Harddrive crash | Rickard Andersson

Harddrive crash

As I was watching TV with my wife yesterday, I heard a rather loud grinding noise from my Mac in the next room. I approached the computer and noticed the screen was black and that there was a disturbing ticking noise from one of the harddrives. Turns out my system disk, a 36GB Western Digital Raptor, had failed.

At first, I was a bit worried that I had lost data, but luckily, when I first installed Leopard, I had set the location of my home directory to the root of a different harddrive (my main storage drive). In other words, even though my system disk crashed, all my documents, music, movies as well as application settings and stuff like that was stored on a different drive. I replaced the failed drive and installed a fresh copy of Leopard. I then reset the location of my home directory to the storage drive and rebooted. After about an hour of re-installing applications on the new system drive, I was up and running as if nothing had happened.

Storing my home directory on a separate drive has saved my bacon more than once. I strongly recommend it.

This last brush with harddrive death has made me realize that I need to setup a more robust backup scheme. If my main storage drive had failed, I would have been screwed. I think I have a DVD backup of most of my important documents and development stuff somewhere and I have an iTunes backup that’s a few months old, but apart from that, I have no backups.

Can anyone recommend a good tool for backing up to Amazon S3? I’ve heard good things about Jungle Disk, but I’m open to suggestions.


  1. Theo
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 18:09 | Permalink

    Time Machine is easy to use and hard drives is cheep these days, that will get my vote. In case of disaster it’s possible to boot on the install media and do a full restore from Time Machine, or a partial if that’s what you want.

  2. Posted January 19, 2009 at 11:12 | Permalink

    I’ll consider Time Machine. At the moment, I’m running SuperDuper and doing a full backup of my data drive every night. Then, once a week, I do a partial backup to S3 using JungleDisk (everything except iTunes and movies). JungleDisk works rather well, but the UI is horrible.

    Edit: I should clarify. When I say a full backup every night, that doesn’t mean it copies everything. SuperDuper works like rsync.

  3. Theo
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 22:00 | Permalink

    There’s a good article about Time Machine at Ars Technica http://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2007/10/mac-os-x-10-5.ars/14

  4. Mange
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 14:31 | Permalink

    You should buy a hardware-RAID card, and use multiple disks, AND clone your startup drive and user to an external drive. Bullet proof. (unless your shit burns up or get stolen ;-)

    Soon affordable on-line backup should be available, at last.

  5. Posted February 4, 2009 at 12:17 | Permalink

    Yeah, but a RAID card for the Mac Pro isn’t exactly cheap :)

    Amazon S3 is pretty affordable in my opinion. There’s been talk about Google potentially introducing an online storage cloud similar to S3 (gdrive), but I haven’t heard anything about it in a long time.

  6. Mange
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 13:31 | Permalink

    True true, its about 5 grand SEK, but compared to the alternative I think its worth it. Especially the fact that you can continue work without stoppage, just shove in a new disk and Presto… Either way, you definitely should clone your home directory on another drive. Its a simple script, and it will make you sleep good at night, for sure.

    Btw, I had a similar hard drive crash on an employees personal macbook, disk was totally smoked (Apples hard ware test didn’t even find the drive) and no back up (of course), but I ran DiskWarrior and managed to recover all the data, so I can really recommend it if that ever happens again.


  7. Posted February 6, 2009 at 11:10 | Permalink

    I believe OSX supports software RAID (not sure which variants though), so that’s an alternative. Ideally, you want something like RAID5 so that you can continue to work on the machine even though one of the drives is busted. Performance will be horrible with a disk missing, but it’s possible. I doubt OSX supports RAID5 i software though.

    I am cloning my data drive to a different disk (using SuperDuper). I’m also backing up most of the data in my home directory to Amazon S3.

    DiskWarrior is pretty cool. I think I have it somewhere, but I haven’t used it yet. If you want even lower level harddrive recovery, you should have a look at SpinRite. The website looks like a blast from the past, but we’ve used the app to rescue quite a few failed drives here on campus. Spinrite works on all drives, regardless of file system. In order to use it on a Mac drive, you would have to take it out of the machine and connect it to a PC though.

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