Quite how much time should we put into our computer backups? No idea, though it seems I spend too much time on it, particularly this week. I'm happy so far with Time Machine built into OS X from 10.5 on, but the one thing it misses is the ability to boot from the backup it takes. Big deal? Well, if a drive or the whole MacBook goes completely, then you need to do some serious reinstalling before you can get to a base from which you can then start recovering from Time Machine.


Thus encouraged me to try SuperDuper! from Shirt Pocket software. This allows point-in-time backups of whole volumes (for free) or certain parts (if you pay) - and can make them bootable. Like TM, it constrains you to using volumes formatted as HFS+, not any Windows formats, such as FAT32 or NTFS. And you further have to use the GUID Partition Table standard (not APT or MBR) to make it bootable on Intel-based Macs. I have an external drive, so I thought I'd give that a go. I'd not idea how many hours it would take to get it working.Turns out a bug has crept into OS X v10.5 that makes certain partitioning in Disk Utility fail with the 'Partition failed Input/Output Error' message. OS X Tiger (10.4) doesn't have this problem, which seems to be with weaknesses on external drives for how they've implemented the USB standard. I found that trying it on the old MacMini that runs Tiger) didn't work unfortunately, but trying another tip did. Some reported that using FireWire to the drive sidesteps the issue, so one FE cable purchase later I was able to run it OK on OS X v10.5.2. (This is all according to this Apple support thread which seems to be the most useful on the topic.)Having sorted that, I've now got SuperDuper! to work. It's simple enough that non-techies can use it succesfully, I reckon. And I can testify that support is super-quick, despite it being a one- or two-man outfit. However, they really don't help themselves with having some error messages that are much less helpful than they could be, and it doesn't check for some things that are bound to cause obscure fatal errors after many minutes of operation.

AuthorJonathan Clark