Oh No! My Hard Drive Crashed.

If you have been reading this newsletter for a while, you probably know that I often publish articles advising people to make frequent backups of all important data in their computers. Yesterday, I had an “opportunity” to try my own advice.

Yesterday morning, I turned on my trusty iMac to check email messages, check the EOGN web sites, and then to create the weekly Plus Edition email message that I send to all Plus Edition subscribers. There was one problem: Once powered on, the boot process started as normal and then, about a minute later, displayed an on-screen message saying that it was unable to find the iMac’s hard drive.

Oh no!

To make a long story short, after troubleshooting for a while, it seems the iMac’s internal 2-terabyte hard drive was dead. Kaput.

I made arrangements to return the iMac to the local Apple store for troubleshooting and I assume it will require a replacement hard drive. That probably will require several days to wait in the queue for the repair technician’s time, to find a replacement hard drive (I suspect Apple keeps spare hard drives in stock), and to make the repair. The problem is that I don’t have several days available for waiting. I have work to do.

Even worse, my “backup” MacBook laptop has been “loaned out” and is presently about 1,200 miles from where I live.

Most of the software I use for the newsletter is cloud-based and can be accessed from any computer, even from a tablet computer, by logging online and going to the applications in the cloud. I have been trying to convert to all cloud-based applications but there are two functions I need that I have never found in a cloud application. Those two functions require software installed in my local computer.

OK, you can guess the rest of the story.

In short, I carried my broken iMac to over to the local Apple store, gave it to the Apple Genius there and, while in the store, I purchased a new Mac Mini and took it home. I have a planned future use for the Mac Mini anyway so I plan to use it only until the big iMac system gets repaired and returned. Once the iMac is back in business, I will reformat the Mac Mini’s hard drive and convert that system into a file server.

Next, I have AT LEAST TWO copies of every file that is important to me. One copy resides in a plug-in USB hard disk that sits right beside the iMac. The second copy resides in a file storage service in the cloud.

A Seagate Backup Plus external hard drive, similar to the one I was using when the internal drive failed.

I unpacked the new Mac Mini, powered it on, went through the normal set-up procedure, and then plugged in the USB hard drive that previously was connected to the iMac. I then used Time Machine (a backup program that makes backup copies of all new and newly-modified files every few minutes and is included with every Macintosh system). I then told Time Machine to restore all my programs and data files that had been stored on the external drive to the new Mac Mini.

The restore process required a bit more than an hour to complete but the new Mac Mini now contains an exact image of all the files that I had been using the day-before-yesterday on the iMac, just a minute or two before I powered it off for the night.

By this time, it was late in the evening so I went to bed. Today, I am catching up on all the tasks I had planned to accomplish yesterday.

Question: If your hard drive crashes right now, how long will it take you to recover everything you need?

Yes, it could happen to you!

To see all my (many) previous articles about the need for making frequent backups, start at: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+backups.

12 Comments

If you have a bootable clone (not just a Time Machine backup) on an external hard drive, you can boot from it and service your internal drive for software issues. Use SuperDuper in free mode to create this clone.

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It’s good to know someone heeds their own advice. Glad you’re back

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I have a question for either Dick or any other readers. Can I back up multiple devices onto one external hard drive? Or must I use a separate backup device for each primary device?

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    Either way. You can back up one computer or multiple computers to a single external disk drive but there are two things to keep in mind:

    1. Make sure the backup software you use is capable of making 2 or more backups to a single, shared drive. Most backup software will do that but you might find an occasional exception.

    2. Of course, make sure the external hard drive has enough space to to hold the backups from 2 or more computers!

    Liked by 1 person

My second internal Hard Disk Drive (HDD) died on my aging MacBook Pro a few months ago(the original drive replaced years ago). On the advice of my son, a Mac guru, I bought a Solid State Drive (SSD) internal replacement drive kit and installed it without much difficulty. It doesn’t take much Googling to learn that Hard Disk Drives, because of the mechanics involved, have a finite lifetime, usually somewhere between three and five years average, and now with SSD prices rapidly dropping it makes sense to replace that old internal HDD with a SSD now before it’s too late. And if in the market for a new machine, just require a spec that says it uses SSD for internal storage. Oh yes, if you remove an old, but still working internal HDD, buy a enclosure kit for it and use it externally, perhaps as a Time Machine backup drive.

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Kaput– like that word. when used for other “stuff”- not computers. Seriously, how does one know what amount of storage on a back up drive, one needs? I’m on a windows stand alone & also have a rarely used windows laptop. Also what type/kind of software is needed? Thanks- you are always up to date & so helpful.

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    —> Seriously, how does one know what amount of storage on a back up drive, one needs?
    The most common scenario is to back up one computer to one external USB drive. If that applies to you, the general “rule of thumb” is that the external drive should have AT LEAST twice the storage capacity of the drive(s) being backed up. That storage space allows for storing all of today’s data plus many previous revisions in case you need to revert to an older version of a particular file or folder.
    I still wouldn’t call that solution “cheap” but it is a lot more REASONABLE than it was a very few years ago.
    For many of us, those prices are a lot cheaper than trying to manually recover years of important files!
    A very few years ago, that was an expensive solution. Luckily, the prices of hard drives have dropped dramatically in the past few years.

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OK, maybe some overkill here, but I have an small upright external hard drive that backs up all new files every Friday morning. (Nice to see the blue light flashing when it finds things to back up).
I also send important new files to the Cloud and then download them to my laptop, which I use when traveling. When traveling, I do the reverse, sending files to the Cloud and downloading them to my desktop when I get home.
Finally, I have two small external drives and I back up my files every three months and put one in the bank lockbox and then rotate the other three months later.
Every few years, I buy a new external hard drive and set it to backup Friday mornings. I just keep the old external hard drives in a box of computer stuff, so if I wanted, I could look at all the files I had way back when.

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Been researching my genealogy for over 40 years- LOTS of stuff on my iMac (which I use solely for my research-the ‘real estate’ of the screen is very nice – everything else is on a laptop). So, the iMac- is backed up to two cloud services (Backblaze & eDrive), a Time Machine external drive & a clone on an external drive using SuperDuper. Am I paranoid, you betcha. I would be massively heartbroken, given the scope of what I have on the iMac, were it to crash. Interestingly, I’ve owned various Apples/Macs since 1984 and have kept them for 4-8 years – never have I had a hard drive crash…. and never do I want to experience one. So, all that backing up- kind of like carrying an umbrella (it hardly ever rains when I do have one with me).

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Dick,
What “Time Machine” like product is available for a non Apple computer?

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    —> What “Time Machine” like product is available for a non Apple computer?

    There are dozens of backup programs available for Windows. I haven’t used all of them so I cannot say which one is “the best.” However, I will say that one Windows backup program I have used in the past did impress me: Cloudberry Backup at: https://www.msp360.com/backup/windows.aspx

    Unlike Time Machine for the Macintosh, Cloudberry Backup for Windows isn’t free. It costs $49.99 US. You can download a 15-day fully functional free trial, however, to try it out.

    Cloudberry Backup is a full-featured backup program that makes incremental backups of all new and/or modified files every few minutes. It saves the backups to the cloud storage of your choice (Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier, BackBlaze B2, Wasabi, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and other cloud-based storage services).

    You can find lists of many more Windows backup programs by starting at https://duckduckgo.com/?q=windows+backup+programs but be aware that some of those “lists” are thinly-disguised advertisements written by the companies that produced the software or by people hired by those companies to write glowing reviews.

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I have two computers I use specifically for my Genealogy. Both are technically laptops but one of them is quite big with a 17 inch monitor. It is plugged into a docking station along with my two 24 inch monitors, scanner and all the other stuff. My other laptop is 13 inch 2in1and is super fast. Then I have another laptop which I just use for every day stuff.
I bought a large fireproof gun safe for my Genealogy and it stores all my really important original documents and the USB drives etc. When I leave the house, say to go shopping or whatever, I simply unplug both my Genealogy laptops and put them in the gunsafe and lock the door. Takes about 15 seconds. I figure if there is a burglary it will take three muscle bound guys and a crain to get it out of the house along with the floor it’s bolted to.

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