My Nightmare Before Christmas

Warning: this is a tech-geek blog post. If you’re into that, read on.

So, I have previously written about how I sync my documents folder between my primary iMac and my laptop. Basically, the docs folder on each is always in sync automatically through Windows Live Sync (formerly Foldershare). That way, if I work on a document at home in the morning, the most current version is already on my laptop when I open it up away from home later in the day. It’s a sweet setup.

Here’s the problem. I sold my laptop on Christmas Eve. I’m upgrading to a new MacBook, and Christmas Eve seemed to give me the best chance of selling my near-perfect, five-year-old PowerBook. I posted the Craigslist ad on Tuesday night and had a buyer Wednesday morning. Rock on.

Before going to meet the buyer, I, of course, had to wipe my laptop of my private info, then do a format and reinstall of OS X. Here’s the problem. I stupidly forgot all about my sweet syncing setup. So, as I deleted  my entire documents folder, Live Sync dutifully started syncing my “most recent changes” with my main iMac. The result? All of my documents were deleted off all my machines. Let me repeat that: ALL OF MY DOCUMENTS WERE DELETED. Oh yeah, and we all remember that I’m a professional writer, right? So, my documents are kind of important. But they were gone.

I didn’t even realize it until hours later, after the sale was complete and my family was here for Christmas Eve festivities. I went to check something on my iMac, and then the freaking out began. No problem, I thought. I have Time Machine backing up my documents for just such an occasion. No luck. For some reason, Time Machine had no past backups of my docs, either. Fail.

Fortunately, I do complete system backups fairly regularly, but it’s been six weeks since the last one. So, I recovered everything except what I worked on the past six weeks. The good news is, I haven’t done any freelance since then, and it appears that my last full backup was done the day after I worked on my last freelance assignment. So, all that should be missing is a few odds and ends that I’ll probably never notice.

The moral to the story? Well, there’s a few. First, it’s a good reminder that everyone needs a solid, consistent, redundant backup strategy. I’m going to Costco today to get a new 1 terabyte drive to dedicate to Time Machine. I think it failed because I was limiting what Time Machine was allowed to back up. I’m just going to plug this new drive and let Time Machine backup the whole system for good. Second, it’s an encouragement to all casual computer users that even hard-core geeks can make stupid, bone-headed mistakes. It happens.

Fortuantely, I had a full system backup at home (and another copy at my office for extra safety), so it wasn’t a terrible, terrible situation. If I had been totally slack in backups, it would have been a disaster. In addition to the new Time Machine drive, I have set a weekly calendar reminder to do a full system backup to a different drive using the awesome Super Duper program for the Mac. I’ve been using that for two years, but not on a set schedule. If I had been doing this weekly to begin with, I wouldn’t have had to rely on a six-week-old backup for recovery.

So that was my Christmas Eve. Aside from that, my Christmas day was merry and bright. Hope your’s was, too.

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2 Responses to My Nightmare Before Christmas

  1. Eric says:

    Dang man, sorry about that.

    Gonna get a RAID 1 drive? Saw that WD had some decent ones:

    http://westerndigital.com/en/products/Products.asp?DriveID=466

  2. […] should say up front that I take backups quite seriously. The little Christmas Eve data loss nightmare from two months ago weighed heavily on my concious. I had backups in place, but my whole plan […]

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