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Macs, Movies, Games, Books, etc. The Rants of a Mad Man.

A Hard Drive & A Time Machine

July 7th, 2009 by Raj

timemachineUnfortunately it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to do anything particularly nerdy let alone blog about it, thankfully for my adorning masses I’ve chosen to make my “back-in-the-saddle” return with a jump straight in to the deep end. That and quietly going for the record of how many cliche metaphors one can use in the same sentence.

You see just this week gone by I found myself in the unusual position of nerd boredom. I hadn’t done anything really “hands-dirty-nerdy” and my little girly hands were an itch with possibilities. The new Apple Macbook Pro’s had just been released for starters and it took all my will power to not just dash out and buy one for example but I was blessed (or smote) by the good lords of geek with the ghastly sound of a hard drive platter scraping from inside my Macbook Pro’s Aluminium enclosure. Again, scrounging every last fiber of restraint to not run out and buy a new laptop I decided to take the high road and upgrade the hard drive and keep my existing rig, both satisfying my need for nerd and keeping my costs at a 20th of the cost.

Normally, had I opted to purchase a new machine, I start from scratch, reinstalling everything, copying over Mail Libraries, Photos, etc manually and giving myself a fresh start, but as I was only giving the old girl a new ticker I thought I’d do a straight copy restoring my file hierarchy to its full glory via the use of my Time Machine backups. A trick of the Mac trade I’ve yet to make use of.

The hard drive install was as straight forward as can be, a few screws here a torque screwdriver there and Bob’s your Grandfather’s Nephew she was humming to the new tune of a 500GB 7200rpm drive. The next and what i’d also envisaged to be the more lengthy portion of the process of the restoration process then began.

Mac OS X install DVD whirring away in the drive, we arrived at the “Migration Assistant” portion of the install offering the option of “Restoring from a Time Machine backup”. Excellent, that’s exactly what I’d like to do thanks. A click or two later I had a screen asking me what user accounts and applications I’d like to restore, selecting them all and clicking Next I began the two hour wait for the copying process to complete. One movie length break later I returned to see that the progress bar and status text had indeed indicated that everything was all tikity-boo but I was unable to continue on to the next step. I thought I’d just let it whir away for a while, sometimes these progress bars are less than accurate (at a stretch) and I figured it’d all be over soon enough. Two episodes of Deadwood later and there was still no movement to which I threw it in and restarted the `puter myself. Everything booted up fine, even had my user account there for me to log in to but that was about the end of the good news. A Dock riddled with question marks and no mail to be found it looked like the only things that had actually been copied successfully was my Network System Preferences, connecting to my Wi-Fi as soon as it logged in. Balls.

By this time it was about 10pm and I couldn’t be ferked sitting there doing a manual copy so I thought, “You know what Time Machine/Migration Assistant Restore Process, I’m going to give you one more crack of the whip. Balls this up again and the engagement is off!!” So after reformatting and going through the OS X install process again to begin the restoration it was about midnight and I left it all to whizz away as I dreamt of ponies and unicorns battling to death in the Roman Colosseum; as you do.

Waking the next morn to find a beautiful dew adorning my bedroom windows there was a smell of success in the air. Perhaps it was the restoration had worked and I was about to be full of glee, yet again it could’ve been the new air freshener I’d purchased the day before permeating its aroma through out the house? Fortunately for my sanity and the now back on again wedding between myself and Apple technology it was the former and there before me stood the exact same desktop as a day before, same wallpaper, same icons, same file system, same launch items on login, had Time Machine fulfilled its end of the bargain to my wildest dreams?! It would appear so!

Everything appeared to be exactly where I’d left it prior to the transplant. Wrapped! No idea exactly how long it took to complete having let it go whilst asleep but we can safely say it was over two hours (120Gb of data to copy via USB2) and less than twelve (I slept in!) But really, who cares, IT’S ALIVE!!!

Now all of that was a few days ago… and while everything seemed perfect from the casual observers point of view, it would seem that deep down in the bowels of a file system that I roll with there have been a few “issues”, allow me to list them for you now…

  • Pretty much anything out of the normal “Mac” root folders gets missed. For instance my SVN repository in /svn hasn’t been backed up or restored.
  • Similarly all of the stupid OS X apache example files are back in /Library/WebServer/Documents and my /etc/httpd.conf file has been overwritten
  • Aperture wouldn’t launch, my photos were fine but I had to reinstall the application
  • I had to do OS X updates all over again from 10.5.2 (Which was on the discs that came with the Mac)
  • My Nortel/Apani VPN software had to be reinstalled and didn’t work at all to begin with

All in all, a very small price to pay, and not a lot of work to get things back to normal considering all of my preferences, my mail, calendars, contacts, images, movies, music, applications were back and working. So I guess the question is whether or not I’d use this method the next time or not. Well, yes I would, but if it was a new Mac I was about to obtain I’d most likely stick to my tried and true method of a fresh install & manual copy. Why? Well, I come from an old school and tend to “clutter” a machine over time, an issue your average ham sandwich [person] is unlikely to have.

So go forth, propagate your Mac’s hard drive Guy Pearce style and feel safe about doing so, the process actually works.

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