All Mac users should have a backup routine. It's as plain and simple as that. However, many people don't; they are complacent and trust their hardware. Those people also run the risk of losing everything - music, movies, photos, and documents. Everything.

The mantra for any Mac user should be: back up, back up, back up! Without an adequate backup, each day there is a chance that all your precious data could be lost.

Traditional hard drives are made up of tiny moving parts. All it takes for disaster to strike is for one of those parts to go awry and it's curtains for your documents. Even SSD drives aren't immune. Stories of failures and reliability issues for the super-fast drives are out there.

The problem for backup regimes is that they are incredibly boring and there's no immediately obvious benefit to the task. You backup your disk and leave it; it's not like creating a photo gallery or movie and having a pleasing end result.

However, the benefit of a backup pulls into sharp focus when a hard drive does fail. Given that backup has been a fact of life since the advent of disks, you'd think we'd have the process locked down by now. Alas, it's just not that simple. Even with Apple's Time Machine built in to OS X there are some features it doesn't contain.

We've gathered together a selection of backup utilities for the Mac and will be testing them for ease of use, interface design and value for money, and assessing any extra options. Which should you opt for? A good backup utility is one that does its job quickly, quietly and reliably. The more the process gets in the way of you doing the fun stuff on your Mac, the more of a pain it can be. So, let's get started and discover the best Mac backup software...

The apps we tested

Carbon Copy Cloner - FREE
Chronosync - $40 (£24)
Get Backup Pro - $19.95 (£12)
Intego Backup Express - £6.99
SuperDuper! - £18 Twin - €39 (£34)

Why not use Time Machine?

Time Machine is built into the Mac and in typical Apple fashion, it looks great and just works. It is, it seems, the perfect backup tool for your Mac. However, our advice is to use Time Machine in addition to another backup tool.

A belt-and-braces approach will reduce your risks of data loss to an absolute minimum. There's nothing wrong with Time Machine, of course, and its incremental backups can be invaluable, but it's not the final word.

The advantage of dipping into your hard drive and recovering a file that you've accidentally deleted is fantastic, but it's just one aspect of the backup process. Undeniably, Time Machine runs silently and in the background, which is what you want from a backup tool, but having two separate processes is essential if you really want to protect your data.

It's also worth noting that Time Machine isn't infallible and we've heard horror stories where Time Machine has failed to keep itself up to date. This is why you should also run another local backup if you value your data.

Test one: Interface design

interface

Backing up is a dull process and can be somewhat baffling to the novice user. The interfaces of these apps are all a bit technical, but in general none of them are terrible.

Naturally, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we liked ChronoSync, Twin and Intego Backup Express more than the others here. SuperDuper! may well appeal to those who like a very simple, minimalist interface - incredibly minimalist in fact.

Of the six tools on test it was Twin that most appealed. The design just makes sense to us and along with ChronoSync seems the most 'Lion-like'.

Carbon Copy Cloner, Get Backup Pro and SuperDuper! don't quite have the polish of the other three. The more an application looks the part, the easier it is to trust that software to do the job properly. Obviously, it's only a small part, but nonetheless a reassuringly well-designed interface is much more likely to put your mind at rest.

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Test two: Value for money

Value

There's a clear winner here as it's incredibly difficult to argue with free. Carbon Copy Cloner is the old man of backup utilities for Mac nowadays, but it remains free. The entire feature set is there - you don't have to pay to unlock any extras. The developer does ask for donations, but that's entirely at your discretion and the software won't suddenly stop working just because you don't pay.

Intego Backup Express comes in as the next cheapest, but being a Mac App Store app it lacks the clone feature. A clone operation requires admin access and Mac App Store apps can't have that. SuperDuper! and Get Backup Pro come in at about £20, which is still great value for money. Twin costs €39 (£34) and ChronoSync $40 (£25).

These aren't wallet-busting when you consider what they do. However, Carbon Copy Cloner gets the plaudits here, though we urge you to make a donation to the developer if you do use it regularly.

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