Apple Time Machine saved my life!!!

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: April 22, 2010

Category: General

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a big fan of Apple products but that ‘loyalty’ was momentarily tested over the past few days after suffering a hard drive failure in my iMac.

So what happened?
4.20pm on Sunday 11th April 2010 (ah yes I remember it well) I was finishing recording a video on ‘content aware scaling’ when all of a sudden my iMac refused to respond. No mouse movement, no sound, no ability to restart…nothing, so as you can imagine, having never suffered so much as a hiccup over the last 6 years of using Apple a mild panic began to set in. More so, when I forced a ‘shut down’ and then when I turned the iMac on again all I was presented with was the following symbol on the screen:

So it’s Sunday and the Apple Support Centre is closed and I’m unable to do anything. Well, when I say anything we do have an old(ish) Mac Book which is used mainly by Mrs D but this isn’t anywhere near as high spec’ as the the iMac nor does it have any of the editing software etc that I use on a regular basis. Anyway having learned I can swear fluently in a foreign language I eventually counted to 10, took stock of the situation and accepted that nothing more could be done until the following morning when at 8am the Apple Support Centre would re-open.

Monday morning I’m on the phone from 7.59am onwards to be first in the cue and managed to speak to an Apple Rep by the name of Dominic who despite being unable to resolve the issue after some 30 minutes or so, was incredibly patient and went a long way to helping me ‘relax’ about the whole situation; not an easy thing to do when I realised that before the ‘crash’ I’d imported 7Gb of images from a client shoot, formatted the memory cards but hadn’t got round to backing them up onto another drive.

The iMac ended up being sent to the Apple Hospital where it remained for some 9 days which felt like an eternity as all I kept thinking about was the 7Gb of image files I had potentially lost. Day to day running of the business was carried out using the MacBook and my iPhone, which despite not being ideal was a ‘god send’. Oh incidentally, the only calendar I had was on my iPhone as I’d left a tick out of the box on my mobileme account which meant my iCal Calendar hadn’t been syncing and neither had my contacts; yeah I know…My name’s Glyn and I’m a numpty 🙂

So, 9 days later I get the iMac back fitted with a new hard drive but disaster!!!! The service guys had been unable to recover any data off the old one. Now at that moment I could have very nearly lost it, and I mean lost it however…this is where Apple Time Machine Saved my life and what happened next has, if there had ever been a minuscule amount of doubt before, sold me completely 110% on Apple.

For any of you out there who are using Apple Computers but aren’t making use of the Time Machine utility that first appeared in Mac OSX 10.5 Leopard, then I strongly advise you take a good look at it. In a word it is incredible! Time Machine backs up the entrire contents of your computer every hour on the hour and does so continuously without you even noticing it; but it’s so much more than that. The ability to recover anything (files, emails etc…) going back months and months at the click of a button is just the start.

What I didn’t realise about Time Machine was that it also does a backup of your Settings, Applications, User Details, Layout Preferences…the whole lot. What this meant was that all I had to do was tell Time Machine to return my iMac to exactly how it was before anything happened, and that’s exactly what it did. Unbelievable!!! And so incredibly easy to do.

What to do:
Getting Time Machine to restore your Mac to it’s pre ‘crash’ state couldn’t be easier. Taken directly from Apple’s own support pages here’s what you do:

• Connect your Time Machine backup disk to your computer.
• Insert your Mac OS X Install disk, and double-click the Install Mac OS X icon.
• In the Restore Your System dialog, click Continue.
• Select your Time Machine backup volume.
• Select the Time Machine backup you want to restore.
• Follow the onscreen instructions.

The Future:
Before this ‘incident’ I actually thought I had my ‘Backup’ Workflow pretty much sorted but clearly there was room for improvement. We’ve since ordered a new 17″ MacBook Pro along with the Apple 24″ HD Widescreen Display for editing and working in the studio and the iMac will now replace the old MacBook and be used for invoicing, accounting and general day to day business activities.

A new Drobo FS is on it’s way so that both machines can ‘Backup’ over a network. If you’ve not heard of a Drobo it’s basically a Robotic Unit that can hold a number of hard drives. The Drobo constantly monitors the health of each drive and if it notices any problems then all the data is taken off the troublesome drive and spread across the others automatically. You can read alot more information and watch demo videos on the Drobo at the manufacturer’s website.

I always remember what Scott Kelby said a while back when we was talking about the importance of having an effective ‘Backup Workflow’:

“Hard Drives are always in one of two conditions: 1) Crashed and 2) About to Crash”

So what’s your Backup Workflow? What do you do or use to minimise the risk of losing that all important data? Is there a Windows alternative to Time Machine?

Had any ‘heart stopping’ moments when you’re hard drive has crashed and you’ve lost everything? What do you do now that’s different?

Having an effective ‘Backup Workflow’ is incredibly important so if you have any suggestions or ideas on what you do or best practices then why not share them here in the comments section below? It would be great to ‘hear’ your thoughts on this topic because I’m sure there’s plenty of us out there always looking at new ways to do things or hear of other useful kit or software that can help.

Anyway, thankfully this time it was a happy ending with a fully restored iMac and no data loss.
Speak soon 🙂

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  1. Mike

    WOW, now that IS very impressive.

    Not being a Mac user, is this a service you pay for etc or is part of the service they provide anyway??

    • Glyn

      It’s a utility built into the Mac OS mate so all you need to do is buy an external HD. Huge relief seeing it work I can tell you.

  2. Darren Newbery

    Great post Glynn, the Time Machine setup is just amazing. It’s saved my hind a few times, and can’t imagine not working with it now… The drobo system has got to be the next backup purchase though. Peace of mind like that is priceless!

    • Glyn

      Totally with you Darren; I’ve lost count how many times TM has helped me out but this time was just unreal. Never knew it took a snap shot of the entire system but my god am I glad it does.

      The Drobo is definitely the next step. The added security knowing it monitors the health of the hard drives is just too good to resist after going through this episode.

      Cheers mate and thanks for dropping by.

  3. Keith

    That empty feeling when and HD fails is like a feeling of death, no going back, only those that have experienced an HD failure know what it’s like.
    After the wedding shoots we have a double backup routine and at two different locations because you just cannot afford to take chances.
    No such problems when film was king was there, just stick the negs in a draw untill you needed them.

    • Glyn

      Hi Keith. Having two locations where you store backups is certainly a good idea cos like you say…you just never know.

      I notice now that Apple are giving upgrade options on new machines to Solid State HD’s so no moving parts which I’m guessing will mean less chance of any failure/crash. At the moment though they are quite pricey ie for a 512GB HD you’re looking at £1100.

      Having Time Machine certainly helps to alleviate the worry so with the added Drobo I’m expecting to sleep through the night without the need for Nytol…lol

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

      See you on the 8th at the tester Workshop 🙂

  4. Andre

    Glad you got your life back! 🙂

    Another “What on earth! How’d that happen??” use-case for Time Machine:
    Take two folks, with two Mac’s who for *whatever* reason, want to swap machines.
    (MacBook Air and MacBook Pro)
    Arrive at appointed place, with TM backups for each machine.
    Start the process. Have coffee. Have another coffee. Chat.
    Just 40 (!!!) mins later, pay for coffee, leave, with machines FULLY swapped.
    Apps, settings, data, EVERYTHING! The whole nine yards!
    Open iTunes.

    Don’t try this with two Windows machines, kids….

  5. Noel

    I wish they had this for PC’s I think I shall invest in the Drobo’s. Very interesting and witty post as always, Glyn!

    best of luck, Noel

    • Glyn

      Definitely worth the investment Noel for the peace of mind.

      Cheers for stopping by.

  6. Rick Wenner

    Great post here Glyn. Sometimes we need to learn from others who have gone through hell and back. Sorry to hear about your problems but who knows how long it would have taken to get the Drobo and solidify your backing up process.

    I am a backup whore. LOL. I have at least 4-5 backups of every single file that are all stored on different hard drives and DVD’s. I use a Drobo and LaCie for external hard drives and am happy with them both. What I really should be doing is storing files off site for extra peace of mind.


    • Glyn

      Rick I think from now on I too will be a ‘Backup Whore’. Thankfully this time Apple & Time Machine looked after me well and truly. i’m still in awe at how good it is…thankfully 🙂

  7. Jon Watkiss

    Every shoot gets burnt to disks in RAW and processed versions before I delete them from my memory card, need to get a couple of external HDD’s as a work unit for editing work, one ghosting the other… after your ‘near death experience’ would you recommend Apple to a friend?!?!

    Looking at getting a new computer soon and, after reading this, I’m thinking of coming to the ‘Dark side’ ;^)

    • Glyn

      Hi Jon.
      To answer your question, i would definitely recommend Apple. It’s not a ‘snob’ thing or anything like that, it’s quite simply because it does everything I want with the minimum of fuss. Sure, I had a HD failure but that’s always gonna happen Apple, PC whatever…it’s a moving part and that’s what happens. As for the Apple OS it’s faultless. Like I said, I’ve never had so much as a hiccup in 6 years, no freezing, no stalling, no crashes nothing and each Mac I’ve had is as quick as the day I got it.

      Love ’em 🙂

  8. Quoc Huy

    I’m glad you recovered it all.
    One good thing to do with TM is after loading your images or finishing an important work, right click on the TM on the top bar and then on “Back Up Now”.

    Also this tool is interesting for recovery and making non bootable disks boot again:

    • Glyn

      Huy, it was such a relief when TM did it’s thing I can tell you 🙂
      Thanks for the tip; I’ll definitely be doing that from now on.


  9. David Kelly

    Glynn, I’m really glad you got things sorted. Not being a ‘pro’ I haven’t had quite the same ‘heart in throat’ moment and the possible financial consequences, but had a scare recently when I lost a load of images on my hard drive. After a few choice AngloSaxon words repeatedly used for sometime (the thought of losing the photos I’ve taken over the first 3 years of my little boy’s life was gut wrenching), I managed to get the missing files from a previous back-up to my WD MyBook harddrive and normal services resumed within a few hours.

    • Glyn

      David, it was such an incredible relief when it all came back unscathed; I’m sure what little hair I do have went a lighter shade of grey over the last few days 🙂
      Nothing worse than losing those all important photographs especially of those dear to us so I’m glad to hear too that you got yours back.

      All the best to you.

  10. Ian Mitchell

    Hi, interesting blog and post!

    How are you getting on with the drob? I was looking at getting a drobo myself, but, without wanting to scare the hell out of you, I came across this review

    as well as many other horror stories. Hows yours holding up?


  11. Quoc Huy

    Another great find.
    Are you using TM to backup your LR catalog file? It can be really greedy as at each backup from TM your catalog file has lot of chance to have changes and thus TM will create a new copy of the file in backup. If you have a catalog of several GB, your TM will grow very quickly.

    A good thing is to use LR own backup system onto a separate drive.

    But if with all backup possible you got in my situation with a corrupted catalog and backup due to power outage, this following tutorial might save your life:

  12. annonyomous

    saved me too.


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