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Meltdown!

Entry 1509, on 2013-03-17 at 11:25:08 (Rating 2, Computers)

Don't be concerned, there hasn't been another nuclear accident in Japan! Actually it's much worse than that... not really. What has happened is that the hard drive in my Mac laptop has failed and it involves a major effort to get things working again. In fact, I am writing this blog entry on my iPad because my Mac is busy reloading files. When you have a million files totalling hundreds of Gigabytes of data, recovery from hardware failure is not going to be quick!

Before anyone thinks "oh those Macs are so unreliable" I should say that it is not the Apple supplied drive which has failed (although they do occasionally). It is a very expensive and very fast solid state drive which I fitted myself which is the problem. This has been working brilliantly for the last few months but has just suddenly died horribly.

Also don't think "he's an IT professional, why doesn't he have a backup" because I do have several backups, but they only store my data files, so I still need to reconstruct the operating system and applications, although I also have most of those on an old disk.

The problem is my laptop is very complex. It has a massive collection of Mac and Unix programs installed which I update every day, plus virtual machines for Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Ubuntu Linux, Mac OS X Server, and Chrome OS. I challenge anyone to come up with a more complete and finely tuned collection of stuff! Oh, and I hardly ever use the Windows systems just in case you were wondering. They are mainly for testing web sites using IE, and other minor tasks like that.

Until recently I used Retrospect to backup my computers at home but I have recently switched to ChronoSync, so this will be a good test of how well that has worked. I find it interesting that many people run backup systems without ever testing a restore. This will be my first "real world" test of ChronoSync.

It has been a day and a half now that my laptop has been unavailable but I have managed to do a lot of what I would usually do on it using my iPhone and iPad. That is another interesting test of technology which I have now been forced into. Of course, I can't practically do programming work on the iPad so that gives me an excuse to take a weekend off!

I am often asked if it's practical to use an iPad as a substitute for a computer. I guess, depending on the specific requirements, in many cases it is. I really can type just as well (or just as badly because my typing has never been great) on the virtual keyboard of an iPad as I do on the real keyboard of the laptop. Plus the iPad is easier to use in different locations even though the 15 inch laptop is also fairly portable itself.

So whether this IT meltdown will take as long to recover from as Chernobyl of Fukushima I still don't know. It is inconvenient, but it is also a learning opportunity. In the future I will run a disk clone overnight every day (or maybe once a week if it turns out to be inconvenient) as well as my existing daily backup.

I was hoping the solid state drive would be more reliable than a conventional hard disk as well as being faster. And I was hoping cloud storage would reduce the need for backups too. But maybe not. Backups are still as important as they ever were.

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Comment 1 (3454) by Rob on 2013-03-17 at 22:23:11:

Well, this will be interesting... As you say, a good test for Chronosync. I must say I'm disappointed in the solid state drive though. After all is said and done, do you wish you had backed an image of the entire computer with Time Machine?

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Comment 2 (3455) by OJB on 2013-03-18 at 07:57:23:

Yes, as I said in the post, I will run a clone every day if possible. Will probably use Carbon Copy Cloner rather than Time Machine.

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Comment 3 (3520) by OJB on 2013-04-25 at 14:44:27:

Turns out the SSD is fine. It was the connection cable which was the problem. The cable was replaced, the drive re-installed, and (almost) all my data was restored within a week and everything is running again OK.

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