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Backing up a folder and saving all old versions of documents

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Hi everyone,


New Retrospect user here. I have a client who needs a backup plan. I'm cloning her hard drive each evening with SuperDuper, which works great for its purpose.


She also wants to back up a large folder called "Clients" separately. She would like to have the backup software back up this folder every night, but if there are files in there that have changed, instead of replacing them, she would like to keep all of the older versions. This way, she can go back on any given day and retrieve the file as it was on that date. I'm guessing that she would like to keep doing this until her external hard drive fills up, however long that would be.


In other words, she wants the exact functionality of Time Machine (for just this one "Clients" folder), but she can't yet upgrade to Leopard.


I have a feeling that Retrospect can do this, but it's been hard to get a clear idea of just how. It's such a complex and powerful program, and I'm a little intimidated by the learning curve.


Can anyone point me to a tutorial that shows how to set this up, or otherwise give me some guidance?


Many thanks

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Welcome to the forums. Yes, the learning curve is steep. I briefly discuss the Retrospect paradigm below so that you can get your head around the terminology.


First, a clone/duplicate is not a backup because it does not preserve history / earlier versions, as you recognize. For a discussion of the difference, see:


Retrospect can do file duplication (copying), but that is not its strength, which is backup.


Second, what you are requesting is simple for Retrospect. While you could craft a "Selector" that would just back up that one folder, the fastest and easiest way would be to define the "Clients" folder as a Retrospect "Subvolume", so that Retrospect would only scan that folder and the filesystem tree that originates with that folder. Subvolume definition is done on the "Configure > Volumes" page of Retrospect.


Because you are new to Retrospect, just a brief word on how it works, because the terminology is somewhat different from other backup programs. Other backup programs will first create a "full" backup, backing up everything, then, in successive backup sessions, will do "incremental" backups, backing up those files that have changed (depending on your selection criteria). Under the hood, Retrospect does the same thing, except that you make "normal" backups, and Retrospect "does the right thing" at each backup, backing up only what is needed at each session. So, first session, it backs up everything, then incrementals, etc. In addition, Retrospect creates a database (the "catalog") of the state (a "snapshot") of the source at the time of the backup session, including metadata such as permissions, ownership, etc., and the snapshot includes pointers into the backup set so that it knows where in the set each file of that snapshot resides.


The difference (and the Retrospect advantage) happens at restore. With other programs, you first have to restore the last previous "full" backup and then successively restore each incremental backup from that point forward, so that you retrieve the desired file(s). With Retrospect, you choose a "snapshot" and the file(s) from that snapshot to be restored, and Retrospect then pulls the needed correct version of the file(s) from the proper place in the backup set. You can, of course, also search for files by name, retrieve all versions, etc., but most people just want the state of a file as of a given date.


Other piece of information, because you seem to want to have the destination be on a disk, is that there are two types of disk backup sets, each with its own strength/weakness. A "file" backup set, the default, is simply a big file, with the backup set contents being in that file, and a file backup set can coexist on a Macintosh volume with other files (space permitting). A "disk" backup set (which requires setting the "permit disks to be used as removable media") can span volumes (as if each disk was a member of a tape backup set, etc.), but cannot coexist with other files, and Retrospect takes over the whole volume. Unless you want lots of small disks to be used for members of a backup set, use the default of "file" backup set. See the User's Guide for a discussion.


What you are trying to do is very straightforward, and the Manual is pretty clear. You will also want to set up a schedule for the backup. Again, the manual is pretty clear. Post back if you have questions. It doesn't seem that you want/need to do backup to optical media (CD/DVD), and that's good. Not every DVD/CD burner is supported, including many of the ones that Apple ships standard in its products. You haven't provided any hardware configuration information, so I can't comment on whether your DVD/CD burner is supported, but Retrospect does support almost every hard drive (except for some that cannot stand the abuse of continuous duty, such as the MyBook drives) providing that it has a Mac filesystem; there are some issues with some NAS drives if their underlying filesystem doesn't match well with the Mac filesystem.


Here is a link to the manual:



Here is a comparison chart of the various versions:



It's possible, if only disk backup destinations are desired, that Retrospect Express, the lowest end version, might suffice.


You can download a trial version of Retrospect to make sure it will do what you need:


(difference is in the license codes).


Good luck.



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if only disk backup destinations are desired, that Retrospect Express, the lowest end version, might suffice.



As I've noted before (because it's important) Retrospect for Macintosh does not offer a true Disk Backup Set, as the Windows version does.


Retrospect and Retrospect Express for Macintosh have File Backup Sets (which live as a file on any volume) and Removable Disk Backup Sets (which use entire locally attached volumes as Members of the Backup Set).


Hopefully, the next version (if/when; sigh) will bring the benefits of Disk Backup Sets to us Mac users.




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Thanks for the very thorough reply. I'm working my way through the manual and the tutorials, and I'm starting to get the hang of it, thanks.


I guess I need a little help on strategy; the folder that needs incremental backs is about 110 GB in size. Obviously, as the folder gets incrementally backed up, it's going to grow and grow in size. It's eventually going to be one big file. Should I limit the size of the Retrospect backup file, even if the disk that it's on can handle it?


And, if I do need to limit the size of the file, how do I do that? Do I have to create another separate backup set and do the backups all over again? Or is there some other way?


Many thanks for all of the kind help.

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Ah, now you see the problem. Retrospect for Mac currently does not have "grooming", whereby the program can remove files in the backup set that are only needed by older snapshots, preserving only files in the backup set needed by newer snapshots according to your specification. The Windows version has this, and the announcement in January was that work is underway to port the Windows version to Mac (becoming the unified code base).


Only choice for now would seem to be to have two backup sets, alternate between the two, with periodic "recycle" backups to reset one of the backup sets to zero, then the other, etc.


We use tapes, not disk backups, so it's not an issue we have.



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