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Dr. Mac's Guide to Backing Up Your Mac
By Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

Chapter 6: What to do if disaster strikes

OK, so you've done everything I said and now you've got a crashed hard disk. What do you do? Well, of course you're going to restore your data from backup. But there are a few things I would do first, to make sure (or at least as sure as you can) that your hard disk will not continue to cause problems.

The first thing I'd do is run Disk Utility's First Aid routine. You can find Disk Utility on the CD or DVD that came with your Mac. Boot from the CD by inserting it, then restarting your computer while holding down the C key on your keyboard. Then choose Disk Utility from the Installer menu. Click your damaged hard disk's name on the left and the First Aid tab on the right, then click the Repair Disk button. If you can get Disk Utility to repair your hard disk, do it. And after that, run First Aid a second time just to be sure.

If your second run of First Aid didn't encounter any damage (which you'll see in the log which appears in the middle of the First Aid window), you're probably OK to restore your data. If you either couldn't get First Aid to recognize your crashed hard disk, or it encountered damage during its second run, you've got more work to do before you restore. You might want to run First Aid a third time, just for kicks, but chances are your hard disk is too far gone for it to be effective.

If the third run doesn't give you a clean bill of health (or if First Aid does issue this clean bill yet the drive still won't work properly), the next thing I'd do is try DiskWarrior from Alsoft. It can frequently fix hard disk damage that First Aid can't.

If DiskWarrior is unable to repair your drive, you're going to need to reformat (i.e. erase) it. To perform a low-level format on an Apple hard disk, boot from the CD or DVD that came with your Mac once again, then choose Disk Utility from the Installer menu.

  • Select your drive from the list of drives on the left.
  • Click the Erase tab.
  • Type a name for the disk.
  • Click the Erase button.

Now go have some coffee. This could take as long as an hour or more. When the formatting is done, follow the instructions below for restoring your data.


If Disk Utility was unable to "see" your hard disk, or was unable to erase it, you're going to need to take your Mac (or the hard disk if it's an external model) in for repair or replacement.

OK, so now you've got a healthy, empty hard disk. It's time to restore your stuff. How you do this depends upon what you backed up. If you only backed up your documents (or, in fact, if you performed anything but a full backup of everything on your hard disk), you should install Mac OS and your applications first (from the original CDs or DVDs). Use the hard disk for a while to make sure everything is working, then, when you're certain everything is working properly, use Retrospect (or Retrospect Express) to restore your documents (or whatever). Here's how:

To restore from a backup with Retrospect or Retrospect Express (the procedure is identical), click the Restore button in the Directory window. You'll be asked what kind of restore you want to perform. Your choices are:

  • Restore an entire disk, which restores your disk to the state it was in after your last backup.
  • Restore files from backup, which lets you pick and choose files to restore manually from your latest backup (but only offers the most recent version of any given file).


  • Search for files and folders, which lets you restore files and folders from any backup, including all versions of files that have been backed up more than once.

Make the appropriate choice then click OK.

Next choose the backup set and snapshot you want to restore from, then click OK.


It's an excellent idea to keep a copy of the Retrospect catalog file for your backup set on some other media as well. After all, if you only have one hard drive, if it crashes, and your Retrospect catalog file is on that drive, you have to ask Retrospect to create a new one from your backed up data. Sure, Retrospect can do it for you, but it takes a really long time, so it's faster and easier if you have a backup of your catalog file on a CD, DVD, or hard drive.

Remember when I told you "DO NOT save these files on another disk. Retrospect Express needs them to perform your scripted backups" during your tutorial? That's the file I'm talking about. Find it and copy it to another disk or disc after each backup-it will save you time and effort if your hard disk dies.

Finally, choose the disk you want to restore to and click OK. Retrospect will take a few minutes to examine both backup set and destination. Then, the Restore from Backup window will appear. If you want to restore everything, click Restore now and head out for coffee. If you want to choose individual files to restore, click the Files Chosen button and select your files, close the file selection window, click Restore, and head out for coffee.

That's it. Retrospect will do the rest for you.

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