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Backup

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This is a comment relating to the questions by Drunken Batman on a scary story. It got too long for a comment, so I’ll put it up here. It’s not particularly well-formed, though.

I think the backup problem is a grave one. Data on volumes is increasing and thus the value that’s on there. Even for casual users, with services like iTMS, this can mean quite a lot of money.

As far as I can tell, the situation for backups hasn’t improved - it’s gotten much worse. During my civil service, seven years ago, we had a tape drive and Retrospect. Both of which weren’t cheap but not exorbitantly expensive, either. This worked well. At home, I could easily backup things on a few zip disks, along with a working OS, quite cheaply.

But (home use) backup technology doesn’t seem to have kept up with the increased size of hard drives. With a CD burner, you’ll want to keep your backups limited to a carefully selected fraction of your hard drive, which when done manually, will make reliable updates either painful or impossible. As DVD-Writers become more common, the hard drives have grown again to easily exceed DVD capacity.

In short, we don’t have software that does intelligent (quick, reliable and easily restorable) backups with the computers. At least not for free on the Mac or cheaply available. In addition, since the advent of OSX, we also need to worry about Library and Unix folders which are vital for the system and should be saved as well as they may contain a bit of configuration or two. This really is a problem. On the real Mac OS, making a working copy of your System took a single mouse gesture. On OSX, you’ll need to manually take care of getting all the files which are essential from different places, not destroying the ‘rights’ and setting up everything correctly in the new location. The fact that tools like Carbon Copy Cloner exist sucks. They shouldn’t be needed.

Perhaps, just buying an external drive and keeping a disk image on that in sync with your internal drive is one of the most easily accessible things to do these days to keep your data reasonably safe and yourself reasonably sane?

As for the HFS+ file system: I’ve never had any problems with that and I’ve hardly ever had a drive that’s less than 90% full. I’m not sure that excessive use of tools like DiskWarrior does any good, though. While I’ve heard many good things about the tool, there’s this thing about Norton Disk Doctor that I remember: Back in the mid 1990s my drive was basically dead and the computer stopped working. I asked around, and someone savvy took my drive, put it in his computer, ran the Disk Doctor and things were good again (I did decide that backups are a good thing to have, though).

With this impression I recommended NDD to everyone and people felt good about it… until a friend of mine fixed his lightly broken drive which was essentially wrecked by NDD in that process. This stopped my enthusiasm and I try to avoid such powerful tools since. They can fix a lot, but they also have the power to break things badly. Things may be better with DiskWarrior (IIRC, it offers a Preview feature), but will you really check that preview as thoroughly as you should?

As I said, I haven’t had problems with my HD (other than Apple losing one) for years. And that’s a full HD which is used a lot.

December 16, 2004, 14:34

Tagged as software.

Comments

Comment by d.w.: User icon

Scary indeed. A local computer shop was selling 100 DVD-R’s for $19.99 (!) last Saturday, so I really have no excuse as far as backing everything up…

I did run into the full-disk/corruption bug once, though.

December 16, 2004, 23:14

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