Techs do it too

  • Posted: 26 November 2010 04:26 AM

    I work for an ASAP, repairing Macs all day and warning customers to backup their machines, be careful of drinks near their machines and so on. All the usual nuggets of common sense come through automatically - it’s the same few speeches over and over. Well don’t think for a second this doesn’t come from experience.

    About 5 or 6 years ago I was sat on the couch sending emails on my PowerBook. It was only 6 months old and I had carelessly left the power adapter cord strewn across the room. The mail came, the dog went nuts and when running for the door, tripped over the cord, ripped the laptop from me and smashed it on the floor. Expensive, but repairable.

    A few years ago, Chris, one of our techs got married. He took all the honeymoon photos off the camera (deleted them) and stuck them in iPhoto (pre-Flickr integration). 2 days later his hard drive died - no backup. We tried for weeks to recover those photos but to this day his wife hasn’t forgotten his incompetence.

    Yesterday, I was sat at work, minding my own business. I reached over my desk and grabbed my headphones. Somehow, the headphones brought with them a giant mug of tea (ironically, it was a Microsoft Office branded mug). My MacBook Pro fizzed and popped. I managed to get the hard drive out in time to save it (though dropped it and damaged the motor I think). Oddly, my backups were in a state of transition and I failed them (all 4 of them). I’m recovering the data now and a new laptop is on order.

    The point is that we don’t lecture for no reason - we’ve been there. We’ve paid the money and felt the pain. That’s why we are so cautious with customer machines.


    -Matt Cox / Mac Technician / Matt on Twitter

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    Posted: 29 November 2010 02:28 PM #1

    Thanks for sharing the stories, Matt. Indeed, I’ve been there myself. For years I told people to backup, backup, backup… bought solutions for my clients, set them all up, etc., but NEVER backed up my own stuff. Then I woke one Saturday morning in 1995 to find my Mac (a Power Computing machine) wouldn’t boot. It was pretty clear that it was filesystem damage. I sat there and stared at the Zip drive (remember those?) that I had connected to my machine but hadn’t used to backup at all. I spent almost 5 hours that morning repairing my hard drive and (thankfully) getting all my data accessible again. Then I spent 20 minutes and setup a backup regimen (using Retrospect!) and haven’t looked back. My regimen has changed over the years (nowadays mostly SuperDuper and Time Machine), but I still back up religiously, and regularly check-in on my backups to make sure they do, indeed, contain the expected data.


    -Dave Hamilton / The Mac Observer / Mac Geek Gab / Dave on Twitter
    When you find a big kettle of crazy, it’s best not to stir it.

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    Posted: 01 December 2010 11:25 AM #2

    Since it’s always a case of when you’ll lose data instead of if you’ll lose data, I can’t imagine not having a good data backup plan. I use Data Backup from ProSoft for my nightly backups, Apple’s Backup application and MobileMe for weekly off site backups and twice a month DVD archives, and Time Machine as an extra layer of protection. I really don’t like the idea of losing data.

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    Posted: 01 December 2010 12:00 PM #3

    Oh yes. Backups are essential. I learned that at the engineering company I worked for when a FLOPPY with a set of drawings one of the engineers was working on got corrupted. They recovered the files but it was an amazingly expensive 1Mb of data. After that everything HAD to be kept on the HD (as I had been telling them, but what do I know I was just a tech. I didn’t have a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering), and we set up a weekly backup regime using an external SCSI drive. Currently at home I run a backup monthly using TimeMachine plus anything I think is more criticalI is kept on MobileMe.

    At work we run a daily set from all the servers to a couple of RAID disk arrays and then once a week I run a tape from the RAIDs that is kept in the basement in a fireproof/floodproof safe.

    [ Edited: 01 December 2010 12:58 PM by geoduck ]


    The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.
    J.D.Salanger/Wilhelm Stekel

  • Posted: 01 December 2010 12:03 PM #4

    I had a bad scare that forced me to go and buy a big enough back-up drive finally. I’m a designer and a cheapskate, so I have tons of really huge files and just couldn’t justify buying that terabyte firewire drive. I would always say “I’ll get that next month.” I was moving my data from one old G4 tower to a new (used) MDD G4 tower. My external drive wasn’t big enough to back everything up, so I just made some disk images of the drives and put those on my MacPro at work as a temporary resting place while I pulled the drives out of the old machine and put them in the new one. Well, I’m not sure what happened, but as I started using the new machine I noticed many files seemed intact but I could not open them. I became alarmed as I kept finding more and more of them. Irreplaceable stuff too. So I went back to my disk images on my work Mac and found that some of them were ok, but not all. I lost a fair amount of stuff, the worst being the adoption profile (basically your “sell-sheet” of yourselves) that I had made for my wife and myself’s adoption search. Luckily we had already adopted a month earlier, but it was alarming. So I went out and got that drive, setup Time Machine on my Mac and my wife’s MacBook and felt secure. This came in handy when my wife spilled a whole glass of water on the MacBook and it shut off. Luckily it worked again, but I wasn’t worried about losing stuff. However I still try to routinely backup photos to DVD as a failsafe, but I still want to get a safe deposit box for those for off-site safety. Maybe next month…


    Less is More (more or less).

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    Posted: 01 December 2010 12:51 PM #5

    I am using TimeMachine on a daily basis and a mirror backup to a different external hard drive every few weeks. Important files are copied to a hard drive connected to the AirPort Extreme. We also synch address book, calendars and some files onto MobileMe.

    Every once in a while I will burn photo files onto CDs and/or DVDs.


    “Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.” E. M. Forster

  • Posted: 01 December 2010 01:29 PM #6

    I think that anyone who has had a computer for more than a day has had a hard drive failure and probably lost data. One reason why I now use an onboard SSD rather than standard hard drive in my MBP is, given my extensive travel and tendency to be in remote locations (i.e. certified help being in some other country in the region, other than where I am working), having a drive that holds up a bit better under travel and abuse is part of my data protection plan.

    That said, I had an embarrassing situation two years ago. I flew into the States from the field (Asia) for a conference for only a few days (but near my home) and had not brought a portable backup drive. I was trying to cut down on weight/space. One morning, on trying to wake up my laptop, I noted that it was non-responsive. I booted and got that tick-ticking sound one gets when a drive has gone bad. I had gambled and lost.

    I took the laptop to MacMedics not far from my house, where I am a regular customer. They know my line of work, and how important my data are. One of the team there asked me when was my last backup, assuming that I would answer in units of ‘hours’ prior to the crash, rather than my ‘About a week’ response, which brought a grave look and a sort of, ‘We shouldn’t have to give you this lecture…’ response. A painful lesson, but all was recovered.

    Anyway, I too backup with Time Machine, but also with Intego Personal Backup, and Carbon Copy Cloner, which I use to copy my entire drive as well as off site with Mobile Me and now increasingly with Drop Box for some active files.



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    Posted: 01 December 2010 01:34 PM #7

    Redundancies, redundancies, redundancies ?

    1. MacBook Pro Complete CCC backup to a 1TB Seagate Free Agent.

    2. Ongoing (daily) complete Time Machine to a 1TB Western Digital desktop.
    3. Once a week, complete CCC backup to a 1TB OWC desktop.
    3. At least monthly: Documents, User Library, Music, Photos to now-external Apple 250GB (came with MBP).
    4. At least monthly: Desktop, Music, Photos, Movies to iOmega portable.

    5. Photos, Music, some docs mirrored on iMac
    6. Likewise CCC’d to Seagate desktop external
    7. Select files CCC’d to LaCie desktop external

    8. Every few months, Music and Photos to DVD archives
    9. Ongoing selected working docs to Dropbox

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    Posted: 01 December 2010 01:35 PM #8

    My backup strategy uses the combination of Time Machine and SuperDuper!. Time Machine is set, using TimeMachineEditor, to backup each hour on the hour to my wirelessly connected Time Capsule and SuperDuper! runs three backups nightly, one to a sparse bundle on the Time Capsule, and two to two different external drives, one of which in the morning is exchanged with another drive which is kept offsite.


    James Leo Ryan

  • Posted: 01 December 2010 02:00 PM #9

    I guess you have to get burned, sometimes, before you realize that hot potatoes have to be respected.

    I backed up to external HDDs for years, my main concern being hardware failure, for which an external drive is a plenty adequate backup.  Then, last year, my home was robbed.  They took just about everything, including the wife’s laptop that wasn’t backed up (but fortunately didn’t have much on it that wasn’t also on my Mac).  They did, of course, take my Mac.  And the horror dawned in the pit of my stomach as I turned to look at my data cabinet, expecting to see my external HDD, Airport Express, etc, gone, along with four generations of digitized family photos, decades of digitized family video, 100+ gigs of music…

    Nope.  They were there.  The robbers pawed around in there but then gave up.  It looks like the tangle of wires saved me—the crooks didn’t take anything they couldn’t get all the cables from (one surmises the pawnshops or meth dealers or whoever are particular about that kind of thing).  Video games, etc, all gone, clean to the wall, but my data cabinet’s wire-ridden thicket saved the day!

    Lesson learned.  Bought a new iMac on credit to be reimbursed by insurance check, and the first thing I did after restoring from the external HDD backup was to open up a Mozy account and start the slipstream backup.  I still didn’t sleep easily until the initial “big send” was complete and it was only sending change updates.  Now?  Total peace of mind.  I don’t have a care in the world about my data.  (Well, I do CARE, obviously.  Don’t want my data floating around out there.  But even if my home burns to the ground, I can fully restore.)  Wife didn’t want a stealable notebook… just replaced it with a nettop with nothing on it but a browser, and once the iPad came out, we realized that would be sufficient for portability.