Retrospect (software)

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Retrospect is a family of software applications that back up computers running the macOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, and classic Mac OS operating systems. It uses the client–server backup model,[1] which means there must be a backup server application running on one computer and small-footprint client applications running on the other computers being backed up in either a single platform or mixed platform network. The destination may be a tape drive, a hard disk drive or cloud drive. The company's backup server application requires macOS or Windows, but versions of the client application can be run on Linux or Classic Mac OS.

The product is used for GUI-scripted[1] backup in a heterogeneous network, primarily by small and medium-sized businesses.[2][3]


The software was first developed by Dantz Development Corporation in the mid-1980s, initially for the Macintosh platform[4] and later for Windows. With sales split evenly between the two variants and the Macintosh variant claiming 90% of its market, Dantz Development Corporation was acquired by EMC Corporation in 2004.[5] Version 7.5, the first release of the Windows variant under EMC, added performance features needed by SMEs.[6] In 2009, EMC indicated an intention[7] to add an updated user interface and separate administration Console similar to that of the newly-released Macintosh variant version,[8] but mandatory Windows security settings starting with Windows Vista/Server 2008 subsequently forbade UI interaction with an application auto-launched[9] by a task.[10]

Meanwhile the Macintosh variant "languished"[11] at EMC, until "development was revived in 2008 when EMC hired back some of its former engineers"[5]—including ex-Dantz ones.[11] This resulted in the "premature"[3] release of a version of Retrospect Macintosh that was temporarily[12] missing key operational features, even though it added the performance features of Retrospect Windows 7.5.[11]

In May 2010, the software was sold to Roxio/Sonic Solutions.[3] In 2011, following the purchase of Sonic Solutions by Rovi, development of the software was turned over to a privately held company.[5] Since 2012 Retrospect Inc. has continued to sell two variants of backup server software that, while having nearly identical non-GUI code,[7] operate differently[note 1]—with a view-only Dashboard substituting for a separate administration console in Retrospect Windows.[13]

Small-group features[edit]

Backup destinations 
Termed Media Sets[note 2]—allow media spanning and may contain one or more disks, in the Windows variant one or more superfloppies (termed "removable disks"),[14] one or more tapes or WORM tapes, one or more CD/DVD discs, or a single AFP/SMB file or Cloud storage account. If run using a non-Desktop Edition, the backup server is multithreaded so that multiple scripts can simultaneously back up to or restore from different Media Sets.[9]
Always versioned;[10] do client-side file-level deduplication;[9] can be[8] incremental, of subvolumes,[1][note 3] may specify files to be excluded or included (subject to deduplication).[note 4] Optional optimizations include data compression,[15] encryption of Media Sets and of data transfers between a particular client computer and the server.[11] Moreover, volume-to-volume duplicates [note 5] of the latest versions of files in appropriate OS format can be made.[10]
Data sources beyond the usual filesystems
Email accounts can be backed up and restored,[16] or directly migrated and synced,[17] for major services that support IMAP.[10] Avid Media Composer devices are supported as sources for backup, copy/duplicate, archive, and restore scripts.[10]
Validation of backups and copies of backups 
Comparing byte-by-byte or via MD5 digest; using saved MD5, can be a separate verification script run outside the network's "backup window".[9] Volume-to-volume duplicates in OS format of the latest versions of files can—unlike by OS—also be verified.[9]
Proactive scripts 
Are usually left running at times that are not in the network's "backup window", back up computers—frequently but not always mobile—transiently connecting to the network, determining backup priorities[18] by an "AI" algorithm that uses a decision tree supplemented by linear regression.[10] They are an alternative to another application's window-cramming tape-only "multiplexed backup" capability.
Success validation 
With e-mailing of notifications about operations to chosen recipients; for Backup runs these are now customized to include a one-line summary at the top, a subject line that includes the script name and number of errors and warnings, and an e-mail body that consists of the script log—pinpointing the errors and warnings.[14] Monitoring with "Retrospect for iOS" is also available.[8]
Cloud Backup 
Cloud Media Set type enables backup/restore/utility operations on data stored with AWS-S3-compatible cloud storage providers including Dropbox, with Google Cloud Storage, and with Backblaze B2.[19] WebDAV is also available.

Enterprise client-server features[edit]

Retrospect also supports several enterprise client-server backup features. These include:

Disk-to-disk-to-tape capabilities[20] that may incorporate file exclusion,[9][note 4] creating synthetic full backups,[20] automated data grooming[21][22] with GDPR exclusion rules,[10][17] block-level incremental backup,[23] and "instant" scanning of client volumes.[2][10]
Source file integrity 
Backing up interactive applications with pausing/unpausing of services via "script hooks".[8]
User interface 
Administration Console,[8] user-initiated backups and restores,[8] high-level/long-term reports supplementing the Administration Console,[8][14] and integration with monitoring systems via "script hooks".[8]
Advanced network client support[24]—which can be extended to "remote" clients anywhere on the Internet for Proactive scripts and user-initiated backups/restores,[10] and cloud seeding and large-scale recovery.[25]

Editions and Add-Ons[edit]

Retrospect is sold with varying backup server capability levels, called "Editions", at license–code prices[26] that cover one major version. The Edition is dictated[18] by the number of "server OS" computers being backed up; it in turn specifies a maximum number of client computers. The Desktop Edition can be used where only desktop or mobile computers (or Linux servers[13]) are being backed up, non-multithreaded, to non-tape devices or to one non-autoloader tape drive. The Solo Edition "protects a single non-server computer and its external hard drives".[16]

"Add-Ons", which activate additional backup server features via license codes, may also be purchased:[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The terminology was changed in the 2009 Macintosh variant; this article will use whichever variant's term seems more precise, with the other variant's term as a footnote.
  2. ^ Termed Backup Sets in the Windows variant; could be referred to as archive files, except that Retrospect uses the term Archive to refer to a backup operation that deletes data from a client's source drive once the data's backup is complete.
  3. ^ To be used, a Subvolume must be defined to the Retrospect application, and is therefore currently termed a Favorite Folder in the Macintosh variant.
  4. ^ a b Exclusion and/or inclusion is done with Selectors in the Windows variant; this misleading term has been changed to Rules in the Macintosh variant.
  5. ^ The Duplicate operation is currently termed Copy in the Macintosh variant.


  1. ^ a b c Kissell, Joe (2007). Take Control of Mac OS X Backups (PDF) (Version 2.0 ed.). Ithaca, NY: TidBITS Electronic Publishing. pp. 24 (client–server), 127 (script), 165 (client–server), 128 (subvolume—later renamed Favorite Folder in Macintosh variant). ISBN 0-9759503-0-4. Retrieved 22 September 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Engst, Adam (6 November 2012). "Retrospect 10 Reduces Backup Time with Instant Scan Technology". TidBITS. TidBITS Publishing Inc. Retrieved 25 October 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Engst, Adam (18 June 2010). "Retrospect Backup Software Acquired by Sonic". TidBITS. TidBITS Publishing Inc. Retrieved 12 September 2017. 
  4. ^ Apple Bundles Tape Backup With Retrospect Software Archived 25 May 2018 at the Wayback Machine., By Laurie Flynn, InfoWorld, 25 September 1989, Page 33, ...will bundle Dantz Development Corp.s Retrospect backup and archiving software with the Apple Tape Backup 40SC...
  5. ^ a b c DeLong, Derik (27 March 2012). "Retrospect's long and twisted road". MacWorld. Retrieved 4 October 2016. 
  6. ^ Mitchell, Dave (20 April 2006). "EMC Retrospect 7.5 review". Alphr. Dennis Publishing. Retrieved 4 October 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Ullman, Eric (11 September 2009). "Update on Windows development". Retrospective on Backup. EMC. Retrieved 6 October 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Retrospect ® 14.0 Mac User's Guide" (PDF). Retrospect. Retrospect Inc. March 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Retrospect ® 8 Windows User's Guide" (PDF). Retrospect. Retrospect Inc. 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Support: Knowledge Base". Retrospect. Retrospect Inc. 7 July 2018. #Resources (Auto Launching Guide ..., ... difference between "Backup" and "Duplicate", Avid Support ..., Instant Scan FAQ), #Email Backup, #Top Articles (BackupBot – Deep Dive into ProactiveAI, How to Set Up Remote Backup, GDPR – Deep Dive into Data Retention Policies, Deep Dive - Components of a Retrospect Backup). Retrieved 25 August 2018. 
  11. ^ a b c d Engst, Adam (23 March 2009). "EMC Ships Modernized Retrospect 8". TidBITS. TidBITS Publishing Inc. Retrieved 12 September 2017. 
  12. ^ Friedman, Lex (29 July 2010). "Retrospect 8.2". TidBITS. TidBITS Publishing Inc. Retrieved 2 June 2018. 
  13. ^ a b "Retrospect for Windows Release Notes". Retrospect. Retrospect Inc. 6 March 2018. (Engine: Dashboard improvements), (Client: server distrib. of Linux will be treated as server in future update). Retrieved 18 March 2018. Improved: Retrospect Dashboard has a new icon to differentiate it from the Retrospect application. Improved: Retrospect Dashboard launches when Retrospect is already running in Session 0 and includes explanatory message. Improved: Retrospect Dashboard's "Relaunch Retrospect" button displays an alert message when there is an execution running. Improved: Retrospect Dashboard includes improved media request text. Note: In a future update, Linux clients running on server-level Linux distributions will be treated as server clients. 
  14. ^ a b c "Retrospect ® 12 Windows User's Guide" (PDF). Retrospect. Retrospect Inc. 2017. pp. 41–43(removable disk drives), 31–32(Dashboard), 426–427(E–mail). Retrieved 22 August 2017. 
  15. ^ Engst, Adam (1 July 1991). "Retrospect Comments". TidBITS. TidBITS Publishing Inc. Retrieved 26 October 2016. 
  16. ^ a b Schmitz, Agen (19 March 2018). "Retrospect 15.0". TitBITS. TidBITS Publishing Inc. Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
  17. ^ a b Schmitz, Agen (28 May 2018). "Retrospect 15.1.1". TitBITS. TidBITS Publishing Inc. Retrieved 20 June 2018. 
  18. ^ a b Gripman, Stuart (27 March 2012). "Retrospect 9.0: powerful backup for professionals, organizations". MacWorld. Retrieved 3 November 2017. 
  19. ^ "Cloud Storage Providers". Retrospect. Retrospect Inc. Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  20. ^ a b "New EMC Dantz Retrospect 7 Improves Data Protection for SMBs and the Distributed Enterprise". DellEMC [current]. EMC Corp. [orig. publisher]. 31 January 2005. Retrieved 23 November 2016. 
  21. ^ "Retrospect ® 12.0 Mac User's Guide" (PDF). Retrospect. Retrospect Inc. 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2017. 
  22. ^ Schmitz, Agen (5 March 2016). "Retrospect 13". TitBITS. TidBITS Publishing Inc. Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  23. ^ Schmitz, Agen (6 March 2014). "Retrospect 11". TitBITS. TidBITS Publishing Inc. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  24. ^ "EMC Announces Retrospect 8.0 Backup and Recovery Software For Mac". DellEMC [current]. EMC Corp. [orig. publisher]. 6 January 2009. Retrieved 10 November 2016. 
  25. ^ "Changing paths Cloud Mac" (Video). Retrospect Inc. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2016 – via YouTube. 
  26. ^ a b "Product Configurator". Retrospect. Retrospect Inc. Retrieved 7 October 2016. 

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