpu usage even though I’d finally finished backing up everything. Additionally it was saying “backing up” and showing I had 0kb left to backup of 0kb.

    Finally I asked for my money back and I got a quick response acknowledging the problem and saying it’d be fixed the next version. No mention of how to get my money back, when the problem would be fixed, or why the hell a company would release something to the public that is so poorly written. Who is ignorant enough to think that continuously scanning a 320gigabyte hard drive for changed files all day and all night long was a good design?

  20. Mozy just lost my settings, and I was annoyed with the 1Mbps throttle, so I gave Jungle Disk another shot.

    The latest version is really killer. It addresses every issue I have with all the other services mentioned on this page.

    And now you can use Rackspace storage, not just S3, at $0.15/GB, without the annoying bandwidth usage charges that S3 tacks on.

    So up to 20GB of backup is the same price as the ‘others’ ($2/month + .15/GB) — after that, it gets a bit more expensive, but the feature set kills the rest.

    – Responsive, VERY thorough, interface.
    – Ability to mount your backup volume on desktop and easily retrieve any file.
    – Versioning.
    – Multiple machines.
    – Web access to all your files.
    – Secure – can choose your own encryption passphrase.
    – Easy to choose which folders to backup, and filter by type, etc.
    – Uses full bandwidth (exception: see Cons below)
    – Easy to stop the background daemon/agent/service/whatever.
    – Can create multiple online volumes.

    – With numerous small files, it is VERY slow. Does not utilize full bandwidth
    – UI is ugly. Not Mac-like.
    – Can’t drag’n’drop items to add to backup set.
    – Can’t choose items from Finder to add to backup set.

    So for me, JD is #1 at the moment.

  21. FWIW, I just tried “SafeCopy Backup” for Mac — and didn’t get past stage 1: it only allows 3 options for backup: (a) “My Documents” (b) “a single folder” and (c) a silly box where you can add one folder at a time w/o even drag’n’drop.


    Still looking …

    • Zero said:
      “FWIW, I just tried “SafeCopy Backup” for Mac — and didn’t get past stage 1: it only allows 3 options for backup: (a) “My Documents” (b) “a single folder” and (c) a silly box where you can add one folder at a time w/o even drag’n’drop.


      Still looking …”

      Zero, I wouldn’t dismiss SafeCopy Backup so quickly just because of the simple interface. The button for “Single Folder” can be used for multiple folders within that one, even external HD’s or other USB volumes, which I don’t think Carbonite can do.
      SafeCopy Backup seems good because there is no limit to the file size you can upload, like my stupid MobileMe mac account (1gb limit).
      After the initial slow upload, it apparently always runs automatically in the bg, updating only the parts of any files that have changed, even open files. It supposedly has a way that it won’t tax your machine as it does that.
      It also doesn’t overwrite files as you backup, so if you accidentally delete something on your machine, it won’t then ruin your backup.
      Mozy can’t do any of this, as I understand it.
      Hope that helps…

  22. Thrilled at the news that Carbonite finally was supporting the Mac, I downloaded the Carbonite software and began backing up. It’s taken 3 weeks to upload my 70GB. Some days nothing would upload, other days (if I disabled and reenabled the backup) it would upload as much as 6 GB in a day. However its been so slow that the Carbonite company had to extend my trial period. Actually, I’m STILL uploading. I don’t think it will ever actually finish. Nothing is going well and Carbonite is behaving strangely. When I send an email Carbonite support responds (email or chat) to me but they have no clue what is going on. They keep telling me that its working as though I’m stupid. Often times they send me solutions for PC users. They give me no solutions that work. I am very disappointed. I really want to be a customer but it has to work before I will pay them for this service.

  23. I have been using Mozy and like the ability to schedule backups for when I’m not using the computer, but restoring files has been problematic.

    Tried Carbonite. The initial backup went well, as did a test file restore. I like the interface. But what I hate about Carbonite is that you either leave it enabled or disabled. You cannot schedule when it runs. I’ve found the Carbonite daemon to be a resource hog, even when I’m fully backed up and nothing is being uploaded. My fan started to run constantly and my system performance slowed down so I checked Activity Monitor and the Carbonite daemon was varying between 20-70% CPU usage.


    I emailed Carbonite support 2 days ago, got one reply back that indicated they did not understand the issue. Responded, have yet to hear back. Thankfully I’m just in trial mode. Am about to uninstall Carbonite and look for other options.

  24. I use BackBlaze. Got 140GB backed up within a week. The only time uploads have been slow is when I’ve explicitly throttled them back using the preferences pane. So far BackBlaze is king!

    I used to use Mozy but it took almost 3 months to do the same initial backup, and then one day a few weeks later my backed up files suddenly went to 0 (nothing backed up). Mozy support told me there had been a bug in an ‘update’ they had released and a number of people had had the same problem. I was advised to roll back to an earlier version and re-upload! Here’s the quote from the email
    “This issue has been reported by several other users when upgrading to the latest client version. We do have a work around to downgrade back to version as this will work for the time being until we fix the latest version. I do apologize for the inconvenience.”
    When I did manage to get everything uploaded again, guess what…? Yes, 2 weeks later everything disappeared again! Because they wouldn’t give me a full refund I’m still running Mozy (alongside BackBlaze) until my year runs out, but ALL my trust is with BackBlaze (and I also Time Machine with an external drive).