March 15, 2012

Do not taunt Angry Time Machine

He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.Not Jack Handey

If you’ve had trouble backing up your Mac via Time Machine–as I did once I installed Lion–do not, for the love of God, push your luck and try to use Time Machine to migrate data from one Mac to another. Just don’t.

Details if you want ‘em:

Post-10.7, I couldn’t update my backups on my Drobo and Time Capsule, nor could I get one to work on the new USB 3.0 drive I bought for the job. When I tried a fresh FireWire drive, however, everything seemed cool. Thus when my new Mac arrived, I tried transferring apps & data via the Migration Assistant.

And now begins the screamin’ & the wailin': The apps that made it over were all zero KB, and files never transferred. Not a big deal, I thought: I can just re-install apps & move files manually.  The trouble is, when I tried to install Apple Motion, I got a series of errors about missing files (ProKit). I tried various work arounds, including installing the FCP X trial.  Soon, though, all the Apple apps, as well as iPhoto, were crashing on launch.  It seems that the failed app migration stomped a bunch of critical libraries.

Here’s the excellent part, though: Lion’s airbag works great.  At the advice of my exhausted Apple friend (who’d been supplying would-be fixes), I finally reinstalled the OS. Fearing the worst (bare-metal, nuke-from-orbit, dogs-and-cats-living-together stuff), I backed up my files and blocked off a bunch of time. I still cannot believe how well it went: restarted the machine, held down Cmd-R, okayed a couple of prompts, and half an hour later 10.7.3 was up and running as if nothing had happened.  Everything (open docs, browser history, passwords, etc.) was restored.  I’m still kind of holding my breath, but so far, so amazingly good.  Hats off to the Apple folks behind this capability.

Posted by John Nack at 9:11 AM on March 15, 2012

Comments

  • J. Peterson — 12:42 PM on March 15, 2012

    Just curious – what prompted you to use Time Machine vs. Migration assistant in the first place?

    [Stupidity, probably. :-) Actually I figured it might be safer to go via TM: I figured that if the backup worked, it would indicated that the data was well enough to transfer right to the new machine–whereas targeting the old machine directly (with no intermediary validation step) might be more risky. Seems I was wrong. –J.]

  • Phil Brown — 2:56 AM on March 16, 2012

    It’s not just Macs, John, so don’t feel too bad ;-)

    A week or so ago I was playing around with things like the Win 8 Consumer preview and migrating my Win 7 install to a new boot drive.

    Short story, I had done all sorts of moving and installation and what not all really well and going hapily along and then I moved something to the wrong hard disk and effectively blew away my OS install in about 10 seconds flat.

    Ouch.

    I had a recent backup, though (within a few days), so recovery was painless – just set it going from the Win install DVD and all was good.

    It’s not the same as the Mac recovery, but just sayin’ you ain’t alone in trashing perfectly good OS installs of late :-)

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