Christmas Tale - Happy Ending
- From: claudel@xxxxxxxxx (Claude V. Lucas)
- Date: 31 Dec 2008 20:22:28 GMT
So, this is a combination Christmas tale and vendor/software review.
It started on Christmas Eve, when using Finder or starting
programs the dreaded and decidedly non-seasonal spinning beachball
made increasingly longer and more frequent appearances.
My system: Year old iMac with MS Vista in bootcamp partition. Valid AppleCare
Relevant software: Up to date OS X, MS Vista Ultimate, Super Duper, Winclone.
Semi-regular cloning of internal disc to external FW disc partition.
Semi-regular cloning of bootcamp partition to image file located in Macland.
When I first noticed the performance degradation, The first thing
I did was update my DR backups. I initially suspected a
combination of a bug in the 10.5.6 upgrade and/or a bad result of
a hard crash due to a power outage at my house. After the crash, I
booted into single user and ran fsck, which is something that I
normally do after a hard crash. There were urecoverable errors, so
I booted on the external clone, formatted the internal partition,
and cloned back to the internal. The restore went without issue,
so I thought I had fixed the problem.
The symptoms returned after a bit of use so I then suspected that
my backup was corrupted as well. I checked the drive's SMART
status via System Profiler and there were no errors, but there
*were* a few suspicious references to "IO-Errors" in
/var/log/system.log. There were no problems or slowdown evident
while running from the external disc. I booted Vista and there
were no problems with it, so I decided I'd bite the big one and
reinstall the Mac side from scratch.
I booted from the installation disc, ran Disc Utility, nuked the
existing OS X partition and started to reinstall. The installation
hung. At that point I decided to get some help.
I scheduled a callback via Apple's website and received my TS
callback within 5 minutes of the scheduled time. After performing
the formalities we discussed what was happening and quickly came
to the conclusion that I needed to take the thing in for hardware
Kudos to Apple TS for a speedy initial consultation.
The quickest way to resolution was for me to drop off the machine
at the Apple Store. The phone support rep called my friendly local
Apple Store and informed them I would be dropping it off. I
declined the offer of an appointment, as I merely would be
When I arrived at the store there was a bit of a communication
gap, as my pending visit was not noted in the store computer. This
wasn't a problem. I informed the person who helped me that I had
been sent by the phone crew, briefly described the prior
troubleshooting and went on my way.
I received a call later that day from the tech working on my
machine who was curious as to why the machine would boot into
Windows without issue but no OS X. I explained the history, again,
and the tech said he'd run some diagnostics and call me back. I
verified with him that I had adequate data backup and that that
should be of no concern.
No callback till the next day, but the computer was fixed with a
shiny new hard drive, unfortunately the same model as the one that
After retrieving it, I decided that I would take the opportunity
to reinstall from scratch and do a major cleanup rather than
restore the clone of the old drive, so I booted on the
installation disc, repartitioned it to include a partition for
bootcamp and started from the beginning.
I ran a "custom" installation that didn't install all the extra
languages & printer drivers, updated the OS to current using the
latest combo updater, and copied my non-system user directories
from the external disc. I didn't want the entire old ~/Library so
I left it. As I installed various bits of software I copied the
old preferences file which saved a bit of reconfiguring.
It took a bit of time to reinstall in this way, but I was able to
get rid of the residue of over 5 years of usage. More later.
I have been using Winclone to back up my bootcamp partition. I
now used it to restore. After writing the Windows partition from
the most recent image file I crossed my fingers and rebooted. I
crossed them a bit tighter and pressed the "Option" key for boot
options and viola, there it was. I selected the Windows partition
and away it went. It actually booted. Yay. The first Windows boot
off the restored partition was very sluggish until Windows sorted
itself out, downloaded a few things that were newer than the
backup and installed them. After a reboot it was just as it was
before. I was shocked and amazed.
So, my overall disaster recovery ratings so far are:
Being able to boot on the clone system and easily select
individual files or directories to restore was the key to being
able to clean up as well as restore. If I had made the choice to
restore the entire clone then recovery would have been extremely
Winclone <http://twocanoes.com/winclone/>: Another A+.
I was a bit concerned as to the viability of this one, but it
couldn't have been easier to use. It even restored the NTFS
filesystem to the target partition with no operator intervention.
There was a bit of confusion and lack of communication between the
various individuals and departments that caused me to have to
repeat my tale of woe a few too many times. Other than that, once
I delivered the broken machine it was repaired in less than 24
hours. Considering the volume of incidents Apple must deal with I
think that the response time I experienced was outstanding.
Both OS X and Windows partitions successfully restored to new
drive. No user data lost.
I decided that I would not reinstall the Open Source FINK Project
and MacPorts trees that I've used in the past for now. The only
thing I've needed to install from source post-restore (so far) was
QPopper to allow receipt of local mail. When I cloned my new
installation the file count reported from Super Duper dropped from
~950,000 to ~560,000 so I'm going to try to do without. I am not
doing the same things with this machine now that I was doing when
I installed the source trees so I'm glad to be rid of the excess
Anyway, while I would have preferred to not have gone through
this experience it's great to know that it's possible to have a
viable disaster recovery strategy that utilizes cheap hardware
(~$200.00 for external drive/enclosure) and inexpensive software
that actually works.
If I'd not made the choice to clean up/reinstall then the
restoration would have only taken a few hours after receiving the
How's *your* backups?
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