iCloud Backup, actually syncing

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Dennis Kane

Apr 3, 2022, 1:06:25 PM4/3/22
to MacHACers
Part of helping my friend recover from his stuck-button, and also crashed, MacBook Air got me thinking about the easiest way to backup for the tech-naive. We had a little difficulty getting the files off his MacBook Air, BTW, since Apple has discontinued Target Disk Mode. On Apple Silicon machines, it’s been replaced by Sharing Mode which is just about as good, but a little trickier to work with.  We had to grab the files before repairing since the OS had to be rebuilt and even though he had 50+GB free, there wasn’t enough room to rebuild MacOS Monterey without wiping the drive.

I had previously pointed out to him that he should backup his files and gave him a couple of ways to do it, primarily using Google Drive, which is free. I have personally dealt with CrashPlan, which now is very expensive and business-only. I have also used Backblaze which is cheap but has to be fiddled with installing updates and configuring. Of course he hadn’t bothered with any of this, so yesterday, I was thinking of what is the easiest, actually zero-effort, way to backup his data. In poking around his setup I discovered that he was paying $2.99/month for 200 GB backup to iCloud, not his documents or desktop, but just his phone, contacts, and other miscellaneous stuff. In the past I have advised friends away from iCloud backup because there are cheaper offerings and I saw it as Apple's way to nickel-and-dime its captive clientele, constantly nagging them to add space and subscription cost. 

Maybe I have consumed the Kool-Aid a bit, but I figured since he is paying for it anyway, why not just configure iCloud Drive to include his documents and desktop along with the default settings. He uses a web browser to access mail, so no worries there as long as AOL, yes he uses AOL mail in addition to Gmail, stays in business. So, with a few clicks, he is now backing up, or more accurately syncing, his documents and desktop to iCloud. Now, he can access all his documents with his phone or another device. It’s all invisible and automatic to him, so now, at least he has the latest version of his documents. This might be the best way to go for the most tech incapable of us. One little annoyance is now his documents and dektop no longer appear in the typical path on his sidebar, but are in the iCloud path and can be a bit confusing to find if you are hunting for them by walking around your hard drive.

Now iCloud is not a real backup solution with versioning, archiving and the like as is Time Machine, but for him, given that he will never understand how to maintain a legit backup solution, it will be manageable and may be good enough.

One last thing, if you do use Google Drive and want more space, take a community college class or check out your alumni account capabilities at your university. I have infinite Google disk space with three accounts through UCLA and two local community colleges. I could probably get a fourth with my undergrad institution. You can’t use them with the google photos app, but Google Drive syncing as well as drag and drop work fine. It’s not as convenient as iCloud, especially when it comes to sharing data with your smart phone, but does work with a small amount of effort. Google Drive syncing does save versions, up to 30 days or 100 copies by default, but you can increase that for individual files. Google Drive may be a good way to complement Time Machine if you want an offsite copy. 

Bottom line - whatever backup or syncing solution your choose, try an occassional test restore to make sure that you can actually access your backup data. 


Bradford Miller

Apr 3, 2022, 3:06:26 PM4/3/22
to kanep...@gmail.com, MacHACers
Very good advice!

Carl Cullings

Apr 3, 2022, 7:17:52 PM4/3/22
to machacers

Just thought I’d throw in my two cents (of course with inflation I guess it would now be three cents).  I have been using a free app called Superduper, made by Shirt-Pocket, for 10-20 years.

The web address to download it directly is:  www.shirt-pocket.com

The software is updated frequently, to keep up with newer versions of Mac OS, and it is compatible with 10.10 and later.

The main beauty of using Superduper is that it creates a bootable backup (on your external drive).

The latest version is 3.6.1.

The external drive needs to be formatted (using Apple’s Disk Utility program) as APFS (which is newer than Mac OS Journaled, extended, and is required with newer software.  It only takes about 20 seconds to reformat to APFS.

My 2017 5K 27” iMac has 1 TB of solid state storage.  I have been buying the western digital, My Passport for Mac, hard drive, in the 2 TB size, for around $70.  It has a 3 year warranty.

The app can be downloaded and run for free forever, but you have to do a full backup each time, unless you send them around $29 to enable the Smart Backup feature which saves tons of time (only have to pay once).

In addition to monthly Superduper backups (with alternating hard drives) I also have another external drive running Time Machine constantly.  But time machine is not bootable like Superduper.

Superduper has saved my bacon a number of times.  When an older iMac internal hard drive bit the dust.  I had a new one installed, then simply attached the Superduper hard drive to the USB port and told Superduper to copy the backup over to the new internal hard drive.  Several hours later all was well (may be faster if you have less data and applications to restore.

Hope this helps someone.


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Mario Obejas

Apr 5, 2022, 2:03:41 AM4/5/22
to kanep...@gmail.com, gor...@mac.com, MacHACers
I'll go further: "try an occassional test restore" is non specific.

Make that last mile delivery - put a "restore from my backup" task on your personal calendar - now, while you are reading this. 
Once a year is fine. It's way better than never doing it. Repeat annually. Something like "1st Sunday of X month" works great.

Allison Sheridan

Apr 5, 2022, 9:28:04 AM4/5/22
to unix...@yahoo.com, kanep...@gmail.com, gor...@mac.com, MacHACers
How exactly would you restore from backup as a test?  Would you blow away a fully-functioning machine?


On Apr 4, 2022, at 11:03 PM, 'Mario Obejas' via MacHACers <mach...@googlegroups.com> wrote:

matt wilbur

Apr 5, 2022, 11:34:19 AM4/5/22
to unix_fan, machacers, kanep...@gmail.com, gor...@mac.com
the cardinal rule we always used is:
"it's not a backup until you've restored your data" :)  dont even trust- just verify periodically.


---- On Mon, 04 Apr 2022 23:03:16 -0700 'Mario Obejas' via MacHACers <mach...@googlegroups.com> wrote ----

Allison Sheridan

Apr 5, 2022, 11:53:01 AM4/5/22
to ma...@efs.org, unix_fan, machacers, kanep...@gmail.com, gor...@mac.com
I’ll ask again - how? Take a perfectly-functioning Mac, blow it away and install from scratch?


On Apr 5, 2022, at 8:34 AM, 'matt wilbur' via MacHACers <mach...@googlegroups.com> wrote:

Matt Wilbur

Apr 5, 2022, 1:08:00 PM4/5/22
to ashe...@mac.com, 'Allison Sheridan' via MacHACers, unix_fan, machacers, kanep...@gmail.com, gor...@mac.com
I guess it depends on how paranoid you are. Unfortunately more modern macs have storage on the mobo so it's less and less likely you can dunk a spare drive in and do a full test restore.

I've done a couple from icloud backups onto bare metal and it did work brilliantly if that helps :)

Pick a big blob of data. Move it. Restore it. Check it. The idea is spot checking some data occasionally so you know the system is working.


Mario Obejas

Apr 6, 2022, 7:15:55 PM4/6/22
to Allison Sheridan, kanep...@gmail.com, gor...@mac.com, MacHACers
1. Move a file to some other folder.
2. Go into your backup/restore system (Time Machine, BackBlaze, whatever).
3. Try to restore the most recent version of that *one* file 
4. Repeat, but now try to restore that file from a record more than three months old. 

This tests out that you know how to navigate the backup system and can restore some missing item. That's 90% of what people need. 

I don't need to be reminded this isn't a "full" test, I'm not pretending it is.
 It's a simple minimum functionality test anyone can do in short order, no need to buy anything new (like a spare drive). If you can't succeed doing this task, there's no chance of succeeding at something more catastrophic. 

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