My Backup System, And A Retrospect Dilemma

My old Retrospect 6.1 doesn't work under Lion, but Retrospect 8 won't back up to DVD.

My old Retrospect 6.1 doesn't work under Lion, but Retrospect 8 won't back up to DVD.

I've been using Retrospect for many years as a core component of my multi-layered backup plan. My normal backup plan consists of the following:


Runs automatically every day. Backs up all changed and new files to DVD. I have quite an accumulation of Retrospect backup DVDs (and CDs from years past). I back up to 2 backup sets, on alternating days.

I really like knowing that I have a set of backups on removable optical media, sitting in my office supply closet, completely impervious to the worst power surge or lightning strike that a south Florida thunderstorm can throw at me. With my DVD backup sets, my entire computing system — computer, internal drives, external drives, laptop, everything — could disappear, and I would have, in my DVD backup sets, everything I need to get a new system up and running with all my critical files. Of course, if my entire house burns to the ground, my DVDs will be as toasted as my hard drives. If that happened, it would definitely be time to panic.

Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner is great for making exact and incremental clones of my boot drive.

Carbon Copy Cloner is great for making exact and incremental clones of my boot drive.

Runs automatically every day. Different scripts alternate between making an exact clone of my boot drive and an incremental clone, and I have two of each: 2 exact clones, 2 incremental clones. With the exact clones, if my boot drive were to become permanently hosed, I could simply boot from the most recent exact clone, and if I simply need older files that I've deleted from my computer, it's easy-peasy to go into the incremental clone drive and pluck them out.

The downside is that the incremental clone drive eventually gets full. What I do then is simply delete bunch of the biggest files that I'm pretty sure I'll never need again. I feel comfortable doing that because I know I also have them backed up in my Retrospect backups, so that if I should ever need them again, I have a fail-safe to get them back.

Time Machine

Time Machine is as easy as it gets.

Time Machine is as easy as it gets.

I added Time Machine into the mix sometime after I upgraded to Leopard a few years ago. There's a lot of duplication between my TM and CCC incremental clones, and I sometimes question if I really need both. Time Machine is great because it automatically backs up every hour; I find it quick and easy to grab a file the way it was a few hours ago from my TM drive.

But TM doesn't keep things forever; when the TM drive is full, TM starts jettisoning the older stuff. I'd rather keep my older stuff forever. Between CCC and Retrospect, I have the older stuff covered, so TM is great as a constant, always-on backup of the files that are important to me today.

Retrospect Dilemma

I've upgraded my main work computer (Mac Pro) to Lion. I went to launch Retrospect to make sure my backups were still going to run. Ugh! My old 6.1 version of Retrospect is PPC-only and won't run under Lion. Eh, grumble, grumble, okay, I'll cough up the money to upgrade to a newer version of Retrospect. I head over to the Roxio site.

But .... I get to Roxio and wade through their myriad of offerings to figure out which Retrospect is the one I need, and I find out that none of the Retrospect versions for Mac support backing up to DVD. Apparently, Roxio may bring back support for DVD backups in a future version of Retrospect, and Retrospect 8 may be able to back up to DVD anyway, if you go into the program's package and edit the .ini file. But no guarantees either way.

This is a serious problem. Not only will I be unable to using Roxio to back up to DVD — but I have years of backups in Retrospect's proprietary backup format on existing DVDs and CDs. I don't think there's any automatic, fast or easy way of getting all of those onto some other media.

So my dilemma is two-fold.

First, do I want to buy Retrospect 8, hack the .ini file, and hope it works with my DVD drive? If it doesn't, I'd want to get my money back from Roxio. (I've put in a support request to them asking about a refund if this situation should arise.)

Second, do I want to try to find some replacement or alternative for Retrospect? If I do, I really really want to get all my old backups out of my old Retrospect backup sets, because they're not accessible at all without Retrospect. But I'm pretty sure that I don't have anywhere near the disk space needed to restore files going back to about 2003 or so (much less the time to sit here and feed the DVD drive through literally hundreds of backup CDs and DVDs).

It's theoretically possible to do that; I could boot back into Snow Leopard, which I still have on a couple of cloned drives, launch Retrospect 6.1, and restore everything, then archive it somewhere else. But there's simply not enough drive space or time in the universe to do that.

Without a version of Retrospect that runs under Lion and that can read/write to and from my CD/DVD drive, I will have no access whatsoever to my old Retrospect backups.

Maybe I should just throw all those old Retrospect backup disks away. Make a clean start. It's old stuff, I haven't needed it in years, it's not likely I ever will need it.

Murphy is alive and well, though, and I just know that as soon as it's impossible to retrieve anything from those disks, I'll need something from them really really badly.

If I do decide to ditch Retrospect, I'm not aware of any comparable replacement. Between my CCC clones and my TM backups, maybe that's sufficient.

Should I Look to the Clouds?

I have to consider signing up for Mozy or one of the other online backup services.

I have to consider signing up for Mozy or one of the other online backup services.

Perhaps I should consider replacing my DVD backups with a cloud backup. Mozy, or one of the other online backup services.

Upside: Off-site backups, available whenever and wherever I might be.

Downside: Lots of files that will take forever to back up over my lousy DSL connection. Security concerns. A feeling of loss of control over my data. A monthly service fee.

It looks like I have about 80G in my home directory that would need to be backed up initially. (That's not counting the 120G in my home directory that is used up by my Parallels virtual Windows drives. I don't need to back those up.) That means that the 50G plan for $6 a month wouldn't be sufficient. I'd have to get the $10 a month plan for 125G. I wonder how long it would take to use up the 125G? It's an extra $2/month for an additional 20G of storage.

I don't really like the idea of committing to that monthly fee, even though it is fairly low. But on the other hand, when I consider that I spend $100 or more for a new version of Retrospect every couple of years, plus the cost of the DVDs that I back up to, it's not that big of a price difference, and it does give me the advantage of off-side backups, which has always been the weak link in my backup system.

Switching from Retrospect to Mozy would essentially mean turning my back forever on all the files I have backed up in my existing Retrospect DVD & CD backup sets. One possible option there is to keep my old Snow Leopard drive around for a couple of years, with the old version of Retrospect on it; if I need to retrieve anything from my Retrospect backups, I could re-boot into Snow Leopard, run my old version of Retrospect, and retrieve those files. Whatever I need to retrieve from my Retrospect backups over the next couple of years, I'll then back up through Mozy. Anything that I don't need to retrieve over the next couple of years.... well, there's a very strong likelihood that I'll never need it again. Eventually, I could just toss those disks and erase my Snow Leopard drive.

Mozy says the data is encrypted with military-grade encryption before it ever leaves my computer — " a MozyHome key with 448-bit Blowfish encryption or your own personal key with 256-bit AES encryption." That sounds pretty darn safe.

The Mozy site offers this: "Please note that if you select to use your own private key, it will be impossible for Mozy to decrypt your data." That sounds like if you use the MozyHome key, that Mozy can decrypt your data. I think I would have to use my own personal key.

The more I think about it, the more I'm liking the Mozy option.

Do you use Mozy or one of the other online backup services? How's it working out for you? Have you ever needed to retrieve files from your backup? How easy or difficult is that to do? Do you worry about the security of your data? Why or why not?

Update: Well, shoot, Mozy won't cut it for me. According to the Mozy help files and support forum, Mozy is not an archival service; anything I delete from my computer will be deleted from Mozy after 30 days. I need a good archive backup, so that stuff that I delete from my computer can still be retrieved months or years later, if I should need it.

I might still consider incorporating Mozy into my regular backup routine — I badly need off-site backups as part of that routine — but it can't serve as a replacement for Retrospect.

I'm not panicking, because between my Time Machine backup plus my multiple CCC backups, I do have plenty of backups. But I do not, at this point, have a permanent archival backup on any media other than a hard drive.


  1. I have used DVDs and Retrospect for backups myself, over the years. If I was starting out new, I probably would go a different direction. But either way, I still need to access old project files on DVD. So I upgraded to Retrospect 8, and discovered the same issue. The good news is that with a relatively easy to do “hack” to that retro.ini file you mention, I can access my DVD backups. The bad news is that they all have to be rebuilt, the Retrospect catalog files, so that takes time.

    I just discovered that after doing that hack for Retrospect, my Mac didn’t recognize CDs and DVDs. Retrospect takes it over completely, even when it’s not running. But there is a fix for that too. You can go in to your System Preferences and turn off the Retrospect Engine with a single click. Now I have everything working as before.

    Not as simple as I’d like, but it will work for now. I’ve been using Retrospect since, oh I don’t know, 1997?

    • So you tried the retro.ini hack and it worked? That’s good news!

      When you turn off the Retrospect Engine in System Preferences, does Retrospect still run its backups automatically?

      Maybe I should go ahead and buy the newer Retrospect. I still haven’t solved my archiving issue, and I can’t go on ignoring it forever.

  2. Retrospect can’t run without the Retrospect Engine, so no, automatic backups won’t work. I use Dropbox and Time Machine to handle my day to day backups, and Retrospect for my long-term backups, when I want to move stuff off my computer. But if you use Retrospect on a day to day basis, or weekly basis, I guess you’ll have to decide what to do. They say a fix for the optical drive thing is on the way, so…

    • Thanks for the response. I can probably live with that. I guess I could switch to using Retro for long-term backups only …. just run my Retro backup manually prior to deleting stuff from my hard drive. That’s the main thing I want Retrospect for anyway, to keep archives of stuff that I don’t want on my hard drive(s) anymore. Between Carbon Copy Cloner and Time Machine, I’m pretty well covered for backups of my current stuff anyway.

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