Thursday, October 13, 2011

The value of preparation

I've been running the Mac OS 10.7 Lion since release as my main OS. And I've been working with all the ensuing developer betas as well. I adopted the encrypted file system early in production, but when I migrated to a bigger SSD a few weeks ago I had to disable that to efficiently migrate over.

Well, yesterday I tried to re-enable it. Didn't go so well. The encryption process failed and left me with a not-quite-usable hard drive, and Disk Utility could have nothing to do with it. Were I a client of mine, I might well be out of luck at that point. But because I actually do the things I tell clients they should do, I had options. Here's how I was prepared for it, and what I did to fix it:

- First, I had a second SSD (a small one) installed in my laptop. I took out the Superdrive to install it last winter. On that SSD I keep a full install of the latest OS, in vanilla form. I also keep copies of Carbon Copy Cloner and Drive Genius on it. The main use for the drive is archiving installer files, though, and storing all my Parallels VMs.

- I also had a fairly current Time Machine backup from Friday if needed. That would have shut me out on some recent photo updates, though, so it wasn't my best option.

- I use Backblaze for offsite backup, and that was current if I needed it (photo recovery)

- And finally all my recent document changes were mirrored on Dropbox.

So at that point I had a plan to go forward as needed. First, I rebooted to Lion's Recovery Partition and tried to fix from there. No luck. Next step was to reboot from the second drive (at home, you could use a 16GB or 32GB flash stick much the same way as I use my SSD, but it'd be slower), and try Drive Genius. I couldn't fix the drive, but I could see it and mount it (along with the Finder warnings that it's not fixable, back up and erase ASAP). Now I was out of the weeds. I was out of the house (at a meeting) when this started happening, so I put the Mac to sleep and went home.

Once I put the Mac back on the desk at home, I connected my FW800 drive that I use for Time Machine backups. It's a 2TB drive, with plenty of space for additional backups. I used Carbon Copy Cloner to copy everything from the mounted drive to the external (this is still booted from my secondary SSD, by the way). Then I erased the drive, and re-cloned back to the now fixed volume.

After that was completed (took about 2 hours each way for the 260GB of data - I did the initial clone right when I got home and started the clone back before bed), I verified that the drive would now boot and changed the startup disk back to it.

Sure enough, it worked. Back to normal. I had to re-connect Dropbox and also change Backblaze's settings to accommodate the new volume ID, but that's it. Now that this was done, I went and updated my Time Machine backup to be 100% current. Usually I do it about twice per week, strictly manual.

Had the cloning effort failed (If I couldn't get the disk to mount), I simply would have restored from my Time Machine backup from last Friday, then remirrored Dropbox and restored my iPhoto pictures from Backblaze. That simply would have been more complicated but I could have done it fine.

The lesson for all of you: Even when you are a tech professional like me, things go wrong. When they do, don't panic, have a plan, have fallback methods ready just in case, and always make sure you have backup alternatives that you are using.

Under a month of campaigning to go!

1 comment:

G said...

Ya tell me now!