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I am wondering what backup solutions for OS X exist, but not just any backup software. I am wondering which ones act and perform like time machine with incremental file change backups?

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Why not Time Machine? – jtbandes Jul 17 '09 at 7:37
Just curious what competition is has. It is hard to beat the os integration of Time Machine. – Troggy Jul 17 '09 at 7:46
I don't think they have anything like it. Last night my wife restored a photo in the iPhoto application itself with time-machine and was amazed at the UI. It's frikin awesome. – Bruce McLeod Jul 19 '09 at 12:24
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you're looking for a way to back up OS X to say, another file server system than a "time machine capsule", you can backup time machine to a linux system running AFP via netatalk. The information on doing this is a bit spread out and disorganized in general, and since I'm not a blogger, I haven't put it together in a coherent way. Here's a general overview, and some sites that I used to set it up on an Ubuntu 9.04 server.

  • Rebuild the netatalk package to encrypt authentication. Leopard requires this, but its not enabled on Debian/Ubuntu by default.
  • Set up the volumes you want to share on the server and start the netatalk service.
  • Disable the strict checking for Time Machine volumes on OS X. I don't recall the specific command, but this is easy to find.
  • Create a sparsebundle file with the HD Util, and copy to the server.
  • Tell Time Machine to connect to the server.

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Crashplan is incredibly reliable, free for personal use and cheap for enterprise, it is really customizable and much much more flexible than Time Machine. It keeps full history like TM. For personal use, you can back up between machines for free. I have relied on it after hitting the limitations of Time Machine. We currently back up 60 computers.

I forgot two advantages: it does not slow down your computer and is fully cross plateform (yet, very well programmed!).

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A bit of a side note, but as the way to restore data might be as important as the way to backup:

Time Machine not only integrates well with the OS, but also with Time Machine-aware applications like Mail, Address Book and iPhoto. When entering Time Machine while one of these applications is active, you'll see the regular star field with that application (rather than the normal Finder).

This even makes it easy to restore messages from email accounts that you've deleted altogether, without the need to know how Mail uses the file system.

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Just wished there where more Time-Machine-aware applications (…) and wonder why this mode of operation is so hard to discover (almost a hidden feature). – Thilo Aug 25 '10 at 5:15

This is exactly how Time Machine operates. It first creates a complete copy of every file. The next time it backs up, it creates a copy of all files that have change, then creates hard links to all other files.

If you go spelunking through the Time Machine backup directory, it appears as though there are duplicate copies of files, but really there is only one copy of each file linked to from multiple locations.

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From the comment above, sounds like the OP's goal was to compare it with other solutions. – jtbandes Jul 17 '09 at 7:48

I think this will work on Mac OS X. It's what I do on Linux. "DEST" is the current external USB drive (I have a couple in rotation), "PREV" is the location of the previous hour's or previous day's backup, and "HOUR" is the current hour:

echo about to backup allhats2 to hour $HOUR >> $LOG
rm -rf $DEST/allhats2/hour$HOUR/
rsync -aSuvrx --delete / /boot /home /usr /var /backup_2/dbs --link-dest=$PREV/ $DEST/allhats2/hour$HOUR/ >> $LOG
echo $HOUR > $DEST/last_hour
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Does --link-dest hard-link directories as well as files? – mjs Nov 25 '09 at 12:15
Yes. The directories on my backup all show high link counts in "ls -ld". – Paul Tomblin Nov 25 '09 at 16:56

BackupPC and rdiff-backup both store incremental backups. BackupPC comes with a web interface and uses hard links like Time Machine, but is not straightforward to install on OS X, compared to Linux where it's packaged for most distros. rdiff-backup stores deltas instead of entire files, but it's a bit more bare-bones, and you have to install the web interface separately. BackupPC is written in Perl, rdiff-backup is Python, neither has OS X integration.

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