Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Using Apple's Time Machine to restore a backed-up hard drive to a new one


Written for the MacBook Pro, Time Machine software user interested in replacing a hard drive.

My hard drive was emitting a slow, nasty, scraping noise which had steadily increased in volume over the past few weeks. I (thought I) knew from painful experience of un-backed-up-hard-drive-death that these near-rasping sounds were the last gasps before a drive's death. The sudden freezes, unusual for a Mac, had also been increasing, like my good-to-deadly blood pressure at these times, so it was time to bite the bullet and pay for a new hard-drive and bin the old (or so I thought).

I took my hard drive to repairs.com (no website exists, sorry) in Paarden Eiland, where I knew I could get it serviced in one morning for the best price in Cape Town. Denis restored my OS and files to a new hard drive via Time Machine, as I had wisely brought my freshly backed-up external drive with me. This was used in plan B, which had to be followed as installation off the old hard drive had stalled after an hour. It was long morning: 230GB of information and OSX Snow Leopard took about 5 hours to restore.

On leaving, Denis advised me to run a security update and install the latest software. King Solomon himself could not have said wiser words: I started running Software Update, and it told me that there were two hours remaining until the latest Security Update would be downloaded.

Excited as I was that my OSX was starting and running like Usain Bolt, I decided to check that all the most important applications worked post-restoration: I could open and download email from Mail, which was a good start. However, whenever I clicked to view an email's content, Mail crashed :(! After checking all other applications, I learnt that there were problems with software reliant on web-access; Safari, Dashboard Client, et al. were crashing repeatedly. 

Back in the day, I dealt with online support queries for Virgin Life Care's LifeZone; knowing that too-much-information is infinitely better than too-little when requesting technical support, I copied each error message and saved it using Notes.
Given Apple's dismal record of support for South African clients, I hoped using these notes would not be necessary... Less vexing were two other problems: all shortcuts to my user directory's folders did not work from the Finder sidebar; so, I recreated these. Also, I received questioning emails from two people asking about emails they had just received from me. I had struggled to send these months ago… clearly, a very odd database issue in Mail!

Good new was that once Apple's latest security update had installed, I could run all internet-dependent applications. As a bonus, Denis had advised that although reading my old hard drive had slowed, it could still be used as an external drive once placed in a USB SATA HDD housing shell. I bought one from Universe Direct downstairs and used Apple's Disk Utility to erase the old drive. After two hours, I was very pleased to have an easily portable drive with  loads of memory.

It had taken a day, but I was happy that I now had a speedy hard drive and a portable one at great value-for-money. Thanks to repairs.com, Universe Direct and Apple's Time Machine!

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