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Money is no object. I want a bit for bit perfect copy of a hard drive/partition which is bootable (is either possible) to be used in a backup regimen.

I have heard of some tools but your recommendations with clear outlines of the features that make it useful for you as a backup solution would be most appreciated.

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Um...are you going to accept an answer?? –  daviesgeek Dec 28 '11 at 22:54
    
Gosh yes, of course, thank you! Wonderful answer, well illustrated. Apologies for not doing this sooner. –  Swizzlr Jan 17 '12 at 14:20
    
That's okay. Thanks so much for accepting! –  daviesgeek Jan 17 '12 at 20:54
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7 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Carbon Copy Cloner should do the job.
CCC (Carbon Copy Cloner) creates a bootable backup, and preserves all your files, and in the right hierarchy. You can also have incremental backups (it only backs up items that have changed since the last backup). You can schedule CCC to backup regularly. CCC also has the ability to backup over a network. I also like the Growl notifications.

Carbon Copy Cloner

SuperDuper! is another handy little application. We used to use it for backing up before Time Machine came out. It has the ability to do incremental backups, so you won't be backing up the whole hard drive; just the data that's changed. Unlike CCC, it costs $27.95.

Superduper! main screen

Another option would be rsync or cp. Both will have the option to make a perfect backup, invisible files included. Rsync can also backup incrementally, which means it will only backup what has changed. With rsync and cp, you can also schedule it to backup with launchd or cron.

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Oops, thank you @Ian –  daviesgeek Aug 5 '11 at 16:19
    
you might want to expand on this answer to address the OPs questions about what it does that makes it great (incremental backups, delta updates against existing backups, etc.). –  Ian C. Aug 5 '11 at 16:31
    
Carbon Copy Cloner [ bombich.com ] I have found to be superb. –  plindsay Aug 6 '11 at 6:31
    
Carbon Copy Cloner is free, whereas some other programs mentioned here cost money. With Carbon Copy Cloner, the developer requests donations through PayPal if you find the program useful. While you run the program, it displays ads from a few companies related to storage technologies. –  Wheat Williams Aug 8 '11 at 22:50
    
Note that CCC can also do the block-level clone that the OP suggested, with a few limitations (though I have not tried this myself). –  Reid Aug 10 '11 at 14:21
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Shirt Pocket's SuperDuper is a nice app, but it is pricey.
$28, free trial available.

One of its good features: It allows you to perform an incremental backup that only updates what's changed.

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Both Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper do the exact same thing as Disk Utility - make a bootable backup. They reason why they are better is incremental clones and added scripting support. If you care for either of those benefits, pay for one or both. If not, the free Disk Utility and command line asr will do the trick for you. –  bmike Aug 5 '11 at 16:43
    
I would also like to recommend SuperSuper. It's paid back the initial investment easily. –  Kurt Trew Aug 6 '11 at 9:52
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This is not true. Carbon Copy Cloner copies what it thinks it 'should' copy, and skips certain files (like the swap files) when it copies. Disk Utility copies everything, bit for bit, as the original question specified. See: help.bombich.com/kb/troubleshooting/… –  zzz Aug 9 '11 at 17:35
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Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) hands down. Even Apple enterprise recommends it, and they use it for their live servers. Although SuperDuper! is fine for standard Mac OS, it is not recommended by the general population for the Server OS.

The latest CCC adds great features too. Use the $30 you would spend on SuperDuper! And donate it to CCC. It's what we use in the field.

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Clonezilla is awesome. Free, boots from cd / usb, works with win / mac / linux.

Great tool to have.

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… bit for bit perfect copy … 

Disk Utility

If you want bit-for-bit, use the Restore features in Disk Utility.

If Lion Recovery is available, you could use the Disk Utility in Mac OS X Utilities.

Whilst you can use Disk Utility in a backup regime, I would not use it every day for that purpose.

Is it more important for the backup to be bootable, or bit-for-bit perfect?

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I suppose bootable is really what I mean, but I'm interested in multiple options. Is there a way to do this without having to go through the intermediate stage of creating a DMG? –  Swizzlr Aug 13 '11 at 22:11
    
I don't have hardware spare to test this, but I would not expect an image when copying blocks. In this folder a screen recording shows Disk Utility copying blocks from volume to volume where the source is not bootable. –  Graham Perrin Jan 28 '12 at 13:24
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We use Clonezilla at work. It creates exact clones of our disks and/or partitions and dumps them on an FTP server.

This is also nice because we get a centralised repository of disk/partition images which we can dish out to any of our boxes pretty speedily.

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I like CCC but SuperDuper works great as well. SuperDuper costs almost $30, but it's worth it for the terrific effort the developer puts into making sure it's compatible with the current version of OS X.

The thing I like most about Carbon Copy Cloner is that it's free (donations encouraged) and it has a very easy to use scheduler that will remind you to turn on drives it needs to do the job, and when you turn them on, it does it without further action on your part. Either one works great for me.

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There is already a CCC answer and a Super Duper answer - why not edit them as needed so this can be deleted and the answers simplified? –  bmike Oct 27 '11 at 17:14
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