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Archive for the ‘Backups’ tag

A Time Machine Backup Hard Drive Makes a Great Mother’s Day Gift

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Happy Mother’s Day! Do you know what makes a great Mother’s Day gift? A Time Machine backup hard drive! If you’re the keeper of the photos, you must have them backed up at all times. The older the computer, the greater the risk of hard drive failure, but ANY hard drive (including Solid State hard drives) can and do fail no matter if they are new OR old. Plus, if you (or your mom) is a laptop user, you also need to consider laptop loss, theft, and damage.

We’ve seen moms AND dads who have experienced a hard drive failure. It’s not a good situation to be in, especially when the photos of their kids are in jeopardy or lost forever. Even if MacMedics can recover the data or it has to be sent out for “clean room” data recovery, there’s the added stress of that, plus the added expense.

A common misconception is that Time Machine requires Apple hardware like a Time Capsule. It does not. All Time Machine needs is an external hard drive that is Macintosh formatted. You might already have a Mac formatted hard drive with data on it. If you do the Time Machine backup file will co-exist with your data as long as there is enough free space. If you don’t have a drive already, MacMedics carries a nice 1TB 2.5″ portable unit with a 2-year warranty for $99.

Written by Dana Stibolt

May 14th, 2017 at 10:05 am

Winter Storm Pax Is Coming! Is Your Data Backed Up? Are You Prepared To Telework When The Bad Weather Hits?

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Winter Storm Pax will most likely hit the Mid-Atlantic area (MacMedics territory and from the looks of it we will be ground zero!), and it will likely destroy some data in some way.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic area, MacMedics clients and friends should un-plug their computer and remove and store backup hard drives in a dry place if you’re not going to be around when the snow and power outages hit us. If the power is off, or it goes out, it’s a smart idea to go ahead and just unplug your computer from the power and from your network if you have hardwired EtherNet.

Pro Tip: When disconnecting your computer system from power, unplug everything attached to your network, even the COAX cable from your cable or satellite box as that appears to be #1 surge source (based on past repairs). In regards to power surges, if your power DOES goes out (or starts to flicker), disconnect from power, as surges can also occur when the power comes back on as well!

If you are going to be working from home during the snow day, ensure you have access to your company’s VPN or have remote access to your server. Also, if you collaborate with co-workers on Dropbox or other services that let you share data, you should double check that you have access to that today.

This might also be a good time to enhance your back up plan by adding an off-site back up. MacMedics has our own off-site backup plan for our clients. Contact us if you’d like to get a backup configured for you.

For our friends and clients in the Mid-Atlantic region, MacMedics recommends that you back up your hard drive via a “clone” use Super Duper or Carbon Copy Cloner, as that way you can “test” your back up to insure you have a good, bootable copy.

The important thing is to PLAN AHEAD. Your back up is not complete if it’s not:

1. Automatic
2. Redundant
3. Off-Site

Here’s a few more tips from MacMedics:

1. If you do not have Ultra Call Forwarding at your office, be sure to forward your business phone lines to your cell phone BEFORE you lose phone and/or power to your phone system.

2. Your alarm system should contain a small back up battery, but you can extend that greatly, by plugging your alarm system into a high capacity UPS system.

3. If your server is not set to Auto Restart after a power failure, it’s not to late to turn that on.

We have tons of posts on Time Machine and we even have a free White Paper on it If you’d like a copy, let us know. If you’re not using an automatic backup, your data is at risk!

Written by Dana Stibolt

February 12th, 2014 at 9:41 am

With Lion 10.7 Out, This Would Be A Great Time To Upgrade Your Hard Drive

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Every time Apple releases a new version of OS X, we end up helping clients replace their hard drives, that “died” while trying to upgrade to the new OS the very next day.

This makes it a great time to just upgrade your hard drive proactively.

MacMedics can help.

Just buy a copy of Lion from the App Store, but don’t install it, come see us and pick the size of the hard drive you want, we’ll replace your hard drive, install Lion, and migrate your data for you.

Example: MacBook Pro with a 500 GB 7200 RPM hard drive or a Intel iMac with a 1 TB hard drive: $259 all parts and labor, with a 1-year warranty.

Plus, your old hard drive is yours to keep and can be placed off site to be used as a snapshot in time off site backup. Or, we can show you how to make a “bootable” clone backup, if your drive is large enough, and that can serve as another point in your Mac’s data backup plan.

Hard drives DO NOT last forever, no matter how high quality they might be. See out website for more info.

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Apple Releases Snow Leopard 10.6.5 – Back Your Hard Drive Up Before You Install

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Apple has released Snow Leopard 10.6.5. This is a MAJOR software update and it should installed ONLY if you have a TESTED and WORKING back up system, and that you’re not in the middle of a production deadline.

Our advice for MacMedics clients regarding this update, is NOT to install it right away. We recommend waiting at least a few days before installing it. Also, if you have multiple Macintosh computers that need this update, just install it on one computer to start. If you’re a MacMedics client that we see on a regular basis, we will install this update for you when it has been fully vetted.

URGENT: Every time Apple releases a software update, we see several dead hard drives the next day. Please read our UPDATE WARNINGs page which can be found here, before you install this software update.

The 10.6.5 Update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac, including fixes that:

Improve reliability with Microsoft Exchange servers

Address performance of some image-processing operations in iPhoto and Aperture

Address stability and performance of graphics applications and games
Resolve a delay between print jobs

Address a printing issue for some HP printers connected to an AirPort Extreme

Resolve an issue when dragging contacts from Address Book to iCal

Address an issue where dragging an item from a stack causes the Dock to not automatically hide

Resolve an issue with Wikipedia information not displaying correctly in Dictionary

Improve performance of MainStage on certain Mac systems

Resolve spacing issues with OpenType fonts

Improve reliability with some Bluetooth braille displays

Resolve a VoiceOver issue when browsing some web sites with Safari 5

For detailed information on this update, please visit this website:

For information on the security content of this update, please visit:

MacMedics Presents How To Protect Your Data To The Professional Photographers Of Greater Annapolis

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PPOGA - Professional Photographers of Greater Annapolis

Dana Stibolt will be the guest speaker at next meeting of PPOGA – Professional Photographers of Greater Annapolis. He will be talking about backing up your important data redundantly and automatically.

The meeting will be held at the Annapolis DoubleTree Hotel (near the Annapolis Mall) Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 6:30pm. Free gifts from MacMedics for all who attend. $12 entry includes food, beverage, and door prize entry!

See the Professional Photographers of Greater Annapolis’ Facebook page here.

MacMedics Frequently Asked Macintosh Service Questions: Snow Leopard Installation

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MacMedics Frequently Asked Macintosh Service Questions: Snow Leopard Installation

Do I need to to back up before installing Snow Leopard?

In a word YES! Whenever you run a minor or major software update, you DO need to have your data backed up (and be sure to have that back up tested as well!).

Time and time again we have clients come in with a major hard drive problem right after they have tried to upgrade their Mac OS.

Run Time Machine BEFORE you run that installer. If you are not on Leopard or Snow Leopard, run a program like SuperDuper to make a clone of your hard drive before you perform your upgrade. Even if you have a Time Machine back up, I highly suggest you have a fresh clone of your hard drive on standby whenever you’re running a major Apple software upgrade. This way if something goes wrong, you have a bootable copy of all of your data. Nice thing about a clone vs. Time Machine is you can boot off it and TEST it BEFORE you run a major upgrade. This way if something goes wrong you can get right back to work by booting off the clone.

Never run an Apple software update when you’re on deadline or have a major project due. Updates should always be performed when you’re not under the gun.

Should I unplug my external backup when installing Snow Leopard?

Yes. In fact MacMedics recommends that all USB and FireWire devices (except your keyboard and mouse) should be unplugged before you run the Snow Leopard installer. That holds true for any software update or upgrade as well.

See our full Snow Leopard upgrade Blog post with all the things you should consider here.

Are You Planning On Erasing Your Old Mac Or Hard Drive Today?

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UPDATE 12/26/10: I’m re-posting this Blog POST from last January, because lots of folks are spending time during the X-Mas/New Year holidays to do some house keeping on data from 2010. I’m sure lots of people got new Macs for the holidays too, so be sure to read the Blog post below.

Two things to remember:

1. Never delete data that has not been certified in it’s new location or on a new computer.

2. Never use a computer to process and generate mission critical data without a back-up.

Always keep your data in two places at once while moving over to a new computer!

When folks buy a new computer (or get one as a gift during the holidays) and then transfer the data to the new Mac, they are often anxious to re-purpose, re-gift, or re-sell the old Macintosh. So much so, that once they see the new unit is up and running, they will ERASE the old unit and put a fresh OS on it in preparation for it’s new life. In many cases they have already made a deal to sell their old Mac (or give it away to a family member) and the sale is “pending” on them getting the new Mac up and running. So there’s often some pressure to get the job done quickly and complete the transaction.

NEVER EVER transfer or migrate your current data over to a new Mac (then delete your old data or sell an old computer) and assume that you’re safer then you were with the old drive. Data SHOULD always be in two places at once!

If you need to erase an old computer and you’ve just transferred ALL of your data to a new shiny computer, don’t let that “new computer” feeling of safety (because it’s new I’m at LESS risk!) distract you! If it’s a new Mac, run a quick Time Machine back up or clone your drive with SuperDuper BEFORE you erase that old data. In fact, one very safe way to back up and then test your data is to make a bootable clone of your data (you can do this with SuperDuper), you can then “boot” off this clone and test to ensure your data is all there. This way if something gets fouled up in the migration or transfer, you can at least have a bootable copy of your data and use that to work off of until you can sort things out. Don’t forget to ensure that new backup is also working correctly. This is a common issue, so DON’T fall into this trap!

You ALWAYS need to have your data in two places at once WHILE you are moving over to a new Macintosh laptop or desktop. Very often we see client suffer data loss during this time of transfer. In many cases the clients first scan of the data is positive and everything looks fine. Then they erase their old computer, only to learn that their e-mail or iPhoto database is corrupted, and they’ve lost some or all of their data during transfer.

You’re at a greater risk for data loss on a new computer right out of the box then one that has been in use for more than 90 days.

With all hard drives (and new hard drives in NEW computers) there’s a 30 to 60 day “burn-in” that if the drive is going to give up on you there’s a pretty good chance that it will fail in that time frame. There are almost no DOA hard drives, so the ones that have issues are the ones that develop one in that first 30-60 days. If a hard drive comes off the line at the factory and it’s got an issue, they catch those, and destroy them. In fact, it’s been quite some time, since a hard drive has arrived here at MacMedics “Dead On Arrival”. In a few cases we see them dead, when they have been improperly packaged for shipment. We cannot afford to have one of our client’s computers to have a sick hard drive installed in it, so if a batch of hard drives comes to us and they were shipped by an idiot, then back they go. Thankfully we buy by the case, so the factory shipping container is usually very sturdy, so this is not an issue very often.

See my website at Yeah! It’s that common of an issue that I made a website all about it. It has my TOP 5 list of data protection-preservation tips. Also see my Friday the 13th Blog post on topic of hard drives.

Apple’s 10.5.7 will be out soon. Rumored release date of 5/8 turned out to be wrong.

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Word on the street is that Apple might release OS X 10.5.7 very soon (it was rumored to be released on Friday 5/8, but that turned out that not to be the case).

While the 10.5.7 Leopard update will be very exciting news, MacMedics DOES NOT recommend that Mac users install this update the day it comes out. Also, for anyone that use their computers for production or other mission critical purposes, we recommend you install this update on a test machine and try it out for a few days before installing it on your primary machine.

MacMedics also strongly recommends you have a tested and fully functional back up in place BEFORE you install any Apple system software update. Something could go wrong during the install, and you could have a major problem on your hands. Whenever Apple releases a major update to OS X we usually see 4 or 5 clients’ hard drives die that first day. If your hard drive is dying or already unhealthy, the extra hard drive activity needed to install a major update is often all it takes to kill a hard drive. Please see our web page [] on the subject of hard drive failures.

Don’t forget that while Time Machine is an excellent automatic back up (just the way we like it here at MacMedics!), it IS very hard to test the RESTORE capabilities of such a back up. Read my post on Time Machine here. The short story is while you might not lose any data, you could be in for a major situation and delay if you want to recreate your hard drive as it was. The ideal situation is to have TWO back ups. One Time Machine and one “bootable” clone back up of your hard drive. That way no matter what happens you can boot off the clone and get right back to work.

We’ll post new info on our update warnings page and here in our Blog as it becomes available. We will also Twitter about anything you need to know in the meantime.

Written by Dana Stibolt

May 8th, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Installing a second hard drive into a MacBook Pro = Very Cool. Having a mobile bootable backup anywhere = PRICELESS.

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This Blog post is from Kory Barrett from MacMedics Washington:

Even the employees here at MacMedics are not immune to Macintosh troubles. No matter how closely we follow our own advice, computers being the mortal devices that they are, we too experience problems.

So it wasn’t a real shock when my MacBook Pro recently failed. But in the process I became a huge fan of a new backup solution.

It all started at home, when I opened up my unit to check email before turning in for the night. However, I immediately sensed a problem. Though the power light on my latch release button was a solid white as normal, my screen stayed completely dark. No matter what I attempted I couldn’t generate video. Thinking it was stuck in a “sleep” state I tried several methods to wake it up. When that didn’t work I shut down the unit and restarted it. I tried several different startup tricks (zapping the PRAM, Option-boot, etc.), all to no avail.

Realizing that I had a real problem, I decided to hold off until the following morning when I’d be returning to our lab. The question of the integrity of my data didn’t really enter my mind at this point, as the symptoms did not suggest a hard drive failure. There were no unusual sounds that I could detect (grinding, screeching that we often hear when drives fail), and besides, I back my data up on a nightly basis using Time Machine to an Apple Time Capsule that I have at home.

Upon arriving in the office the next day, we methodically diagnosed the problem. When we concluded there was an internal hardware failure and began to disassemble the unit, I did finally start to get anxious about my data. What if my backup wasn’t reliable? I do perform sample tests from time to time, but I’d never done a full restore from it, and actually we’ve seen at least a small number of failures when trying to restore from a Time Machine backup. And even if it were successful, A) I’d still have lost all the work I’d completed since my last backup ran (a full day’s worth), and B) my backup was at home, meaning I’d have to leave work and spend a good part of the day going through the restore process, meaning more lost time.

So, it got to a point where I couldn’t wait to get the drive out of my MacBook Pro and attach it to our lab equipment to verify that my data was OK. Thankfully, it was, and the cause of my problem was a bad logic board. We replaced the board and I was back up and running. My worst fears were never realized.

But while the outcome was positive, it did get me thinking. If my drive had failed, how reliable was my backup? How much important data would I have lost in the day of work since my backup last executed? And had I really considered the time it would have taken me to head home and go through a full restore? Looking at it this way I was not satisfied with my backup plan, which obviously needed improvement.

It’s now about a week later, and I feel really good about what I’m doing. A colleague recommended a product to me that I am now using. It runs separately from my nightly Time Machine backup at home, meaning my data is in three places. But, while my nightly backup has its benefits, my additional new backup has others. What I did was install a 2nd, internal hard drive in my MacBook Pro. Using Intego’s Personal Backup software, I “clone” my hard drive to this 2nd internal backup drive several times a day. It runs quickly and does not slow down my machine in the process. Now, if my primary drive ever fails, I can easily reboot my machine to my cloned backup and get back up and running right away.

So now I’m really covered. If my drive fails, I have an updated internal backup. If my laptop gets stolen, I have a separate backup at home. I feel very comfortable that my data is well protected, and shouldn’t we all be?

But there’s the obvious question – “How did I fit a 2nd hard drive inside my MacBook Pro”? To do so, I sacrificed my internal SuperDrive. In its place I purchased a “sled” that holds the 2nd hard drive, designed to fit right where the SuperDrive was. I had asked myself “How often do I really need my SuperDrive anyway?”, and realized it wasn’t too often. For those rare occasions I also purchased an external SuperDrive. It’s small and very portable, and fits nicely in my laptop bag. So whenever I do need to install from a disk or burn a CD or DVD, I can still do so.

Cost-wise, including the internal drive sled, the hard drive itself, backup software, and the external SuperDrive, this solution was only about $100 more than a typical external hard drive backup. For me, it was well worth it.

If you are interested in learning more, please let us know, as we’d be happy to set this up for you. You really can’t be too careful with your data, and remember, it’s not a matter of if a drive will fail, it’s a matter of when.

More reading on hard drive failure and backups can be found at Also be sure to read our post about Time Machine here.

Current and new subscribers to the MacMedics newsletter can request our free Time Machine white paper.

Written by Dana Stibolt

April 29th, 2009 at 9:03 am

New Year’s Resolutions: Back up your data (and test it)

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Last year at this time we announced our campaign to “retire” older hard drives and to also ensure that data was backed up. We created an informative website to explain our thoughts on the matter. Our site has had thousands of hits over the last year, but sadly we still see cases daily where clients have lost data.

Hard drives can fail at anytime and at any age, so it’s very important to always have a back up of your data. Our message must be getting out there, because we see more and more clients who are in the planning stage of a back up system lose their data the day before they hooked the the new back up system up. As ironic as that sounds, it happens all the time. People just put it off too long and the risk catches up with them. With larger and larger hard drives available as the Apple factory option that risk only increases with the amount of data stored in one place. An automatic and reliable back up system should be put in place BEFORE you start generating data.

Another situation we commonly see is where a back up has been made and the primary drive then gets erased (on purpose) in preparation for a move to a new computer or some other reason. It’s very, very important that when you make a back up with plan to only have that data on solely the back up drive for a time, that you test to ensure your data is really there. If the backup is bootable, then try booting off it to test. If it’s a Time Machine back up, then do some sample restores from a couple of different days. The rule here is if you’re going to be moving your data, it’s very important that to check to see that data is valid before you erase your old data.

The new year is great time to start fresh with a good back up system. Do yourself a favor and make a resolution to get a back up system installed as soon as possible. There are lots of options, and many are very inexpensive. Ask your MacMedics Engineer or Service Coordinator for help. We’ll be happy to help install a system that’s right for you.

P.S. If you have a MacBook check to see if you have a Seagate 7.01 firmware drive. These drives are prone to an unusual fatal hard drive failure. If you have this drive installed, MacMedics recommends that your proactively replace it. See our previous blog post on the topic here.

Also see our post about stripped or spanned hard drive RAIDs such as the LaCie Big Disk. This is another case where having all your eggs in one basket can be very risky. We’ve learned over time that many of clients don’t even know they are using such a system. Super dangerous for your data. If you have one, just get in touch with us ASAP!

Written by Dana Stibolt

January 4th, 2009 at 11:16 am