There are a number of programs you can use to perform a full system backup on a Windows PC. If you have a Mac running OS X, there are precious few. Time Machine performs file-by-file backup, but if you want the equivalent of Norton Ghost or Acronis TrueImage, there’s just the one choice.
Paragon’s Volume Snapshot does for OS X what Windows users almost take for granted: it backs up and restores a snapshot of a complete Mac system, so you can recover from disasters or return to the state your machine was in at a previous time.
The software comes on a single CD, and installs very quickly and easily. Its main interface could hardly be simpler. It shows you drives that are available to snapshot. To create a full system backup, you just select the Mac’s start-up drive, click Backup, enter your password and the program begins. The backup has to be to a second drive, so you may need to invest in an external USB or FireWire device for the purpose.
Backup speed is only fair. Volume Snapshot took 37 minutes to copy a 14GB OS X partition from our test machine – but luckily it doesn’t prevent you working on your Mac at the same time. If you want to avoid the inevitable slow-down that occurs as the program does its business, you could leave it working overnight.
You can maintain a number of system snapshots and use the program to switch between configurations.
Restoring from a backup
To reinstate a saved image, you have to restart the Mac with the Mac OS X system disc in the drive, and wait until it reaches the main start-up screen. Run Disk Utility, select the drive containing Volume Snapshot, choose the Restore tab, click Image, select the snapshot file you want to restore from, choose the start-up drive as the destination, and check the Erase destination checkbox. Finally, click Restore.
The reason we went through that sequence is to illustrate that the process of restoring your system using Volume Snapshot is not that intuitive, and that you need to know your way around the OS X system disc to find the relevant menus and options.
Most PC-based system backup applications use a bootable CD to run a dedicated Linux installation directly, and only need to be able to locate the drive images to complete a restore. This is a much more controlled approach.
That said, Paragon Volume Snapshot for Mac OS X is the only application that offers a full system backup and restore on a Mac, and it does it well. It isn’t that quick, but does its job without too much fuss.
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