Dude, back up your data. Seriously.


Some of you may have realized that I’ve been (hopefully noticeably) absent for a while. That’s due, in part, to me being plain ol’ busy with regards to my disorganized life, but let me tell you a story:

In August of 2006, I bought myself a brand-spankin’-new MacBook. On the 13th, to be precise. (Yes, I still have my original receipt and all of the packaging. I’m weird like that.) I’ve been using the MacBook every. single. day. for these last three years. I’ve certainly put the machine through its paces… I’m a graphic designer by day, so I work with a lot of print-resolution, multi-MB files in some seriously RAM-sucking programs. And, you know, it’s portable, so it’s going to get knocked around. With those factors in mind, I eventually shelled out for the extra two years of AppleCare, bringing me up to three warranty-covered years.

Recently, my MacBook has been showing some signs of age. Physically it’s fine, and the processor speed is still competitive, but the battery has cycled so many times that it’s lost its oomph, and the hard drive is laughably small by today’s standards. My file sizes are such that I can’t go ANYWHERE without an external drive plugged in, and that kinda defeats the purpose of being PORTABLE, right? Alas, my budget isn’t really upgrade-friendly at the moment, and I especially don’t want to deal with the hassle of swapping hard drives.

Are we all caught up now? To August 21st? I’m on the road, looking forward to getting some work done, when I unexpectedly get the Spinning Beach Ball of Doom in ALL of my programs. Force-quitting via the menu options isn’t working. Force-quitting via the keyboard shortcut isn’t working. Finally, I override everything and shut down with the power button. It’s not recommended, no, but I need to get around this hiccup and get to photo editing.

I give it a few minutes. I start back up.

Um, I start back up.

Hello? It’s greeting me with the blinking “?” folder. I know that this means that my System Folder has been un-blessed. De-blessed. Lost its blessing. Whatever. Okay, not a problem, I’ll restart from the system CD and… I don’t have the system CD with me. I haven’t needed it in three years, why would I bring it on the road? Um, okay. Don’t panic. A friend in the Twitterverse kindly suggests that I restart in “Single User Mode,” which should allow me in to reset the Startup Disk.

It won’t start in Single User Mode.

Oh, for fek’s sake. Okay, well, it’s Friday, and I’ll be back home on Monday night, so I’ll just fix it then. This isn’t a major issue, just an easily fixable hiccup. Easily fixable if I have the system CD, anyway.

Monday night. System CD. Restart, reassign the Startup Disk. Except that no, it doesn’t SEE my hard drive. WTF? I open Disk Utility, but can’t repair because it ALSO doesn’t see my hard drive. Weird. I’m officially in over my head, so I make an appointment at the Genius Bar for Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon at the Genius Bar, I go over my problem with the available Genius. He tells me that it sounds like I’ve done just about everything that he would have, but he’s going to plug in this doohickey here and… yeah, your hard drive is dead.

Um, excuse me?

Yeah, dead. Are you still under warranty?

NONOIAMNOTITEXPIREDTWELVEFEKKINGDAYSAGOWHATDOYOUMEANDEAD?! (That’s what my brain said. My actual response was a much calmer, “No, it ran out earlier this month.”)

“These days, you can get a 500GB drive for about $100 from BestBuy, and don’t let them charge you for an install. You can do it yourself.”

Holy crap, I need to buy a new hard drive, and I need to do it NOW. No time for my usual online bargain hunting. And all of my FILES!!! Okay. Okay. Okay. Deep breath. I have all of my data backed up to an external drive. ALL of my data. I back up both my hard drive and my small external regularly. As in, every hour. I will not have lost anything. This is an astoundingly huge relief. I am literally dazed as I walk out of the Apple Store. I’m not happy about the unexpected expense, or the inevitable hassle, but knowing that my data is safe is keeping me from breaking down entirely.

A trip to the local BestBuy, $90, and a Starbucks run later, I now have a 320GB drive, expertly installed by a techie friend who has the right size (Torx T9) obscure screwdriver, some free time, and a willingness to work for an iced soy chai. As soon as the system software is reinstalled, the startup screen (Startup screen! Woo!) handily asks if I want to transfer anything from a Time Machine backup, and I coincidentally have my Time Machine drive with me, so that is an easy if time-consuming task. I haven’t lost any data.

My monitors (I run two) need recalibrating before I can actually get to work. My Mail app, which I use for all business-related email, needs rebuilding. Each mailbox, individually. (Glad to have found this out, because I originally thought I had somehow lost YEARS of email archives). And now that I have the room, I need to get my files (music, photos, sales, and client files) off of the external and onto my hard drive. Everything, particularly my brain, needs to be remapped to the new locations. This is all taking time. So here I am, as back as can be, until I notice yet another little tiny thing that isn’t quite set as I expect, and have to go fix that. It’s a pain.

But you know what? I haven’t lost a thing. Not a single thing. Back up your files, people. This will happen to you.

2 Replies to “Dude, back up your data. Seriously.”

  1. Great story! (Noticably absent.) And good advice. I don’t have an external drive and most of my music is on cds already but I certainly have some stuff that needs to be backed up. (I thought Macs never broke?)


  2. Apparently they’re smart enough to know when their warranty runs out, and only break shortly thereafter. Glad you had the backup!


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