How to: Configure SuperDuper to make a bootable backup/clone

1. Purchase an external hard drive - I recommend FireWire over USB if your Mac has FireWire ports (the MacBook Air and some MacBook models don’t have FireWire so you’ll need to buy a USB drive if you own one of those machines.)

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2. Select the disk you want to backup on your Desktop (i.e. your internal drive) and choose “Get Info...” from the File menu.

Look at how much of the drive is “Used”.

Make sure your backup drive is large enough to hold the entire “Used” of your internal drive, plus some room to grow. Otherwise the backup drive will fill up when you add new pictures, music, documents, etc. If you’re buying a new backup drive,

Connect the drive and make sure it’s icon appears on your Desktop.

3. Partition the Disk. Partitioning tells the drive what type of computer it will be used with. Many drives come partitioned as Windows disks, which don’t work for booting a Macintosh.

Open Disk Utility by clicking on the Desktop (this switches you to the Finder), then choose “Utilities” from the Go menu. Double Click on Disk Utility.

CAUTION: The procedure below completely and permanently erases all data on the drive you select.

The Disk Utility window shows all drives and their volumes listed in the column on the left:

Select the drive for the external disk you want to use to create a bootable backup. Select the “Partition” tab at the top of the Disk Utility Window (if you don’t see the Partition tab, it’s because you selected a volume, rather than a disk.)

Select one or more partitions from the Volume Scheme pop-up menu. Name the volume(s) with an intuitive name (such as “Bootable Backup”). If you’re creating more than one partition, size them as desired by either typing a size (in GB) or dragging the horizontal divider line between the two partitions up and down. Remember - you’ll need one partition to be at least as large as the “used” size of the disk you’re backing up, plus some room go grow.  For example, in the example screen shot two images up, the Used is 229GB. To give your backup drive some room to grow, you might make a 250GB partition. Err on a larger partition size.

Important: Click the Options button at the bottom of the Disk Utility window. If you’re partitioning the drive to make a bootable backup of an Intel based Mac, choose “GUID” as the partition scheme.

For an older PowerPC (i.e. G3, G4 or G5) Mac, choose “Apple Partition Map”.

Click OK.

When you’re sure you’ve got your partition(s) named and sized as desired, click the Apply button at the bottom. You’ll see a warning that you’re about to erase EVERYTHING on the disk. Read this carefully and make sure you’ve selected the correct disk.  In a few moments, you’ll see your new volume(s) appear on your Desktop.

  1. 4.That was the scary part. The rest is easy...

Download and install SuperDuper from Shirt Pocket’s website. When the download is finished you should end up with a disk image mounted on your Desktop. Drag the SuperDuper application icon to your Applications folder.  Close and eject the disk image.

Open your Applications folder and launch SuperDuper. The first time you open SuperDuper, it automatically opens the .pdf user manual. For our purposes here, close the manual and return to SuperDuper. The interface is pretty simple: choose your internal drive (the one you want to backup) from the “Copy” pop-up menu on the left. Choose your backup volume from the “To” pop-up menu on the right:

Next, click the “Options...” button and choose “Smart Update” from the “During copy” menu:

Telling SuperDuper to use “Smart Update” means your backups will take less time. Instead of erasing the backup drive every time and writing ALL your data to the backup drive, SuperDuper only copies files which are new or have been modified. Click OK to return to the main screen.

Choose “Save As...” from the File menu and give your backup a name. Something like “MacBook Bootable Backup” or “SuperDuper Backup” would be good choices. Save the document to the default location - we’ll go find it (and add it to your Dock) in a minute.

Now click the Schedule button at the bottom of the SuperDuper window:

There are lots of options here, but it really comes down to two ways of telling SuperDuper when to run your backups: a) at a specific time/day/week or b) when you plug in your backup drive. I could go on and on about the different strategies, but I’ll let you decide what works best for you. The important thing is to make sure you’re getting backups regularly (i.e. daily/nightly). If you’re the kind of person who will remember to plug in your backup drive every night, the “When you connect your_backup_drive...” option is good. If you need a reminder or want SuperDuper to do the backup for you automatically, use a schedule. If you’re unsure, use both! More backups are better than less backups. Click OK when you’re done.

Warning About Using “When you connect...”:
In most situations you want SuperDuper to run a backup automatically when you connect your backup drive. This option is very convenient for roving laptop users who find their laptops aren’t in the same place (i.e. near their backup drive) all the time.

But there are times when you want to restore something from your backup drive and you do NOT want a backup to run when you connect the drive. Allowing SuperDuper to run a backup in this situation might overwrite the good data on the backup drive.

In this situation, I recommend clearing all windows/apps from the screen before you connect your backup drive. This way, the SuperDuper window will appear without anything blocking it from view so you’ll be able to click the “Cancel” button within the 10 second count down. You only have 10 seconds to cancel, so watch things carefully.

If this scares you a little, it should. If it scares you a lot, I recommend avoiding use of ‘when you connect’, instead using either a timed/scheduled backup and/or placing a saved SuperDuper document in your Dock (as described below).

Something quirky to know about SuperDuper:  when a schedule is created, it won’t ever be modified if you change something in the “Options” later. For example, let’s say you set up a schedule to run your Smart Update backup at 10:30pm every night. If you go back later and change the Options to sleep the computer after the backup finishes, you’ll need to delete the first schedule and create a new one. Otherwise the change you made (sleep afterwards) won’t happen because the schedule was created previously. But wait, there’s more...

Second quirky thing to know about SuperDuper: Clicking the “Schedule” button at the bottom of the SuperDuper window always creates a NEW schedule, instead of allowing you to edit or delete a schedule. I know it’s confusing, but if you want to edit or delete a schedule (or just see what you currently have scheduled), you need to choose the “Scheduled Copies” option in the Window menu.

Now that you’ve scheduled the backup and saved the SuperDuper backup document, let’s add it to your Dock to make it easy to run a backup at any time.  From the Finder (click anywhere on the Desktop), choose “Home” or, if you’re running Lion or Mountain Lion, hold down the Option key and choose “Library” from the Go menu. Navigate to your_home_folder > Library > Application Support > SuperDuper > Saved Settings. Inside you should find the document you saved above. Drag this icon to your Dock (the side near the Trash allows you to add your own documents and folders - the left side is for applications).

To run a backup at any time (i.e. you’re leaving town and want to make sure you’re leaving a copy of your data behind), just click on the SuperDuper document you just added to the Dock and click the “Copy Now” button. You’ll be asked if this is what you want to do (do you REALLY want to overwrite the previous state of your backup with the state of your internal hard drive? In almost all circumstances the answer is yes. but be aware that SuperDuper is about to make the backup drive exactly like your internal drive - including any files which have been deleted or edited - intentionally or not).

Extra Credit: If you’d like notification of unattended backups (i.e. scheduled backups which run in the middle of the night), I recommend installing Growl 1.2.2. It’s a free system preference pane which provides a way for SuperDuper to tell you it did it’s job when you’re not there.

Without Growl, scheduled backups automatically launch SuperDuper at the time you configured in the Schedule and copy whichever files/folders are needed to make the backup drive exactly the same as the source drive. When it’s finished SuperDuper quits, leaving you wondering in the morning if the backup ran or not. With Growl, you’ll get a message on your screen, indicating a successful backup:

If the backup failed for some reason (the drive wasn’t connected, the backup drive is full, etc.), you’ll see a notice telling you something went wrong.

Note about Sleep Settings: Your computer won’t do anything, including run a scheduled SuperDuper backup if it’s sleeping or turned off. It also won’t let Growl tell you a scheduled backup didn’t run. It’s probably a good idea to take a look at the “Energy Saver” preference pane in System Preferences. Something like this works:

Test the Backup: With any backup, the proof is in the pudding so to speak, so let’s see if the backup actually boots your computer like it’s supposed to.

Choose Restart from the Apple menu. When you hear the startup chime, hold down the Option key. You should see the Startup Manager: