Blog Post

Crashes, Backups, and Metadata – Oh My!

So last night as I awoke my MacBook from slumber, things seemed a tad off. The beach-ball of death played a prominent role, so I did a hard shut down. When I started back up, there was a strange sound coming from the Hard Drive, and eventually that horrid icon appeared on screen – the file-folder with the “?” in the center. My drive had died.

I can’t stress enough to everyone reading how important it is to backup your system on a regular basis! Do it religiously. Weekly is a good place to start, but a couple times a week wouldn’t hurt either. Daily? You’re a genius. Anyway, my last backup – thankfully – is only as old as Sunday, so very little damage done. Don’t get caught with a dead drive and no backup, it’ll ruin your day to say the least.

The real downside to this story is that I was getting ready to bust out the Metadata Screencast I’ve been talking about the past couple weeks. But while I image a new drive and bring my MacBook back to life, that’ll have to be on hold. In the meantime I’m on my Dell from work (Gotta go take another shower, I’m just feeling so dirty…) and I feel as though I’m trying to run through mud. Ah the Windows way of life. So look for the Metadata Screencast (part 3) early next week – sorry for the delay.

Also, as an aside: A comment in one of the earlier Metadata posts asked about tagging surviving backups. I guess I’m about to find out in a real life scenario, so I’ll be sure to report on that…But I’m fairly certain that sort of thing shouldn’t be lost – why would it?

Ok, until then dear readers, backup, backup, backup!

17 Responses to “Crashes, Backups, and Metadata – Oh My!”

  1. I have a TiBook 867 with a 120gb drive in it now. I use SuperDuper to make a nightly (bootable) clone of my laptop drive over to an identical 120gb drive in a FW mini enclosure.

    Should the main drive ever fail, I could just insert the exact copy drive and replace the external one. ($139 WD Caviar 120GB)

    I also have a 250GB Glyph drive that I keep locally with all of my big media files, and once per week I copy it to another 250GB drive that I keep in the safe deposit box in my bank’s vault. In fact, I have three archival drives in the bank vault as well.

    It’s the most thorough back up scenario I have ever used, and I sleep well at night because of it.

  2. With all the talk about Leopard’s Time Machine, does anyone know if it will feature an incremental backup (or better yet differential)? Because if it is a complete backup of whole files it will consume disk space so quickly that people might switch it off to squeeze more digital photos and mp3 onto their HDDs in which case TM is as good as any backup strategy that is not put into practice….


  3. christian

    Those backup solutions are good.
    As a recent switcher back to mac (12 yrs. of windows diaspora) i recommend buying leopard as soon as available.
    The integrate time machine will probably change everything for this cause! :-))

    I do (almost) daily sync with chronosync from my MBP to my iMac and backups of my documents to my iPod (encrypted disck image just in case i loose it) when on the road.

    I can very heavy recommend also to use the iPod (if you have one) as a backup drive for documents and work!

  4. Exact same thing happened to my powerbook and I hadn’t back anything up!

    Here’s a tip for anyone who this happened to, put the dead drive in the Fridge overnight and in the morning it should work long enough for you to get your data off of.

  5. Steve Simitzis

    The problem with the “backups backups backups” mantra is there’s no good, easy, reliable way to regularly backup your data. Even with 12+ years experience as a sysadmin, I still haven’t found a tolerable solution for my desktop that I don’t eventually abandon (or that goes on autopilot only to fail silently one day). I can only imagine how screwed regular users are.

    Hopefully with Time Machine coming in Leopard, I’ll be able to send my mom a USB drive and tell her to plug it in, click “apply” in System Preferences, and she’ll have instant backups. Until then, the state of backups for those without the budget for tape robots is grim.

  6. Another vote for ChronoSync. For me it’s every night around bedtime, automatic backup. To TWO different external drives, no less. Yes, like Christian, I’ve embraced my inner paranoid.

  7. I can totally relate to this.
    I upgraded my MacBook about 6 weeks ago with a 160 GB hard disk from Samsung which started clicking about a week ago. Having experience with dying hard disks, I knew I had to do a backup immediately, and thanks to CarbonCopyCloner I was able to rescue everything just fine. I sent the drive to be replaced and if everything goes well then I should be receiving the replacement drive tomorrow or Saturday.

    This taught me a lot:

    1. One external firewire enclosure is just not enough
    2. I was just lucky not to lose any data thanks to a warning sign from the hard disk

    And as a result my next big virtual shopping spree will include one MyBook Pro 250 GB used for daily SuperDuper syncs and two MyBook Pros with 500 GB each as additional storage configured as a RAID. This should keep me safe (although in a server that I administer recently all RAIDed disks failed at the same time).

  8. I backup my important documents, music and photos, but i problem i have is that i make movies and it is harder to back them up since they use up so much space… So i can’t back up alot of them if any. So if my drive failed it would be a bad day indeed.

  9. Alex Decker

    Wow, funny coincidence. My Macbook HD just died yesterday too. I never tried it before though, so had my doubts about taking it to the Apple Store, if it was just something I could fix myself. But it seems I made the right decision in doing so. I’ve adapted the great metadata way of organizing my files (from your posts, among others), and am also looking forward to seeing if the Spotlight comments survived… (crossing my fingers)

    – Alex

  10. I can’t agree more … couple days ago I had to pop a new harddrive into my ibook (yes, ibook, even at 1.25Ghz she’s getting old, but she’s wonderfully ticking now) … I upgraded to 100 Gig and I have soo much space.

    But I had the same issue, my hdd was making funky noises all of a sudden and the beachball would pop up if i so much as even looked at the screen, so I backed up all my crucial files and data immediately, including a mail backup, and then got a friend the next day to create a disk image of the whole driveusing SuperDuper (like Brandon above). Mid-week my new drive arrived, we took my baby apart, installed the drive, and then restored the image to the drive, and she is screaming along now and I can pop more mp3 files on :)

    Given how much my 12″ ibook is a workhorse, it’s amazing the drive lasted this long … but to bastardise a quote from here in Chicago “Backup early, and often” :)

  11. Oh dear!

    I’m one of those smug gits that backup every night. (Actually I don’t, I set ChronoSync to do it for me). It backs my whole home folder every night to a Firewire drive. A good thing about it is that it only backs up files changed, so it doesn’t have to do a full backup & therefore is pretty quick. I can really recommend it :)

  12. Brandon Eley

    I know how you feel… and man are you lucky! My main PC laptop that was used for work crashed a few years ago and my backup program, which was supposed to run weekly, had failed. My last backup was over a month old and I had several projects nearing completion with deadlines looming.

    I took the hard drive to ActionFront, who got the data back, but for a price ($1500). I learned my lesson the hard way. Backup, backup regularly and VERIFY your backups.

    Now, I work exclusively on a Mac and backup using SuperDuper. Since it just makes a disk image, I can browse it to make sure my important files are there.

    This is a lesson you don’t want to have to learn for yourself! Take some advice and get good backup software and use it…