As a lot of you probably know, SuperDuper is a great Mac backup application. I recently used it to restore a laptop with a dead drive, and I was reminded of just how good it is. Even if you’re using Apple’s Time Machine, you ought to check it out.

SuperDuper clones your drive. That’s all. But because it can do an incremental clone, something the company calls “Smart Update,” the software becomes a sort of all-purpose backup solution. In many cases, especially with the failure of physical media, it’s exactly what you want.

It can either clone your drive to another physical drive — creating a fully bootable, identical copy — or it clone it to a disk image, a single file that can co-exist with other data on a drive. Either way, you can use Smart Update to compare the copy to the source and only update the changes. This takes just a few minutes.

I the case of the laptop I resuscitated, I used a disk image. With a new, working drive installed, the procedure goes like this: plug in the backup drive, boot the machine with the OSX installer DVD, open Disk Utility, open the disk image, and click the Restore tab. Drag the image to the source well and the disk to the destination well. Click Restore. That’s it.

In an hour and a half I had the computer working again.

SuperDuper is really handy when you’re going to do a big system upgrade. If things don’t go well, it’s trivial to get back to where you were before the change.

The basic version is free and you can use it to do normal backups. To use Smart Update you’ll have to pay $28. I call that a bargain.

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