Encrypting Mac Backups, Bootable vs Non-Bootable

Hey everyone! I’ve got a question about encrypted Mac backups. I’ll give background below, but here’s the summary: if I’m using TimeMachine and SuperDuper, and do not imagine the need to ever boot off of a clone, but want to have a clone of my data on a regular basis, and I want all backups encrypted, am I foolish for not creating a bootable clone with SD? Their documentation strongly discourages data-only backups. Can I create data-only clones to encrypted disk images on an external drive?

I am responsible for backing up 3 Macs (family iMac at home with photos and medical / financial data; 2 work laptops for my wife & myself). Obviously, photos, financial and medical data all should be encrypted. My wife and I are pastors, and I tend to think in terms of, “if my work laptop were opened up and someone saw that Mr. and Mrs. Smith were on my calendar for weekly marriage counseling appointments, or if they found emails in which parishioners expressed spiritual struggles, would that be bad? YES.” So, encrypt. But my clones are unencrypted, and I don’t like that.

I have FileVault on all 3 Macs, and Time Machine drives encrypted for all 3 as well. It seems like trying to create an encrypted bootable clone with SuperDuper is (a) a pain and only going to get harder, and (b) going to be of less and less utility as Mac hardware and software security evolve.

I don’t feel like I need a bootable clone; what I need is my Home folder (or, for our home iMac, the home folders for the users). Am I missing something? And, can I create 3 encrypted disk images on a hard drive and clone the data from each computer to its respective disk image? (I’d like to have 2 backup hard drives, both with images of all 3 computers, one stored at work and one stored at home, rotated regularly.)

Is that do-able, and does it seem wise? Thanks!


Yes, BUT, what macOS are you using?
You cannot make a bootable Big Sur clone.
(and you don’t want one)

CCC has a workaround. SuperDuper has a workaround.
Neither will get you a bootable clone like we “used” to have.

In the abstract, Big Sur creates a “system disk” and a “data disk”

The Super Duper solution is to use a down level of the app (available
on the web site) and clone the data disk. This will give you what you want.

You can create encrypted disk images on a hard drive of the
“data disk” that contains all the errr umm data on the Mac

Yes, but automating the process may be difficult.

If you don’t need a bootable backup, my first thought would be to create encrypted backup jobs for each computer using Arqbackup. Each computer would have its own folder on each drive, and the backups can be scheduled to run when a drive is attached.

Since you want to backup to two drives, each computer would need one backup job for each drive.

I can’t speak for SuperDuper, but Carbon Copy Cloner can produdue a data-only, non-bootable, encrypted backup easily. This what I do for my clone backups. Having non-encrypted backups isn’t something that I consider acceptable and I’m not interested in jumping through hoops to create encrypted bootable ones. (Not sure about doing this with multiple computers to a single backup device though, but now will attempt it :slight_smile: )

Make 3 partitions, or 3 volumes if you prefer.
Point each backup at a different “disk”

Not what I would do, as I wouldn’t want to
have to move the drive around. Yes, CCC
is doing the same thing as SD referenced
above. CCC provides instructions as to how
to get a bootable system onto the backup.
Not what I would do either :slight_smile:

I completely missed your reply for some reason. (I’m going to blame a long week of Mondays capped by a particularly good IPA.) Full credit for the correct answer goes to you! :smiley:

Oh, no worries, I didn’t think that at all.

Simply that one of the GREAT things about this
community is that folks tend to provide follow up
on how their item was resolved. This helps everyone.

I’m just sensitive to being too “brief” in any assistance
I might be able to provide, and you gave me an
opportunity to flesh it out a little bit more.

Hopefully @EricWEvers got what he needed.

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Yes, and thank you to you all! I’m now in the process of using SD to create data-only clones of the 3 Macs in encrypted sparse images on two different drives whose locations can be rotated - one at home, one at work.

Thanks again for the help!