Are you backup/restore procedures good enough?

So, my MacBook crashed yesterday. It didn’t really crash, just that it went black after logging in. Although I have a suspect, I won’t name it here because I don’t want to start a flame war or something. The issue is that the partition has became so corrupt that it couldn’t fix it with the Disk Utility. The only option was to do an rsync backup from the single user mode to an external USB drive, which took ages to do. Hint: to enter single user mode hold Cmd + S when powering on your MacBook. Strike one.

I do have a TimeMachine backup at home, but the laptop didn’t stay turned on long enough to backup properly. The last good backup was more than 2 months old. I found myself in a bad situation. The other thing that happened is that my brother’s laptop also stopped working the day before. His issue had something to do with the nVidia drivers on ubuntu. Good to see that nothing has changed since I last used linux and nVidia together 4 years ago. Being stupid as I am, I overwrote the macOS usb with the ubuntu image. All was fine with my MacBook, what could go wrong. Strike two.

Something happened during the restore procedure and managed to mess up the restore partition. The only option was going back to Mavericks that came installed on the MacBook when I bought it. I wasn’t planning on doing that. Strike three.

I managed to back up everything, deleted the system partition, and did a fresh install. After waiting for the macOS installer to download on my wife’s laptop, for at least 2 more hours. A day well spent, no person alive would say. But I did learn a few lessons though.

Have a backup (encrypted if you handle work/client/sensitive) stuff. It’s best to have at least 2 places with backed up data, using two different backing up solutions. TimeMachine and Carbon Copy Cloner work awesome together. You can always count on something going wrong.

Use cloud storage for the “important stuff”. Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, there are endless affordable solutions that all do the same thing.  They keep your valuables safe if a crisis happens. Have these things on your 2 backup locations as well, you can never know…

Have a fresh usb (or cd/dvd) installer of the OS you are currently using. I had this, 30 minutes before my computer crashed, I overwrote it, Murphy’s law in action. You got one over on me mr. Murphy, well played sir.

Having procedures like these won’t prevent situations like the one happened to me yesterday from happening. But they will surely reduce the stress caused by the situation itself. I couldn’t check if the drive was ok before backing it up and deleting partitions. Backup with rsync took 6 hours, maybe even more. If the MacBook was broken, it was at least a 4 to 5 days waiting period to get it serviced. I would be OK with this if it was holiday season, but it isn’t, and I have work to do. I could buy a new one, have it delivered the next day. I could even drive to the store and pick it up myself, but why buy a new one if the old one isn’t broken. What to restore on that machine, I have unreleased stuff that isn’t in the cloud yet? Stress levels were pretty high.

In the ideal case, I’d have a backup from the day/night before and it would take me 10 minutes to decide it’s worth killing the machine and starting fresh. The os installs in 15-20 minutes, I can restore the apps/settings from the backup, or even do a full TimeMachine restore. With an external USB 3.0 drive, it would be quite fast. I could have done some productive work yesterday. Instead I spent the day staring into rsync output, hoping it will finish soon. I like the experience though, because I’ve became sloppy, and this is a fair warning to what could have happened if the SSD decided to stop working. I was lucky that I only lost a day of my life, but I learned a valuable lesson. I hope that you can learn from my mistake.