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I cringe whenever I run into people who don't see the need to backup their files, or are content to do it only when they remember. What could possibly go wrong? Drives die. Power blips can scramble your data. Backups can fail. Disaster will strike when you can least afford it. For this reason, you really need multiple backups.

This fact has become very apparent on two occasions in the last month. Now, I don't know if it's a problem with Time Machine, or just a coincidence, but I've had both of my Time Machine drives (iMac & MacBook) become damaged to the point where I had to reformat both drives and start from square one. Not even my trusty old DiskWarrior could fix them. I noticed a problem with the first one when I tried to replace a corrupt file on my main drive by going back a week. No good. Back two weeks.  Nope. Kept getting a message that I didn't have sufficient privileges, but no offer to authenticate. 

Tried to repair the drive with both Disk Utility and DiskWarrior, and both kept hanging. Reformat time, and now all seems to be well. Fortunately, I have another drive that has daily backups of my home directory and documents folder. DéjaVu handles those daily backups, and has never failed me. And, of course, I use SuperDuper! for full, bootable, cloned backups. Multiple backups saved the day.

Last Friday, I discovered that the little Hitachi drive I use for Time Machine with my MacBook had been accidentally disconnected. When I reconnected it, it didn't want to mount on the desktop. Again, repairing it didn't work. After trying everything I could, I gave up and erased it, intending to start a fresh backup. After erasing it, I decided to run diagnostics on it and received damage errors. I had just about decided that the drive was toast, and was even checking warranty info, when I decided to give it one last try with my iMac. I have no idea why, but connected to the iMac, I was able to reformat the little beast, and diagnostics said it was a-ok. I hooked it back up to the MacBook, and all seems to be functioning normally again, although I'm seriously considering using velcro to attach the thing to the MacBook in hopes that the cable will not be knocked out again.

Backup drives are not expensive. Checking dealmac shows new bargains every day. Yesterday they listed a Toshiba 640 GB USB drive for $50. Need more space? They also listed an Iomega Select 2TB USB for $105. FIrewire drives are more expensive, but if you are on a limited budget, go with USB. Just make sure you back up those files. And remember, if one backup is good, two are definitely better. I know from personal experience.

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5 Responses to Multiple Backups!

  1. Mike says:

    I have three backups: Time Machine, Daily backup using C3, and Carbonite for cloud-based backup. I still feel vulnerable.

  2. perkiset says:

    Although I 100% agree with the premise of this article, I can’t help but be taken by an incongruity. You say that backup drives are not expensive (they’re not – in fact, all but one of my clients now use disk based backup instead of tape or any other media) – yet you struggle to get drives working again and, I assume, trust them again.

    Honestly, if a drive EVER fails on me it is NEVER allowed back into a position of trust for any reason. It may be part of a secondary backup RAID (at least 10+HS or 5+HS) or boxed in case I ever need to fight to get something off it or simply tossed. IMO, once a drive has proven that it is no longer reliable it must go.

    As for my personal rig I use an internal 2T for my close-copy time machine and then back that up to a 2T GDrive now and again. Important client applications (like our medical cloud) use RAID 10+HS on machines that are realtime replicated to another twin machine, then all dumped to a huge serial backup device. And really important information is actually snuggled back into clients own sites on devices we plant there to make sure we have an offsite on them. You’re spot on – just can’t have enough copies of the data about, because EVERY system breaks at some point.

  3. Steven Klein says:

    Phyllis writes, “I’m seriously considering using velcro to attach the thing to the MacBook in hopes that the cable will not be knocked out again.”

    Perhaps what you really need is a wireless backup solution. A cable that doesn’t exist can’t get unplugged.

  4. Phyllis Evans says:

    Drive failure and drive errors can be two different things. Both recent problems were due to my own stupidity. I usually dismount all external drives when I do system updates. I’ve been lazy lately, and I’m sure that was the problem with the first drive. As to the second, it was probably mid-backup when it was accidentally disconnected from the laptop. This is why I always run drive diagnostics after a problem. It’s also why I run multiple backups. When in doubt, a drive still under warranty goes back to the factory to be replaced.

    As to a wireless backup, I’ve thought about it, Steve, but this one can travel with me and I don’t need to worry about extra power supplies when I’m running off battery.

  5. Calvin says:

    Well done….. Now I can take off Friday this week!