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Backup your shit!
March 15, 2010 5:23 PM   Subscribe

"Every hard drive in the world will eventually fail. Assume that yours are all on the cusp of failure at all times." An Ode to DiskWarrior, SuperDuper, and Dropbox: John Gruber talks about his Mac's hard drive failing and how he was able to recover all of his data using DiskWarrior, a file recovery utility, SuperDuper!, a backup utility that creates a fully bootable backup, and the file syncing system DropBox. While his advice is Mac specific, you can get a similar system going on Windows with Acronis for backups and one of many free file recovery programs such as TestDisk (which also has a Mac version).

If you are not willing to spend the money on SuperDuper or Acronis, check out the free backup utilities Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac and Macrium Reflect Free for Windows.

More and more computer users are not storing files on their home computers and instead using web applications that keep a user's data safe for them (usually). Web applications are becoming popular enough that Google is creating an OS where only system files are stored on a user's computer.
posted by The Devil Tesla (90 comments total) 99 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks Google for thinking of me and my needs and having absolutely no designs on my data or thinking about what you could mine out of it or who you could sell it to and I bet it's all open source and verifiable!
posted by DU at 5:33 PM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


People really ought to be using RAID, especially given how cheap hard drives are now. A 1TB drive is $67 Today.
posted by delmoi at 5:33 PM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


SuperDuper is fine - I have used it extensively. However, I must say, OS X made a major step forward with Time Machine. At this point, I see less of a need for DiskWarrior. I mean, I made a copy with SuperDuper, and I have TM running 24/7, so why exactly would I need DiskWarrior? I'd rather get a new hard drive.
posted by VikingSword at 5:34 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


SuperDuper is well worth the $30.

DiskWarrior is well worth the $100.

I miss having an 80 gig iPod, so I could carry important backups with me. Fingers crossed for larger iPhone and iTouch sizes this year.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:34 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Redundant backups. Say it with me. Redundant Backups.

Check your backups. Ever so often. Check your backups.

If it's real important, make a backup an offsite backup. Doesn't even have to be live. Burn some discs, get an external hard drive, put it in another location.
posted by cavalier at 5:35 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note that RAID is not data backup.
posted by tmcw at 5:35 PM on March 15, 2010 [17 favorites]


If you're not willing to spend money on SuperDuper and have a Mac, just plug a big external drive into your Mac and say "yes" when it asks if you want to use it with Time Machine.

Automatic, versioned backups of your files are awesome. I've recovered from contact-synch-to-phone disasters, I've accidentally deleted part of the sketch of a piece done in AI, dug through old versions, found it, and dropped it back into my much-further-along working file.
posted by egypturnash at 5:35 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is why a recent copy of my thesis is on everything I own that has any kind of memory, including my phone, and every one of the umpteen flash drives that float around this apartment.
posted by PMdixon at 5:39 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


This takes nothing away from Gruber's article and his point about backing up is still completely valid, but....DiskWarrior isn't technically a file recovery tool. It doesn't "undelete" or "salvage" anything. What it does do is allow the volume's directory to be rebuilt and optimized, and then replace the damaged/corrupted one.

The best "file recovery tools" on the Mac market are ProSoft's Data Rescue II and StellarPhoenix Macintosh data recovery. Micromat's TechTools also has some kind of file recovery tool but I've stopped using that suite long ago.

DiskWarrior is indeed worth every dollar you spend on it, but it's important to understand what it can and cannot do. It can totally save your ass when your volume's directory is damaged and can even help you to pull data from a failing HD (as in Gruber's anecdote) by mounting a read-only image of the failing HD. But it cannot undelete files or recover files that have been corrupted.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 5:40 PM on March 15, 2010


Anyone have recommendations for NAS storage solutions? Time Machine works over network, and for multiple machines, AFAIK. Toss in a couple of those cheap terabyte drives and away we go...
posted by five fresh fish at 5:40 PM on March 15, 2010


Oh, say, I used ProSoft's product the other day. Save me about three days of tedious rework after I accidently rm -rf'd a directory. For the $100 I had to spring, it was paid for itself a couple times over.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:41 PM on March 15, 2010


RAID is one of the worst ways to try to protect your data. A much better solution is to buy a second drive, make a new, separate filesystem on it, and then run regular backups. It costs exactly the same amount, but it protects you much better from data loss. It takes a lot longer to recover from a primary drive failure, but data safety is much, much higher.

RAID is primarily for preventing downtime, not data loss. It keeps filesystems running even if the underlying media fails. That does nothing to protect you from all the ways you can end up with a corrupt filesystem or missing files. It may accidentally protect you from data loss, but that's not what it's for. RAID keeps you productive; backups save your data.

Major data loss is often a killing blow for a small company, but a day or two of lost productivity is rarely fatal. If your budget won't cover both, do backups FIRST.
posted by Malor at 5:44 PM on March 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


If we're going to plug products I'll plug Mozy. Internet-based backup, recovery via fedex'ed DVDs or download. So simple. Very reliable. Just make sure you have lots of upstream bandwidth for the first upload.
posted by GuyZero at 5:45 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


But having said that I gotta improve the backup procedures chez Zero.
posted by GuyZero at 5:47 PM on March 15, 2010


Time Machine works over network, and for multiple machines, AFAIK.

...with an OSX Server license.
posted by pompomtom at 5:48 PM on March 15, 2010


This takes nothing away from Gruber's article and his point about backing up is still completely valid, but....DiskWarrior isn't technically a file recovery tool.

That's my mistake and not Gruber's. I'm no expert on these things, and part of why I liked the article is that it is all about software that (I thought :P) I could understand. Thanks for clarifying things!
posted by The Devil Tesla at 5:52 PM on March 15, 2010


...with an OSX Server license.

Both Mac OS X client and server are supported by Time Machine.
posted by Mikey-San at 5:57 PM on March 15, 2010


Why would I need to do any this if I'm using Time Machine? (Sincere question.)
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:58 PM on March 15, 2010


(Mac OS X client has a lower concurrent AFP connection limit, of course.)
posted by Mikey-San at 5:58 PM on March 15, 2010


Mozy, time machine, if I had to pick one back up solution it would be superduper no question. It's saved me many times. And shirt pocket gives great support.
posted by justgary at 6:02 PM on March 15, 2010


Why would I need to do any this if I'm using Time Machine?

What about your recent work? Depending on how you have your TM set up (default is 1 hour). Also, I think the idea with DiskWarrior is that you may have been backing up files to TM that are corrupted and DW will let you fix those (perhaps).
posted by VikingSword at 6:03 PM on March 15, 2010


Why would I need to do any this if I'm using Time Machine? (Sincere question.)


Hard drives fail. And double failure can happen too. So having time machine is great, but keep tabs on what time machine is saving to.

One other note, Gruber discusses not saving his Yojimbo database to his dropbox, because the service doesn't work well with flat files constantly changing. There's a lovely cloud based Yojimbo alike called Evernote, with clients for Macs, and PCs, and iPhones, and Android phones, and Blackberries, as well as a web client.
posted by zabuni at 6:07 PM on March 15, 2010


Save your data, buy a cheap hard drive!

Did I skim this correctly?
posted by sfts2 at 6:11 PM on March 15, 2010


Why would I need to do any this if I'm using Time Machine? (Sincere question.)

Once, in a 8 disk RAID10, I had 3 disks fail simultaneously. Thank god the third was the right disk group and we had hot spares, but god dammit. God dammit.

Spinning disks are not backup.
posted by tracert at 6:22 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've been using Dropbox for nightly backups of my working files too--it's great. Plus I can access all my files using the Dropbox iPhone app, which also works great.

Yay!
posted by mullacc at 6:38 PM on March 15, 2010


> ...with an OSX Server license.

Nope. I have a Time Capsule backing up three different Macs. Ultimately, it's just a hard drive on a network, as far as the Macs are concerned. Time Machine is managed by the end user. If you're talking about remotely administering desktops/laptops through a central server, that's a different matter.

As an anecdote, I recently had somewhere close to a terabyte of data stored on a Drobo when the filesystem went kablooie. The RAID controllers and disk hardware were fine, but the files had gone missing.

Disk Warrior was able to report the filetree as it existed on the RAID before the kablooie, but couldn't do anything about it. Data Rescue II was able to restore everything but a handful of files. I consider Disk Warrior essential for being proactive against the potential for filesystem kablooies, and the failure here might be ascribable to my not having used it for a while.

The recovery process is very, very slow. For that much data, it took days, and I had a quote in hand from a data recovery firm just in case (it was in the four digit range). It was a very tense week.
posted by ardgedee at 6:39 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


...I made a copy with SuperDuper, and I have TM running 24/7, so why exactly would I need DiskWarrior?

Am I doing it wrong? If you make a copy on SuperDuper, do you need to use Time Machine as well? Or is it just a matter of multiple redundancy? I've been using SuperDuper for at least a year now because TM was giving me so weirdness (like it couldn't find my external drive for one). What say you all, should I use both?
posted by zardoz at 6:48 PM on March 15, 2010


I heart Dropbox.
posted by desjardins at 6:54 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone have any guesses as to when hard drives will be a thing of the past, having moved onto more stable (I assume) SSD's?
posted by sourwookie at 6:57 PM on March 15, 2010


If you make a copy on SuperDuper, do you need to use Time Machine as well?

That depends on how you set up SuperDuper. If you do regularly scheduled backups of files, then SD is to some extent duplicating TM functions. But the reason to use SD is to make a bootable copy of your drive (which the TM can't), and use TM for file backup - different animal. So for all practical purposes, I'd say use both.
posted by VikingSword at 7:00 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


While I appreciate the thought that Gruber has put into his plan, I prefer the one page summary that JWZ published years ago. If you use Windows, don't click.
posted by lowlife at 7:04 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Am I an old timey luddite goober if I don't like the idea of Dropbox? My files randomly strewn across the tubes?
posted by cavalier at 7:06 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stepping in to endorse Carbonite. Some things are true even if Rush Limbaugh says them. It took a few months (!) to upload everything, but now that it's there, all I have to worry about is my program and system files.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:08 PM on March 15, 2010


What, here we are arguing about backup tech, and no one mentions Crashplan?

DropBox like java based synchronization engine, you can backup to another mac for free, or your own external backups. If you pay to have it hosted on their cloud system, you can also have it backed to a local disk (like time machine) and backup to the cloud. Laptop dies in the field, you recover files from the cloud web interface (lets you download specific files as .zip), dies when you are home, recover from the drive.

Time Machine is really inefficient on how it backs up your machine, it requires an AFP (or smb mount) for it to then mount a disk image, which it is then doing file system hard links. It is good backup for a machine you always remember to plug into the drive, but if you travel a lot, what good is a backup that requires you to plug in another drive? You can't easily do a network backup over the internet to your time capsule (or I wouldn't recommend it, AFP does do internet sharing well).

My current future hardware project is to play with one of these QNAP raid boxes, which actually run an embedded linux box you can install the crashplan agent onto. Then you can configure your mac or pc machines to backup to that.

Crashplan does have limitations, you can't do multiple selection sets (ie, sync and backup my .html, .sh, .py and .doc files every 15 minutes, and back those up first before backing up my .jpgs and raw files, etc), and I would kill to be able to have it do % based traffic shaping when not on the local network as my backup destination (currently it is just a hard cap). But it backs up everything, and it tells you when it isn't working.

And it's free for personal stuff, $60 if you want more than once a day backups, and better compression options.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:13 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


cavalier: "Am I an old timey luddite goober if I don't like the idea of Dropbox? My files randomly strewn across the tubes?"

It's not like I put my diary or my financial statements up there, just in case.
posted by desjardins at 7:13 PM on March 15, 2010


Personally, I periodically make a bootable backup of my harddrive on an external drive using the free version of SuperDuper (which takes a while), then use arRsync to keep the user folder on the backup drive up-to-date (which only takes a minute).
posted by jabah at 7:19 PM on March 15, 2010


Haven't tried it yet, but duplicity looks like a nifty way to use not-necessarily-trusted storage without risk, 'cause everything's encrypted.
posted by Zed at 7:28 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I use both SuperDuper and Time Machine to create redundant backups (in case one program fails to properly back up), but I plan to add another backup drive to add another layer of redundancy.
posted by bwg at 7:40 PM on March 15, 2010


Once, in a 8 disk RAID10, I had 3 disks fail simultaneously.

How did this happen? For three disks to fail simultaneously, doesn't something have to be wrong with the environment?

(Maybe I'm too attached to my dream of a mirrored raid NAS to admit the inherent problems.)
posted by weston at 7:53 PM on March 15, 2010


For three disks to fail simultaneously, doesn't something have to be wrong with the environment?

Sometimes it can be the controller that fails, and that way your entire RAID array is up the creek. When people do RAID they sometimes forget that the vulnerability may be upstream from the hard drives themselves... in other words, you drives may be fine, but you can still be hosed.

For all that, I too alas, rely on RAID 1 for my music server needs.

Here's something interesting: unRAID.
posted by VikingSword at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2010


I'll vouch for Acronis on Windows. It's saved five cheeks worth of my ass. When XP elects to go Fucky on my laptop, I just reimage my system partition from a backup.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:04 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Am I an old timey luddite goober if I don't like the idea of Dropbox? My files randomly strewn across the tubes?"

Does dropbox do encryption? If so, that's just as safe as keeping your files at home, if not safer. According to their features, the files are encrypted.

But the real question is where the encryption takes place. If it's on your local machine, then it's good. If the encryption actually takes place on the remote side, it's not that worthwhile, since you'll need to transfer your password to them. That means whenever you actually download files, they could be captured.

According to this:
Dropbox uses encryption for both transmission and storage of data (on the Amazon S3 Servers), but the keys are in the hand of Dropbox.
So, basically worthless. But, you can do your own encryption on top of there, using a truecrypt volume inside their volume or something.

As far as the "RAID's not backup" stuff, not really. But it dues greatly reduce the likelihood of losing data to physical drive failure. If you're stuff is on a single drive, and it dies, you're dead. If it's on RAID you're not.

But you're still at risk to software failures. So if any key files get corrupted, you're hosed. But you can use something like windows built in 'previous versions' feature to get back old files, etc.
posted by delmoi at 8:10 PM on March 15, 2010


Anyone who doesn't love Dropbox has never used Dropbox. I agree with the above comments on security though--I'd love to see a (locally) encrypted option.
posted by null terminated at 8:26 PM on March 15, 2010


All I know is that when my laptop was stolen I was really happy to have a time machine backup to a USB drive. One Snow Leopard install DVD and my HD (along with a new Mac, grrrrrr) and I was back in business.

It was a relief beyond words.

So, do I need additional B/U? I sure hope not...
posted by cccorlew at 8:27 PM on March 15, 2010


I think the most important thing anyone can get from this thread or the linked article, above and beyond recommendations for individual software packages or methodologies or whatever, is this concept:

Back up your stuff. Seriously: Make. Fucking. Backups. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE.

I swear if one more person I know comes to me saying "hey you're good with computers, my windows is all virused up and I need to get all my documents and pictures and things off it can u help plz?" I'm going to lose it.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 8:31 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


[apologies for profanity]
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 8:34 PM on March 15, 2010


People really ought to be using RAID, especially given how cheap hard drives are now. A 1TB drive is $67 Today.

RAID is really an accessibly technology not a backup technology, its meant to allow you to keep accessing your data during a partial hardware failure, if you have a total failure without a backup, the data is still lost.

Not to mention that for the uninitiated, RAID is wholly a black art.
posted by MrLint at 8:44 PM on March 15, 2010


A godsend on Windows-based systems is GetDataBack. It can recover almost any crashed or corrupted file system, and has saved my ass a couple of times already. The only downside is that it's a bit expensive.

There are of course free solutions - PC Inspector File Recovery, and there's also a open source tool called PhotoRec.
posted by ymgve at 8:44 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Am I an old timey luddite goober if I don't like the idea of Dropbox? My files randomly strewn across the tubes?"

Truecrypt your info with a decent key. We keep scans of most of our important documents in a few truecrypt volumes. Dropbox syncs the truecrypt volumes across three separate computers in different physical locations. Without the keys, Dropbox just sees several large containers of (near) random bits. Meanwhile, my records are visible to me and synched in multiple locations.

Even if dropbox goes dead in the next 5 minutes, it doesn't matter. I still have copies of my data on all three computers.
posted by bonehead at 8:48 PM on March 15, 2010


I've used Disk Warrior numerous times to save my own and other's people's data. I heart Disk Warrior. Super Duper, on the other hand, just never seems to run right for me. Perhaps never is too strong a word. I usually will run more than one backup at a time. The only program that seems to hose my OS with regularity is SuperDuper. And, it tends to go down or fail pretty regularly during backups. So, no more SuperDuper. Carbon Copy Cloner has been a champ in contrast. I know many people have great success with SuperDuper, but that's not my experience.
posted by diode at 8:52 PM on March 15, 2010


SuperDuper is fine - I have used it extensively. However, I must say, OS X made a major step forward with Time Machine. At this point, I see less of a need for DiskWarrior. I mean, I made a copy with SuperDuper, and I have TM running 24/7, so why exactly would I need DiskWarrior? I'd rather get a new hard drive.

All of these pieces have different purposes:

SuperDuper is useful for making a bootable backup copy of your system, not everyone needs that or is really savvy enough to make good use of it.

TM is not only for backup, but for system restore, you don't boot to your TM volume. It allows a restore to the last state from the backup, and allows you to retrieve files out of the incremental backup.

DiskWarrior is a separate animal altogether, its purpose is to repair the file system on a drive, it has historically done so better than the OS tools themselves. I'd like to present an anecdote here for illustration. PM G5, kernel panic shortly after startup. All the hardware tested fine. Ran Disk warrior on the drive and the issue was resolved. The drive had major issues in the Volume information and the Volume bitmap. Likely there was an issue with the filesystem where OS X was caching something, perhaps misreading the kernel extension cache, or the system swap. It was resolved in about half an hour. Doing a full restore of a whole system back up be it SD or TM is no short chore. Doing a restore of your whole system is not a viable method to shake out a transient gremlin.
posted by MrLint at 8:55 PM on March 15, 2010


Er;
Is there anything that can take my hard drive, shake it, and give me back my files?

During upgrayyed from Windows7 Official Beta User, to Windows 7 expensive edition, windows decided that it was foolish for me to use Kubuntu, so it wrote itself to that partition. (Maybe without asking, but mostly while being coy about what was about to really go down...)

I have tried r-studio, and several of the other "free" hard drive restore programs... they have given me thousands of files from sectors of my drive which were formatted years ago under various windows installs, but all of these programs seem to miss this most recently formatted, and over-written (by that fresh install of the new Win7) partition (which used to hold the Ubuntu install, and the files that I wanted/need.) Is there a special tool to access a formatted and gone linux partition?
(Insult to injury; windows now blinks off and on randomly, due to it being an "out of date" trial... this makes the 45 minute long "checking hard drive" sessions kind of frustrating, when it may or may not shut down of its own accord mid session.)

Thanks for that Microsoft, I feel really glad that I promoted your product, and convinced relatives to go with your new "way better than vista" OS... or should I take this question to the green room? This seems like a concentration of smart, hard drive back-up/recovery knowledgeable people here already...Let me be one of millions of reminders about why you should do what the FPP tells you. I will go crawl into a hole for doing things without backing up that partition soon... I just knew .0000005 of a second after starting that I was done like dinner, and beyond foolish for not doing a complete backup... which I am usually very particular about doing.
Raid... that kills bugs right?
posted by infinite intimation at 8:58 PM on March 15, 2010


...Knowing full well that I just outed myself as one of those people who despite knowing better, sometimes forget simple basic concepts like Backup Everything Always First.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:12 PM on March 15, 2010


Anybody who wants to start using Dropbox, MeMail me your e-mail for an invite. We'll both get an extra 250 MB out of it.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:18 PM on March 15, 2010


I just assume that every hard drive I have is likely to die a death that is unrecoverable, and so my backup strategies take that into account.

Specifically: RAID 0 so that if one drives bites it between backups, the other is still alive, and a weekly backup onto an external drive that I bring home on a weekday night, back up to, and then bring back to work (so offsite) the next day.

The odds that two of those three drives will die at the same time? Kind of high, given that someone could break into my house and steal the RAID 0 machine, or a fire could burn things down. Since the offsite external is only onsite when I'm onsite, I should be good to go, although if I'm really feeling risk-averse (and I kind of am as I write this) I should cycle between two external drives, on (say) tuesdays and thursdays.

What's worth all this trouble? Pictures and videos of my kids from birth to present day. I think I'll go get that second external hard drive tomorrow.
posted by davejay at 10:19 PM on March 15, 2010


I'm surprised Microsoft has not made net backup an out of the box standard feature on Windows. Using a Microsoft product of course. Seems like a space they could totally dominate easily enough, Google is trying to.
posted by stbalbach at 10:34 PM on March 15, 2010


Microsoft's backup strategy seems to be Windows Home Server, and that only backs up once a day (if your computer is on during the time window).

That said, Dropbox is nice. TM is better, TM would be the best if there was a way to snapshot those backups to the cloud. And if time capsules didn't fail regularly.
posted by SirOmega at 10:59 PM on March 15, 2010


How did this happen? For three disks to fail simultaneously, doesn't something have to be wrong with the environment?

(Maybe I'm too attached to my dream of a mirrored raid NAS to admit the inherent problems.)


Yes, very wrong. For various reasons that still give me panic stress to think about, the location where that particular array was got very hot, very fast, and then bad things started happening. There's nothing wrong with NAS as long as you back up that data somewhere else, too. At work I (now, the above having happened a while ago) run my production environments from highly available dual controller arrays, which back up to much cheaper off site storage, which is then archived to a tape vault. This way you can have the uptime you want, but still maintain that security blanket for a kind of reasonable cost.

I'm surprised Microsoft has not made net backup an out of the box standard feature on Windows. Using a Microsoft product of course. Seems like a space they could totally dominate easily enough, Google is trying to.


Microsoft rolls slowly and predictably. I bet they'll wait till cloud storage starts getting really mainstream, then buy a small player for their storage front end. One day it's going to be "oh, Microsoft bought Jungle Disk... neat", then 8 months later "Microsoft launches Windows Live Drive 2012 Elite Ultimate Edition". It'll integrate heavily with Windows, Xbox, Zune, WinMobile, Sharepoint (for collaboration), WinServer (Windows System Center Live Drive 2012 Business Edition R2 SP1!) and wherever else they can jam a client into. Prices for access licenses and data transfer will be outrageous, but businesses and consumers everywhere will pay through the nose because it's everywhere. The CEO of EMC will grimace, let out a sigh, and then after a while Mozy will cease to exist and MS will own 70% of the market. This is the way of the behemoth.
posted by tracert at 12:19 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seconding Mozy....

I used one of their competitors, Backblaze, which seemed to offer identical service until Real Life showed me the error of my ways.

I had a crash, bought a new laptop, transferred over all files, and emailed BB to ask how I could avoid the weeks-long "new data" backup period. That is, since my data wasn't new, I wanted to make sure the software knew this, and didn't try to redundantly upload already-backed-up files.

4 working days later, they responded... but by that time, I'd given up hope, and struck out on my own... inadvertently setting up a situation whereby (as they explained) their system would assure me my files were backed up, but in fact nothing was being saved.

Four freaking days to respond to a customer request for info.

Mozy promised me that they would always respond with 12 hours, 24/7. They use an Indian call center service for answers, but it's still better than no answers for four freaking days when I'm down!
posted by IAmBroom at 12:22 AM on March 16, 2010


After I had a hard drive fail on me I started backing up all my files with Cobian Backup (freeware, Windows). It's perfect for what I use it for (full & incremental backups of specific directories to an external hard drive, quick backups of individual files to flash drives). I highly recommend it, though I don't know how it compares to something like Macrium Reflect Free.
posted by millions at 12:46 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Am I doing it wrong? If you make a copy on SuperDuper, do you need to use Time Machine as well? ... What say you all, should I use both?

I use SuperDuper! because if something goes bad, I've got a bootable backup and I'm just a restart away from getting right back to work. I think if I relied on Time Machine, and for some reason my Mac crashed or wouldn't boot off my internal drive, I would have to boot off of my OSX install DVD, totally re-install the OS (or hope that Disk Utility could fix the problem), then use Time Machine to copy back all of the various backed-up documents and such.

Also, having never used Time Machine myself, I'm not sure how a re-install would affect that external Time Machine backup—I assume that the program's smart enough so you can just link those backed up files to your freshly installed system...?

Superduper! is a steal at $28.
posted by blueberry at 2:25 AM on March 16, 2010


I saw this post and was going to burn an AskMe to find out what the Windows equivalents were. Although looking at my stuff now, I'm not sure any of it is worth saving. Some photos maybe? The rest is the data equivalent of knick-knacks...
posted by harriet vane at 3:52 AM on March 16, 2010


On the Windows side, I use Second Copy to backup our server every night and every 15 minutes on production days. It keeps revisions of changed files.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:14 AM on March 16, 2010


If your budget won't cover both, do backups FIRST.

If your budget won't cover both, you're already in trouble -- esp. if timeliness is critical to you getting paid.

There is no reason for a company to not have mirrored drives *and* regular backups, with data rotated off site, except for, well, stupidity. The cost simply isn't that high anymore -- you can have regular rotated offsite backups for under $1K, and if $1K is going to make your business fail, you've already lost.

It's hard for backups are to protect against all cases. But the most common failure at home are (in order)

1) You deleted it/The OS ate it.
2) The disk, she dies.
3) The computer, she burns.

RAID protects against #2. Time Machine and other versioning backup system protect against #1. The disk in the safe deposit box/office/car/friends house covers #3. You should not trust your friend, encrypt that disk. :-)

Aside: Time machine (and other versioning backup system) users: That disk you are using? It gets beat up. Replace it about once a year.
posted by eriko at 6:11 AM on March 16, 2010


but what if you have you know 500-600 Gb of Data you need to backup?
posted by mary8nne at 6:45 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Despite backup being such a simple problem, as the wealth of single experience offered in the above comments shows, the answer is anything but.

So, apart from jwz's snarky-but-true summary for somewhat advanced Mac users mentioned above, and Gruber's rather involved anecdote linked up top, is there a concise summary anywhere for Mac simpletons, what's a good set-up (soft- and hardware) to be safeguarded against the typical risks?
posted by progosk at 6:46 AM on March 16, 2010


A stupid question about DropBox here. Gruber mentioned issues with Yojimbo. How well does DropBox work with other macintosh "files" that are really collections of resources in a folder? Scrivener and Mellel come to mind as examples.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:20 AM on March 16, 2010


Diskwarrior has saved my ass so many times. I can't recommend it highly enough.

I back up regularly, but I'm never sure I have everything and data does just go away sometimes. My husband purged a wiki from our local web server (local = Mac mini sitting on desk) and there's some stuff we thought was backed up and was just gone. There's an article in today's NY Times about curating Salman Rushdie's digital archive and the difficulties preservation presents. So much of it is stuff we just don't think about, even if we're good at backing up.
posted by immlass at 7:57 AM on March 16, 2010


Time Machine doesn't work on an NAS, at least the last time I tried. I got one just for that purpose and was disappointed. Haven't tried since Snow Leper, though.

Time Machine is NOT a full backup system! If you accidentally delete something today, in a few days, a week or a month it'll be gone from your backups forever. Keep archival backups!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:10 AM on March 16, 2010


500-600 Gb of Data to back up

You can get a naked 750 gig drive for about $75 and a hard drive docking station for about half that. Heck, you can get an enclosure for about $15 and put each drive into one.

Get three naked drives and the docking station and you're golden. Be sure to take one of the three drives off-site and cycle which one you use.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:15 AM on March 16, 2010


So here's a question. Is there anything that can be done when a drive starts doing the "click of death" and will no longer mount? I had two external drives die on me in the past six months and haven't been able to recover anything. I bought one of these direct USB drive adapters hoping that it was only a power supply issue on the external housing, but no luck.

I haven't tried DiskWarrior with either of them.
posted by misterpatrick at 9:21 AM on March 16, 2010


misterpatrick:

Two in six months is too many. You should be wondering if something else is causing this. Are you careful to eject the disk in your operating system before unplugging the USB connection? Could the USB connection on the back of your machine be mechanically wobbly and thus causing issues while writing to the disk?

There are many possible causes for the click of death. It might be physical damage to the disk, it might simply be garbled data written into the directory structure.

DiskWarrior might certainly recover it if it's damaged metadata. There are disk recovery places that are expensive that might be able to fix this if it's hardware.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:34 AM on March 16, 2010


There's a lovely cloud based Yojimbo alike called Evernote, with clients for Macs, and PCs, and iPhones, and Android phones, and Blackberries, as well as a web client.

Gruber's aware of evernote but would rather use yojimbo. I would also. Evernote is great for syncing and keeping everything in the cloud. I wouldn't call it lovely, however, especially compared to yojimbo. If yojimbo synced to the cloud, now that would be lovely.
posted by justgary at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2010


...and if you think it's hardware, there's always the famous "freezer trick" - remove the drive, put it inside three plastic bags so it's totally airtight, put it in the freezer for 24 hours and then let it thaw for at least six hours and the disk is completely room-temperature.

This works because if there's a problem with the drive bearings, this procedure sometimes unseizes them - and it can't hurt as long as you don't let moisture get into the case.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:38 AM on March 16, 2010


A stupid question about DropBox here. Gruber mentioned issues with Yojimbo.

Dropbox can screw up yojimbo because its a database. Files in a folder are no problem.
posted by justgary at 9:38 AM on March 16, 2010


SuperDuper is useful for making a bootable backup copy of your system, not everyone needs that or is really savvy enough to make good use of it.

I disagree. Superduper is dead simple to use, and if I had to use only one I'd choose it over time machine, especially with a laptop.
posted by justgary at 9:42 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dropbox can screw up yojimbo because its a database. Files in a folder are no problem.

Well, apparently OS X bundles are a known problem leading to recommendations to use Dropbox as a backup but not necessarily as a synchronization option.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:46 AM on March 16, 2010


Anyone have recommendations for NAS storage solutions?

I finally sucked it up and got one of these when they were on sale for $135 and picked up some WD RAID-class drives. So far I have been nothing but happy with it. Simple to set up and use, has 4 SATA drive bays, eSata and external storage options. I plugged in an external USB HDD and it was recognized and shared immediately. Works well with windows and linux. Runs embedded linux customized by EMC. You can also run FreeNAS on it if you'd like. Tom's Hardware reviewed it and it performed quite well. I can verify 23MB/s on a gigabit network. If I possibly have a complaint, it's that it autoconfigures too much, but does an admirably good job with that, so that's more along the lines of taste.

I ran RAID0 back in the days of the IBM DeskDeathStars. I lost my array 3 separate times, each time with one drive failure, each time I recovered the drive and set it up again, only to have it fail. Finally, the controller died. I still have the drives as I'm laboring under the assumption I will one day be able to reconstruct the array using disk forensics software, but really, if I've gone this long, I don't know that it's worth it. RAID-1 has the benefit of being more easily recovered even if the controller dies.

I'm happy with the new setup, NAS with enterprise class drives should be reasonably secure and it's easy to use. I like that there's dedicated hardware for it as well. However, though this may be akin to the Halliburton Zero of baskets, I still try to diversify my ESS (egg storage solutions).
posted by nTeleKy at 9:52 AM on March 16, 2010


Don't spend money. For Windows I recommend Microsoft's freebie called SyncToy. It's simple to set up, fast, and reliable. (Perhaps it came from the Microsoft in a parallel universe.)

I have it configured to run automatically twice a day, mirroring my documents, photos, videos, music, and email folders to a second internal drive. I don't care about archival backups (I would never need to see what document X looked like on date Y) so this works for me. BTW, I suspect I'm not alone in this, and that for many people traditional incremental backup programs that proliferate new files are just too confusing.

The initial run took a loooong time because of the enormity of those folders. But after that it's just adding/deleting/overwriting, so it goes fast. I also have it set up to sync with a third disc, an external one that I keep in my office and bring home once a week or so. Beauty of that is I don't have to remember or check what I copied the last time I brought it home, I just plug it in, run SyncToy, and I'm done.

Also, I'll second Macrium Reflect Free, which I use to make a bootable disc image every month or so.
posted by dust of the stars at 10:12 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am kind of paranoid, but my backup strategy got very serious after I nearly lost all my data once (failed hard disk). So I have:

1. automatic hourly snapshots of my whole mac with TimeCapsule - this insures me against stupid mistakes, viruses, and bad software behavior
2. backup with Jungledisk (jungledisk.com) to amazon S3 of my most critical files (mainly photos) - this insures me against theft / fire
3. backup of whole mac onto USB hard disk once a month, stored in my desk at work - this insures me against catastrophic loss but the data will be up to one month old

But again, I am paranoid.
posted by spherical_perceptions at 12:00 PM on March 16, 2010


This is a timely post - I am using testdisk right now to recover about 20GB of photos from a borked HDD. Thank you!
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 12:03 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


What are your options for physical failures? I had the catastrophic failure... Laptop stolen, and when transporting my external backup, dropped it on the tile floor. Awesome.

The light is always red, keeps winding up, then stopping (like it's looking for where to start) then stops spinning entirely after about 30 seconds. Never recognized on other computers, or when pluggled in outside of the USB.

God I don't want to fork over $2k or more to those donor drive companies.. especially when only around 50gb is really important.

THOUGHTS??
posted by namewithhe1d at 1:29 PM on March 16, 2010


Man, anyone remember the time when the light could be red, the drive could wind up and stop, and you could entirely fix the problem (until the next time it was powered-down) by spinning it up by hand?

I had a drive with a head alignment problem. I could solve by tweaking the head position using a screwdriver. The head drive motor was located outside the casing!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:39 PM on March 16, 2010


For power users, this is great information.

For casual users, I would say: "Get a Mac, use Time Machine, and make sure to send all your absolutely critical files to yourself via GMail."
posted by sindark at 2:10 PM on March 16, 2010


Has anyone heard of Unison (http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~bcpierce/unison/) or had any experience with it?
posted by digibri at 4:26 PM on March 16, 2010


Dropbox has a new beta that supports bundles and resource forks. I've been using it for a couple of weeks and haven't noticed any problems.
posted by the biscuit man at 4:38 PM on March 16, 2010


If you want to do folder based copies on a Mac, I've had good luck with SilverKeeper. SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner aren't really geared for that kind of work.
posted by the biscuit man at 4:42 PM on March 16, 2010


@delmoi
"People really ought to be using RAID, especially given how cheap hard drives are now. A 1TB drive is $67 Today."

People should backup their shit. RAID solves the problem of a failed hard drive. It does not solve other problems (software errors, virus, user errors etc.)
Write it 100 times: RAID is not a backup strategy!
posted by yoyo_nyc at 9:11 PM on March 16, 2010


Strongly agree with required backup. Have some friends using the online services. Would rather have local. New Toshiba laptop pitches a service "Toshiba Online Backup".

As I write this, I realize, I have yet to backup 3 weeks of work on new laptop. Luckily 95% is site work and is online already.
posted by boblaw at 9:31 AM on March 17, 2010


OMG, I just installed DropBox. How did I manage to survive so long without this incredibly awesome program?
posted by math at 3:10 PM on March 17, 2010


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