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Cabbage is a dish best served cold

I backup the data on my work laptop every week. I’m quite fastidious about it because I’ve been burned by lost data before. So I usually start my backup somewhere around 6-7pm on Friday evening (I use rdiff-backup to a Linux server on my 100Mbps home LAN — yowzers). Then I top it off by rebooting my laptop either later that night or Saturday sometime (OS X is pretty stable, but I find that periodic reboots are still a Good Thing).

This week was no exception to my routine; I backed up everything Friday night. This morning, however, my MacBook Pro failed to reboot. Doh!

A little investigation revealed that the hard drive had somehow become subtly corrupted; event “fsck -fy” in single-user mode wouldn’t fix it. Doh. ☹

I obviously wasn’t afraid of losing any data since I had just backed up everything. But I wasn’t looking forward to the tedium of re-installing everything. Ugh.

Kyle told me about holding down the “T” key during an OS X boot which enables firewire “target” mode, meaning that you can hook up your laptop to another computer (e.g., my iMac) and the disk on the MBP basically appears as a remote disk. Woot! So I copied over all my data and a pile of extra applications that would have been annoying to track down to my iMac (ok, I really got yet another copy of my data over a faster network media, but it still made me feel good). I did try to run Disk Utility on the MBP disk, but it told me the exact same thing as fsck — no love.

So I rebooted the MBP from my Leopard install DVD, took a deep breath, and… erased my entire laptop hard drive. Yow. It was surprisingly scary. Happily, the disk fully zeroed out without any errors, so I guess the disk itself is ok (SMART reports that it’s ok, too).

I’m now re-installing Leopard on the latop and will re-copy all my data back when it finishes. I’ll still need to re-install a bunch of apps, though (e.g., those installed by Darwin ports, all the OS X updates, etc.).

I found a spare 250GB external drive lying around that I wasn’t using; I’ll now be augmenting my weekly rdiff-backup with either for Time Machine or SuperDuper; I haven’t decided which yet. I’m leaning towards SuperDuper because I can still use my rdiff-backup for periodic file loss (which isn’t that common for me; most of my software development work is done on Linux machines remotely) and use SuperDuper for catastrophic disk loss.

Sigh. I thought I had myself covered for backups. But I guess not; this exercise has wasted several hours so far. But if I use SuperDuper, next time (hypothetically) it’ll only take 30-60 minutes to fully restore.


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