Time Machine and Backup

I upgraded to Leopard — unfortunately for me I purchased it from the Campus Computer Store one freaking day before my Apple Distinguished Educator (not for resale) came in the mail — crap! Oh well. I didn’t really have much to say about it here on the blog, but it is a very nice upgrade. My MBP upgraded perfectly, but my iMac at home was not as lucky. It required two days of trouble shooting and four (yes, four) installs before I got it working properly. I got what I thought was a Windows only feature — a blank blue screen. Then after it finally installed, it locked me out of my account, insisting that I was not the administrator of the machine … Apple Support forums said installing the Keychain update would fix it. There is a slight problem there, you can’t install stuff if you aren’t an admin. Took me a while, but using the root account I was able to reset the password and all has been fine since.

There was one other little problem … for some reason (coincidence I am guessing) one of my three external hard drives I use decided to die. It makes a horrible clicking noise and never mounts. Not a big deal, storage is cheap but that is the one drive I used to store all of my documents — not music and movies, but (in some cases) decades old files. Scared the shit out of me. Good thing I am a backup freak show … I was able to use my Apple Backup software and recover everything in about an hour. Worked perfectly. This is the third time I have had to do a full on restore of parts of my digital life. If you don’t backup, do yourself a favor and go to the store, buy a hard drive, and backup your stuff.

It looks cool, but is it a real disaster recovery tool?

The whole scenario has me thinking and wondering if Apple’s fancy new Time Machine is a safe and viable backup strategy? It seems very slick for going back in time and grabbing a deleted file or two, but is it a true disaster recovery system? If it isn’t should I have yet another hard drive to do real backups on? I have had terrific success with Apple’s Backup software I get with my .Mac account … what will Time Machine do when my primary hard drive goes down — you know, the one with Mac OS running on it — and I have to reinstall the OS to try and restore? Will it work that way?

11 thoughts on “Time Machine and Backup

  1. A few days after Leopard was released, I got a phone call from a friend of mine who was worried that her boyfriend’s Macbook (Core 2 Duo) was broken beyond simple repair. He had installed Leopard, run it for 2 days and upon login was now faced with the Grey on Grey “circle slash” sign.

    Fortunately, the guy had the foresight to back up his system with Time Machine right after he did his Upgrade and Install via the Leopard Disk. He chose all of the default settings for Time Machine and had effectively backed up every piece of information from his internal hard drive.

    After a little debate I convinced him that we should run disk utility on the drive (from the Leopard install disk) and then do a clean install of 10.5. Upon completion of the install the Migration Assistant showed perfect integration with the Time Machine disk, allowing him to reinstall each backed up component, User etc. For him, Time Machine saved the day for all of his information.

  2. I think if the main drive has issues, you boot with the Leopard DVD, but instead of reinstalling there is an option in the main menu to do a restore from Time Machine disk. This should restore the main drive… either to the original disk or a new disk…


  3. Pingback: Apple Blog » Time Machine and Backup

  4. Pingback: Apple Blog » Time Machine and Backup

  5. I’m of two minds on a feature like Time Machine.

    While it is great to have a system that will allow you to easily pluck files from your past, does it make the user so complacent that they don’t think that they ever have to do a manual back up? Should we trust the OS to be foolproof?

    I’m not a regular Mac user yet, but I hope to take a look at the new OS soon.

  6. Doing some morning blog reading I came across some reported Time Machine errors over at Macfixit here. Apparently, Apple’s Aperture program may be excluded from incremental automatic backups in Time Machine. Additionally, if Aperture is running when TIme Machine initializes a backup, corruption may occur in the Aperture database.

    Back to my first post, the user that I was working with obviously had file corruption occur when he installed Leopard with the Upgrade and Install option. I don’t know about anyone else, but I wouldn’t trust Time Machine to simply overwrite the originally backed up data directly to the internal hard drive without blowing away the OS with a Clean Install. When I went into Single User Mode, options for me make changes never via root access never appeared, apparently a number of vital system kernels no longer existed (or so sayeth SUM).

  7. I have some of the same concerns about Time Machine. I have been using it for the last two weeks. Though the interface is probably the nicest interface I have seen, I have concerns whether it is a reliable backup solution as compared with the typical and time tested backup methods. I did just get it to recognize any network drive as a target for Time Machine.

    Two good blogs to watch for Leopard and Time Machine specific articles are MacOSXHints and The Unofficial Apple weblog.

  8. Since I upgraded to Leopard I’ve been using an external drive for Time Machine and to store my iTunes library (which has outgrown my mac mini’s hard drive).

    Last week I went to wake it up from sleep, and it was frozen. I noticed in Disk Utility that there was a S.M.A.R.T. error on the primary drive, so I backed up to Time Machine one last time, shut down, and ordered a new drive.

    Today after installing the drive, I booted off the Leopard install CD. I skipped the restore option and installed fresh. I got one of the first minis and it came with Panther and had been upgraded to Tiger and then Leopard. I opted for the fresh install. After installation and booting for the first time I had the option of restoring selected data from a Time Machine drive. After a long time of “Transferring Information”, my Applications, Users, Network settings, pretty much everything I wanted was restored as good as new.

    This was the acid test for me- and in uncontrolled circumstances. I am a believer.

  9. Thanks for the feedback everyone … I am now flying solo on the backup trail with just Time Machine in my corner. I can’t get the new version of Apple’s Backup to work, so TM it is. I hope I never need it!

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