Backups

So, the other day I deleted an App from my iPhone in an attempt to fix a bug, with the idea that I would re-install the App thus fixing the bug. I then had a bit of mild panic because I couldn’t find the App in the App Store to download. Fortunately I remembered that the iPhone ‘hides’ purchased Apps so when I looked there, there it was. Phew. Unfortunately re-installing it didn’t fix the bug but that’s a different story.

The point is, whilst I was panicking, I thought I could always restore the iPhone from the iTunes backup on my Mac. Then I remembered how old that backup was. So today I backed up my iPhone and iPad to my Mac. While I was there I backed up some other key data on the iOS devices keeping those backups independent from the catch-all iTunes one.

A word about iOS backups: although you can backup your iOS device to iCloud (and it’s great that it does this automatically if you leave your device on, locked & connected to a power source), it doesn’t  backup everything (e.g. Apps!). It’s certainly worth doing a periodic iTunes backup as well.

Hint: turn on Encryption before hitting that ‘Back Up Now’ button, that way it will save all your logon credentials, saving you loads of time if/when you come to do a restore.

itbup

One more thing. Don’t forget to backup your Mac’s HDD (using Time Machine or similar).

Moving Time Machine files – Deja Vu

Having got myself a new external hard drive I decided to move my MacBook Air’s Time Machine backup from the old disk (which was full) to the new one. It was at this point that I remembered that I’d done this before and, what’s more, I’d written a post about it. Anyway, that was over 18 months ago so I thought I’d try Apple’s official method again. Ha Ha. Last time Apple’s method didn’t work, maybe it’s been fixed…

Apple’s official method goes like this:

  1. In Disk Utility, partition your new HDD as “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” with a GUID partition
  2. Open the File Info window and make sure that “Ignore ownership on this volume” at the bottom of the “Sharing & Permissions” section is not checked.
  3. Turn Time Machine off
  4. Using Finder, copy the file “Backups.backupdb” from the old disk volume to the new one.

So I did this and, after an hour or so of happy copying, it failed. More accurately, it failed on specific files which it claimed could not be copied. To be honest I wasn’t surprised, given previous experience, so this attempt was made more as an experiment than with any expectation that it would work. Thing is, why does Apple continue to push this method when it has a reputation for not working? (You can look at the Apple Discussion Forums)

Last time I copied my Time Machine files, I used Carbon Copy Cloner to do a block-by-block copy but this time, I thought, Apple’s Disk Utility could provide the solution.

First off, I used Disk Utility to perform a repair of the old backup disk, to ensure that any file corruptions or permission errors were resolved prior to copying, as this could have been a reason for the Apple method failing. I did a Partition-level repair then a File-level repair. Interestingly, neither of these found anything to repair which sort of squashed that little theory. Ah well, on to the important bit. After formatting the new volume as per Apple’s instruction (above) I was all set. Here’s the method:

  • In System Preferences, turn Time Machine off
  • Connect both the old and new HDDs
  • Open Disk Utility
  • Select the original backup disk from the list in the left column and click the “Restore” Tab.
  • Drag the original backup disk volume (i.e. the one to be copied) to the “Source” field.
  • Drag the new backup disk volume to the “Destination” field.

 

  • Click the “Restore” Button.
  • The copy will take some time to complete. Once it has finished, the name of the destination volume will have changed to be the same as that of the original. This could be a bit confusing so eject the original volume.
  • You could change the name of the new volume but there is a risk (call that bitter experience!) that Time Machine will see this as a different disk and instead of carrying on as before, start a fresh backup and discard the backup history you were trying to retain in the first place. My preference was to simply eject the original volume before resuming Time Machine. After all, if the copy has been successful, the old one will no longer be required and after a decent period of mourning (just to be on the safe side) the old disk can be repurposed.
  • Back in System Preferences, turn Time Machine on. Enter Time Machine and check that you can browse the backup history. Do a sample file restore to check everything is working as it should. If that checks out, let it perform a backup cycle, afterwards checking that the backup history can still be accessed and restored from.

And that’s it. I won’t pretend this is a quick procedure. For some people it won’t even be necessary. You’ll need to consider whether you really need to keep a long range of backups stretching back a year or more. You could always keep the original disk somewhere safe for a while and allow Time Machine to start afresh with the new disk.

Lastly, if you do try either of the above methods, you do so at your own risk. What worked for me might not work for someone else. Before you undertake any file management activities make sure you have a robust backup of any important data.

Moving Time Machine files

My Macs use Time Machine for backups. The external disk I use to back up my MacBook Air was full up. What Time Machine does when this happens is to delete the oldest backups to make room for new ones. It does this automatically and is alright as far as it goes. The thing is, I didn’t want to loose my older backups just yet so I needed a bigger disk. As it happens, the disk I was using was actually a partition of a bigger disk, so all I had to do was re-partition the disk from two to one. Simples!

Well no, actually. Partitioning destroys the data on the disk, so I needed to copy the existing backup elsewhere first, repartition the disk and copy it back. Luckily I had another external disk with a free partition that was just big enough to take the existing backup. Apple says you can just copy the Backups.backupdb file using Finder. Opinion is divided on this, Apple says you can. I says you can’t.

I tried. The copy took many hours (which I expected) but stopped dead with about 10GB to go. I left it overnight, just in case it decided to finish in its own good time, but the following morning it was still the same. So I dug out Carbon Copy Cloner (my weapon of choice for cloning tasks) to do a block-by-block copy of the old disk to the temporary one. Better! Now I’m not one to take things like this on trust so I pointed Time Machine at the temporary disk and restored a really old file. Tick.

That left me free to re-partition the “real” backup disk and copy the backup back (huh?) Just for the hell of it, this time I tried Apple’s method on the newly partitioned disk. It worked but it didn’t. Back in Time Machine I could see files in the backup library but they would’t restore. That wasn’t much use! So, back to CCC and a block-copy back again. This time when I pointed Time Machine at the volume I was able to test restore several files from random points in the past. So I have a working backup which I can restore from, with plenty of capacity for future Time Machine backups. Incidentally, none of the foregoing was difficult, it just took a bit of time.

Job done.