Getting the Most From Your Backup Software

Preface File Synchronization System Folder Archive, Restore and Refresh Clean System Install



Backing up your data is essential, just like insurance. Although your hardware (including storage devices) backed up by manufacturer's warranty, your data stored on hard drives or any other media not. For Macintosh-based workgroups, Retrospect from Dantz Development becomes de-facto standard long time ago. Its not the cheapest (you can use free File Synchronization utility supplied with MacOS for basic backup purposes), but surely most capable. I will not explain how to use Retrospect for backup (it's manual is excellent), but rather how to use this software for not so obvious purposes. Tips described below are valid if you have Retrospect for Workgroups with network clients installed on Classic MacOS 8.x or 9.x.

Warning! Improper use of techniques described below may result loss of valuable data. Be sure you know what you are doing!

File Synchronization

MacOS is supplied with handy utility called File Synchronization, so why to use Retrospect for the purpose it have never been designed for? The reasons are simple.

  • Reliability - Apple File Synchronization fails to work with folders containing several thousands of items even with a lot of allocated RAM.
  • Speed - Retrospect is much faster than Finder standard copy routine and built-in File Sharing, especially if you have a lot of small files, even faster than Connectix Copy Agent with accelerated TCP/IP network copy enabled.
  • Automation - once you define script, all you need is to double-click on the script icon in the Finder.
  • Retrospect can execute synchronization scripts at certain time or timed intervals.
  • You do not need to turn on built-in File Sharing (this saves some CPU resources and memory).
  • Keeping TCP/IP File Sharing turned off lowers security risk.

Usually people need to synchronize files between desktop Mac and portable or between desktop and shared network volume. This is step-by-step instruction (assumed that you know how to use Retrospect):

  1. Install Retrospect application on desktop machine and network client (Retrospect Remote) on portable (or/and server).
  2. Define source and destination folders (i.e. Documents, Development, Graphic Jobs, etc.). Remember, never synchronize entire disk, which includes System Folder and installed applications (Desktop and portable have different system files. You should avoid synchronization of folders which contain serialized applications, too). However, you can synchronize applications folders with non-serialized software if this not violates vendor's copyright.
  3. Define Duplicate Script (not Backup Script !) with option"Replace any Corresponding Files". Save it as Run Script or/and create a scheduler for script if necessary.
  4. For each pair of source/destination folders you will need two scripts (one for each direction: desktop->portable, portable->desktop).

After all, you will have something like on the screenshot above. Two folders "Dev" and "MPW" (MPW stands as Macintosh Programmers Workshop) synchronized between portable and desktop. Although MPW contains applications, all of them are free and none needs to be serialized.


  1. One script can perform one-way synchronization software.
  2. Orphaned items are not deleted (use option "Replace Entire Content" instead of "Replace any Corresponding Files" if synchronized folders or volumes are relatively small).

System Folder Archive, Restore and Refresh

Keeping System Folder in order means productivity, period. System files may be damaged because of crashes, viruses; or some stupid installers may replace newer system files with older ones, etc.

When to backup System Folder?

  • Your system is already stable with all installed extensions for a long time.
  • You just installed system on brand-new machine.

Where to backup System Folder?

  • Best - on removable, CD or second hard drive with Clean System Folder.
  • Your primary hard drive. However, if this hard drive fail, your backup will be lost, too.

How to do it?

  1. Define BackupSet/StorageSet (its important to define file, not disk archive) with software compression to archive System Folder.
  2. Check your hard drive for viruses and integrity (with antivirus and disk repair utility respectively).
  3. Run backup.
  4. If you put archive on removable, copy Retrospect application and install Clean System Folder to it.
  5. If you put archive on primary hard drive, burn CD with archive, Retrospect application and Clean System Folder (as Startup CD).

Now, no matter what happens with your System Folder, you can restore your original system with few mouse clicks. Retrospect is hell fast. On Power Macintosh G4, restoring System Folder from CD takes just few minutes.

How to restore System Folder?

  1. Copy all valuable information from old System Folder. Many applications put much data inside System Folder.
  2. Restart machine from another disk, removable or CD.
  3. Trash damaged System Folder.
  4. Restore good System Folder from archive.
  5. Open and close it in the Finder. Icon should change from generic to System Folder.
  6. Copy back all information you took out from old System Folder before. Be careful with preferences files, they might be damaged.

How to restore System Folder if archive located on the same hard drive?

  1. Check your hard drive for viruses and integrity (with antivirus and disk repair utility respectively).
  2. Restore good System Folder from archive.
  3. Copy all valuable information from old System Folder.
  4. Open old System Folder and remove the following files - Finder and System. Folder icon should change to generic.
  5. Open and close restored System Folder in the Finder. Icon should change from generic to System Folder.
  6. Copy back all information you took out from old System Folder before. Restart machine and trash damaged System Folder

How to refresh System Folder?

This procedure will replace current system files with fresh ones from the archive. All extra information kept inside System Folder will remain intact. It may or may not help to get back stable system if you installed a lot of new extensions.

  1. Restart machine from CD, removable or another hard drive (this is really important).
  2. Check your hard drive for viruses and integrity (with antivirus and disk repair utility respectively).
  3. Restore System Folder from archive with option "Replace Corresponding Files".
  4. Test system for stability. If problems still persist, restore System Folder entirely from archive (see "How to restore System Folder?").

Clean System Install

This procedure will help you to install new System Folder really fast.

How to do it?

  1. Install Universal System on second hard drive or removable.
  2. Archive it with software compression.
  3. Burn CD with minimal system from original MacOS CD, Universal System archive and Retrospect application.

Installing system this way on Power Macintosh G4 from CD takes 3 - 4 minutes.


  1. Retrospect package does not contain freely distributed extractor application.
  2. Retrospect cannot create self-extracted archives.

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