One Big Mistake, A Week to Recover My Macs

I am writing this on my Mid 2007 Mac mini running Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard because I really messed things up last week. Thank goodness I have this old Mac to fall back on!

Aluminum iMac

Some time ago I acquired an Early 2008 20″ iMac from my oldest son, who it turns out is more of a Windows guy. Anyhow, other than testing it when I first obtained it, it’s been sitting on my desk awaiting a purpose. That came about at the end of November – after 16 months stocking groceries, I now have a full time position as a technical writer for Vapejoose, and the iMac’s 20″ 1680 x 1050 screen is nearly perfect for the task.

Ever since I received it, my Late 2008 Aluminum MacBook has been my workhorse. It has the same 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo as my 2007 Mac mini, 4 GB of memory (vs. 3 GB maximum in the Mini), an SSD (the Mini also has one), and it supports newer versions of macOS – I have used 10.9 Mavericks, 10.10 Yosemite, and 10.11 El Capitan on it. These are from 2013, 2014, and 2015 respectively, while Snow Leopard goes back to 2009.

This iMac has 3 GB of RAM and a 250 GB hard drive. I was able to install El Capitan on it without a hitch, and it runs surprisingly well with just 3 GB of system memory as long as I don’t try to run multiple browsers or have too many browser windows open. (Upgrading to 6 GB would solve that problem.) It seemed that it should be perfect for my writing position, but first I would need to migrate over all of the apps installed on my MacBook.

And that’s where the problem began, a problem that ended up with both of my newest Macs unable to access their El Capitan partitions.

My Big Mistake

The problem goes back to one step that I failed to take before removing the SSD from the MacBook, putting it in an external drive enclosure, and booting the iMac from it. I didn’t realize that the MacBook was asleep and not powered off. That means there were temporary files open on the SSD that would have been taken care of in a shut down.

I was able to successfully boot the iMac from the external drive via FireWire. I was able to clone the El Capitan partition from the SSD to the El Capitan partition on the iMac. But perhaps it was cloned too well, because it refused to boot OS X 10.11. And when I put the SSD back in the MacBook, it also refused to boot into El Capitan.

That’s one reason I try to keep a second bootable partition on my work computers, so I was able to boot both machines into OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

The Other Mistake

My other mistake was not having a current backup, or even one close to current. Ever since my 3 TB Seagate backup drive died, I haven’t been using Time Machine to back up my Macs. Well that certainly caught up with me!

Fortunately I have an older backup of the MacBook’s El Capitan partition from some time back. It’s not ideal, it’s nowhere close to up-to-date (probably from the same time I installed the SSD in the MacBook), but it’s better than nothing at all.

It Could Have Been Avoided

If I had shut down the MacBook, I would not be writing this article. If I had been maintaining fairly current backups, whether with Time Machine or SuperDuper, nothing would have been lost. If I had booted from the iMac’s internal El Capitan partition and used Migration Assistant to import all the apps, files, and user settings, everything probably would have gone perfectly.

If I had an ethernet network set up and file sharing enabled on the MacBook, I could have made the migration safely and easily. But the cable modem/router is upstairs, so I’m using WiFi – which probably would have worked as well. But I didn’t think of it at the time. Besides, working from an attached drive should be quicker.

I won’t even begin to tell you how many times I have written about the importance of having and using a backup system. Egg on my face!

Thanks, Apple

Another perfect solution wasn’t available to me because Apple decided that the consumer MacBook line didn’t need FireWire ports. If the MacBook had one, I could have used FireWire Disk Mode to access the drive without removing it from the MacBook, which would have eliminated all of my problems.

However, Apple chose to reserve FireWire for the MacBook Pro line, the Mac Pro models, and the consumer Mac mini and iMac lines. Everything but the MacBook (and MacBook Air) had FireWire for the longest time.

It’s a S-L-O-W Process

Whether you’re cloning a drive using SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner, accessing a backup made with Time Machine,using FireWire Disk Mode, working over a network, or putting the drive in an external enclosure, the migrating everything from an old drive or Mac to a new one is a long, slow, tedious process. And to make things even worse, when you then boot from the updated drive, it seems to take forever to boot the first time.

As long as I’ve been working with Macs (since 1986), it’s always been a slow process cloning data on one drive to another. It was in the SCSI era. It was in the IDE era. And it still is in the SATA and beyond era.

Anyhow, it took most of a week to get my MacBook and iMac up and running again so I can work on some new articles (my first one is already posted on the Vapejoose website). I ended up going back to an even older OS X 10.9 partition from earlier this year (when I migrated to El Capitan) and using Migration Assistant to migrate everything over. I still need to reinstall Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0, which somehow broke in the process, but I have been able to work this week.

searchword: bigmistake

Keywords: #superduper, #carboncopycloner #backup

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