SmartBackup: Free alternative for bootable backups on Mac

With SmartBackup you can make backups of the Mac hard drive or back up individual folders regularly. The little program is free and can even create bootable backup variants. The SmartBackup app can also ensure regularly updated backups that are always up to date. A good alternative to the Carbon Copy Cloner and to superduper!. You can find a comparison of these paid programs for backing up your Mac data here.

The SmartBackup app for the hard drive backup of the Apple Mac hard drive can be found as a free download on the developer website.
The SmartBackup app for the hard drive backup of the Apple Mac hard drive can be found as a free download on the developer website.

The SmartBackup app can do that

The app for macOS on the Apple Mac, measuring just 4,4 MB in the download, comes from Solesignal Ltd. from Wellington, New Zealand. Perhaps you are still familiar with SmartBackup from the Mac App Store; the developer wanted to withdraw from there, however, as there were some restrictions on his offer. As a result, he also put the software as a free offer on his own website. You can find the download link below. Here is a list of the most important data and functions:

  • SmartBackup copies entire drives as well as individual, selected folders
  • The version SmartBackup 4.2 (from October 2018) requires macOS 10.10 or newer
  • The software is optimized for SSD hard drives and compatible with APFS and macOS 10.14
  • Bootable backups can also be created; so start drives with all data
  • Available languages ​​are currently: English, German and French

Free SmartBackup download

You can find the SmartBackup download on the developer website: There you will also find further information as well as screenshots and tips on using the app. Automation, thanks to which data is synchronized from the Mac hard drive to the backup medium in the background, is shown, for example. Since the program is now offered free of charge, you will also find a notice that there is no longer any support. Anyone satisfied with the alternative to SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner can leave a donation; There is also information about this on the page shown.

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22 Responses to “SmartBackup: Free alternative for bootable backups on Mac”

  1. Hallo,

    thanks for the test.
    I now have a clone with SmartBackup on an ext. SSD created. I noticed that the user folder of the backup on the SSD is a good half smaller than the original on the iMac.
    Don't I have a loss if I have to write the backup back?

    1. Hello Uwe! No, you don't have to worry about that. On the one hand, a lot of small data on smaller hard drives often takes up less storage space overall due to the block size and, on the other hand, the tool probably simply does not back up temporary files and caches. These data are not vital and can easily be left out.

  2. I have problems with Catalina, an error message follows (SmartBackup started as superuser) regarding missing rights. Hard drives and files / folders have the appropriate rights.

    Have I overlooked something? There is no new version.

    1. Hello Uwe! This is definitely because the app needs access to the entire hard drive. Look under System Settings > Security > Privacy and add the app there under “Full Disk Access”. If that doesn't work, try again to enter them under "Accessibility". For me, Carbon Copy Cloner (another app that does the same thing) always asks for the admin password when it needs access.

  3. Thank you for your quick response. SmartBackup was already listed under full hard disk access, and I added the app to accessibility. Unfortunately didn't help either. The error message under Superuser is still "Insufficient access rights for target". Must have something to do with the external SSD. However, I have no idea where to screw it. Except maybe reformat under Catalina. Then of course I lose the previous backups.

    1. Yes, I assume that the external disk is somehow encrypted or was recorded by another user who is not your current one. Otherwise it shouldn't be a problem with the backup. Reformatting would also be my choice, but maybe you can make a backup on another disk beforehand? You don't want to be completely without it ... even if it's only for a few hours.

  4. Unfortunately, reformatting didn't help either. After starting SmartBackup, the newly formatted HDD will be displayed and available. If I then start the “SuperUser” option, I get the error message “Insufficient access rights for target”. If I then remove the target volume in SmartBackup and then click on +, a new window appears with the following message: “iCloud Drive may not be working correctly. Please check the “iCloud” system settings. Communication with a utility failed”. A button to the Apple ID settings is available in this window. However, I don't find anything wrong or unusual there. SmartBackup has nothing to do with iCloud and the Apple ID.

    Incidentally, the external SSD is formatted with Mac OS Extended (journaled, encrypted), I'm now trying ml with APFS.

    1. Hello Uwe! If you are using macOS Catalina or Mojave, I would format the SSD in APFS unencrypted. It may be due to the encryption. Otherwise, the support from SmartBackup may be able to help. Now I don't know what it could be anymore.

  5. Even APFS unencrypted does not help, there is the same error message regarding access rights and then later the note about iCloud. The SSD is visible in the Finder and can also be used (write, copy, delete).

    Since other external hard drives do not have these problems (TimeMachine also works without problems), it can actually only be due to SmartBackup.

    It's a shame, unfortunately no longer usable. Thank you for your support.

  6. Hello Jens, I came across you while looking for an external hard drive for a backup. In another article you advised to make a backup in addition to the Time Machine backup, e.g. with SmartBackup.

    Maybe a stupid question, but can I use the same hard drive for both backups (use a 1 TB WD Elements for my 2015 Macbook Air with 256 GB that still has Yosemite on it. Would like to upgrade to the latest Catalina version).

    Thank you and best regards,

    1. Hello Schahin! Yes, you can basically use the same disk for both, but you would need to create two "volumes" on the disk. These are basically partitions, one of which you use for the 1:1 backup and one for Time Machine. The volumes then appear as two separate hard drives in the Drives overview, but in Disk Utility you can see that they are both running under one hard drive.

      1. Ah, one more thing: if you're on Catalina, you'd have to make two partitions and format both with "Mac OS Extended Case Sensitive". Time Machine doesn't run properly with APFS on Catalina yet, as far as I know.

  7. Hi Jens,
    Thank you for your detailed answer, it is very helpful!

    Unfortunately, I don't quite understand your addendum.
    Do you think that the formatting has to be done before the backup or is it about the situation that Catalina is on it and then I want to do a new backup at some point? (Or is it about something completely different? Sorry, I'm sometimes a bit difficult to understand)

    Best regards,

    1. Hello Schahin! No problem because of the demand. I didn't write very detailed either... :D You go to the disk utility and select the corresponding hard disk in the left bar (top level). Now click the "Partition" button at the top and set the partitioning so that both partitions are approximately the same size. So 500 GB... Only then can you format the partitions individually. I would recommend a case-sensitive MacOS Extended partition for the old system and an APFS partition for Catalina. But beware: all existing data on the external hard drive will be lost during the action.

  8. Hi Jens,

    many, many thanks for your answer! The hard drive is completely new, so there are no problems with formatting ????

    I ordered them on Amazon via your affiliate link. Hopefully I did everything right and you get something out of it ????????

    Thanks again for the time and for answering the questions. I wish you a good start into the new year ????


    1. Hello Shahin! Thank you for your support. When you have the hard drive new, it is mostly formatted in ExFat or NTFS for Windows. So I would definitely reformat it so that it has the right file system for the operating system on the Mac. For example, the Mac can read and write ExFAT, but it wants MacOS Extended or APFS for the system.

  9. For me, the backup from the source (internal HD/Mac OS Extended with High Sierra) to the target (external HD/Mac OS Extended) with the “sync” setting does not even start, because the following message appears immediately:
    “Insufficient access rights!
    To create a clone of a macOS installation, the SuperUser mode is required. Start SmartBackup in SuperUser mode.”
    It's just stupid that I can't find any indication anywhere as to where or how I can start the program in the so-called SuperUser mode.

    1. Hello Dietmar! Unfortunately I can't tell you anything about the app. I tried them once and immediately went back to my beloved Carbon Copy Cloner. 😂

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