August 19, 2008
Epic Fail

My Mac died again a month or so ago - another HDD failure. Not a problem, I thought - new disk, restore from Time Machine, sorted.

Only my Time Machine backup disk had been plugged in to my Mac when it died, which is at least as bad as pulling the plug without unmounting. The backup disk wouldn't mount. Dash it, I thought.

All in all, though, I'm surprised how little I lost:

  • My music, all recovered from My iPod. Thank you Senuti. It even recovered most of my metadata - play counts, star ratings, the sort of thing that only the painfully anal people like me care about. I'm very glad about this - re-ripping all my CDs would have taken months.
  • My contacts were in a vCard file on my iPod too.
  • My email is all on Gmail.
  • My calendar, ditto, synched with iCal via BusySync.
  • My bookmarks are all in delicious, accessed via Delicious Bookmarks.
  • Most of my documents I managed to dredge out of email too.
  • Code. All in one Subversion repository or another, naturally.

What did I lose?

  • Some of my photos. It wasn't too bad - I have a backup from about six months ago, so most of them were there. I'd sent CDs to family with more recent stuff, so I could recvover those. But I know I lost some.
  • A few documents. Having said that I recovered most of my documents, I was missing a few things. Most notably, I have a couple of VoodooPad documents that I keep loads of notes in, and I lost several month's worth of these. Bah.
  • An episode of Doctor Who or two, grabbed with iplayer-dl. Ah well, they'll repeat them sooner or later.

Lesson learned - Time Machine is great for convenience, but don't trust it as your only backup mechanism. If it wasn't for those DVD-R backups I'd taken a few months back, i'd have lost far more than I have.

Posted to Mac by Simon Brunning at August 19, 2008 09:59 PM


Posted by: John Lambo on August 20, 2008 01:16 AM

Surely not? I willfully pull the plug on PCs with drives attached all the time... Only once did I ever have a problem that needed a disk repair and I still didn't lose data...

I'm on a Mac now. Is HFS particularly sensitive or were you just unlucky?

Posted by: Andy Baker on August 20, 2008 08:55 AM

I've only got a sample size of one to work with, Andy. Mainly unlucky, I suspect.

Posted by: Simon Brunning on August 20, 2008 10:59 AM

That's why I've got 2 backup hard drives, in locations where I routinely take my Mac. In my case that is home and office, in yours I suspect it should be work and the pub ;-)

Unfortunately Time Machine can't cope with backing up to two different external drives (or at least I haven't found a way to do it) so I copy all of my data to the second backup file using rsync. All you need to do is write a shell script with a number of lines of the form:

rsync -vr < source > < destination >

I've got one each for my Documents folder, my Music folder and my Pictures folder. Works a treat.

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