Blog Post

Is Backup on Apple’s Back Burner or Simply Abandoned?


When Leopard was introduced, backing up became an automatic and effortless operation. Set it and forget it. Unfortunately, Time Machine backups are not off-site and don’t protect you against an on-site disaster. When I previously covered some online off-site backup solutions, Apple’s (s aaple) backup utility was not one of them.

Apple Backup is still a nifty way to back up critical files to your MobileMe account, or any hard drive you can mount, and I personally use it every day to back up my most critical files. I have tons of space on my MobileMe account, so I might as well use it. Best of all, it’s a free program with a MobileMe subscription.

However, in the move from .Mac to MobileMe and from Leopard to Snow Leopard, the development of this utility has seemingly stopped. The latest version is 3.1.2, and it was released on Oct. 27, 2007 — over two years ago. The branding of the program still states it does backups to your “.Mac” account and doesn’t mention MobileMe. I find it a complete resource hog while running in the background. Obviously, it’s not optimized for 64-bit processors. Humorously, it still has Quickpick options in the interface to automatically back up Internet Explorer data. Internet Explorer hasn’t been released for the Mac in over half a decade. If that doesn’t convince you Apple Backup needs updating, then I’m not sure what will.

Apple, it’s time to update Backup, and here’s what I want on the feature list.

First, make it fit into the current Apple product line. Change the references to .Mac, and optimize it for Snow Leopard. Additionally, allow me to schedule backups directly from iCal.

Next, give me Quickpicks for programs currently in use by typical Apple users. Remove the backup options for Internet Explorer and add programs such as Firefox and Quickbooks. While you are tweaking the code, make it easy for users to back up their Preferences directory. Sure, it’s not that hard to do it manually, but the average Apple user doesn’t realize how critical preferences are.

If you really want to knock my socks off, include encryption options like you did with the latest iPhones. I hate not having encrypted backups. Speaking of iPhones, how about a Quickpick to allow the automatic off-site backup of our existing iPhone backups?

Apple’s Backup application used to be a great added value for .Mac/MobileMe users and a convenient way for all Mac users to do backups. It has grown very long in the tooth and needs to be made relevant again. Apple, you have your marching orders, so get to work! Readers, don’t forget to add feature request in the comments below.

23 Responses to “Is Backup on Apple’s Back Burner or Simply Abandoned?”

  1. I have a company MacBook and it connects to my MacMini server at home for backups (Time machine). It does that at home and at work, great! It also does that from any place in the world through internet… Never had any issues with it, it just takes a heck of a long time from China to backup to The Netherlands… But it works!

    • interesting

      I didn’t realize my MacBook could do Time Machine backups to a disk at home while I’m on the road (eg over the internet). Can someone point me to instructions for setting it up to do backups to a Time Capsule from the road? Thanks!

  2. Avoid Apple Backup like the plague

    Apple abandoned it for Time Machine for a reason. Backup never worked reliably. I’ve had several clients loose data being backed up by this program. I’ve had several loose data they *thought* was being backed up with this program. This is bad news.

  3. connectionfailure

    I stopped using it when I tried to back up my multi-GB iPhoto Library. First it made One Giant File, then segmented the file. The access speed to the iDisk here in Australia is miserable, so it kept failing, leaving a copy of these files on my Mac.
    After this happened a few times, it used up all the disk space on my Mac.
    Nasty piece of work.
    Roxio used to come with Deja Vu and Stuffit has an automatic backup routine as well- even these would be better.

  4. Yes, one of the unfortunate things about some Apple software is that from time to time it neglects to update the software. This article makes that point about the Backup program. There are others such as Aperture.

  5. Ben Huebscher

    With MobileMe and the current Time Capsule, you can host your own off-site back-up server. You can connect to your Time Capsule wherever you are through it’s support of Back to My Mac. You can now even add multiple MobileMe accounts for all your family members — it also works as a file sharing device.

  6. Louis Wheeler

    I think you are missing something: one off site backup solution is the Mac Mini Xserve. If you colocate it elsewhere, you can copy your files to it, off site, via Time machine. It cost only $999 and has a terabit of disk space. You can add extra disk drives, too. This has the advantage of being under you complete control, but located elsewhere. Also, you can use it as a web server, as well. That gives you two arrows to your bow.

  7. Have you ever attempted to restore from a Backup backup?
    If you have not, I suggest you do.

    Then, you will understand why development of this product has come to a screeching halt. The restoration process is tedious and mind-numbing at best … and certainly not worth the hassle.

    Mozy and Dropbox are definitely better off-site solutions.

    • Yeah I’ve done a restore. It’s not fun, but I don’t think it’s any more tedious than Retrospect or other programs.

      I don’t consider Dropbox or SugarSync true backup programs–they are synchronization programs. If you accidentally delete a file from the source, it’s removed from the destination. Or, in my case, SugarSync messed up and removed data from the source. Still fighting to get it back–thank goodness I had Time Machine.

      However, since so many of you mention off-site backup programs like Mozy, Carbonite, and Backblaze (my review of Backblaze is almost done)–is Apple basically saying go use someone else for your backup needs?

    • I just canceled MobileMe when the trial was about to expire, because I found DropBox and gMail gave me all the functionality I needed from it. However, even when I had it, I didn’t use Backup (which I agree was clunky when I tried it) because MobileMe syncing and Time Capsule effectively performed that function for me. I realize that doesn’t account for files you accidentally delete from the Mac itself (and which would then be automatically deleted on MobileMe as well), but I guess I’m just not so worried about doing that.
      Also, at least for documents, can’t you just drag the files/folders you want to backup to your iDisk? I realize it’s not automatic but at least that way you’d have a second set of offline backups in case of inadvertent deletion of a file on your Mac. Anyway, I hope that with Dropbox, Time Capsule, and Gmail, I’m covered for backups. MobileMe still just doesn’t quite offer enough added value for me to renew.

    • For the last four months, I’ve been using Backblaze to backup an iMac. Like Time Machine it lurks in the background doing it’s thing. I can recover by downloading files, order copies on DVD, or for about $150 get all my data shipped to me on a 500GB FireWire drive. $150 is not a lot to pay to recover critical data.

  8. Apple Backup was part of why I pay $100 for .Mac/MobileMe

    Apple needs to update this program. Or, if they are abandoning it, they need to say so. It is dishonest the way they are doing it now.

    • Synctoy is not a backup tool. It is a synchronization tool. Backing up a folder (like documents and settings) is fairly useless. I could restore a user’s documents, desktop… but not their applications, and user enviroment.

      For that, you need Acronis.


  9. Mozy and Dropbox are good for offsite, but not onsite backup. Most onsite backup solutions are not free. I use ChronoSync which works great, but it’s a paid app. Through a recent Mac bundle, I acquired Super Flexible, which is also a paid app.

    What I’d really like from Apple Backup is inclusion with Snow Leopard and super-granularity — allow me to specify exactly which files to back up, where to, when and how often…