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Archive for the ‘Hard Drives Die’ tag

Step 1: Get Time Machine Working; Step 2: Monitor Time Machine Backup; Step 3: Replace Time Machine Backup After 3 Years of Use

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Replace your Time Machine hard drive after 3-years of loyal service to prevent data loss!

Apple’s Time Machine is the most powerful feature built into the OS X operating system. You can buy almost any hard drive, plug it in, and Time Machine practically configures itself. It’s pretty much set it and forget it. While that is true for the most part, you do need to keep an eye on it.

Ensure Time Machine is running. If there is an issue, or if it’s running slowly, that could be a precursor to an issue with your Mac’s hard drive, your Time Machine hard drive, or perhaps BOTH!

Hard drives don’t last forever, and your Time Machine hard drive is no exception! When you buy a new Time Machine hard drive or a Time Capsule, you should write the purchase date on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the front of the hard drive. After 3 years of loyal use (in most cases), then it’s time to retire that backup and add a new one. Hey, this is your chance to EXPAND your backup plan by reusing that aging hard drive as an off-site back up!

When a hard drive starts to fail, it can make both your main hard drive and your backup hard drive work harder to keep up. If you leave a situation like this going for too long, you can end up with more than one sick hard drive and put your valuable data at risk.

Written by Dana Stibolt

May 20th, 2014 at 9:10 am

Don’t Play Trick Or Treat With Your Mac’s Back Up!

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This post was updated 10/31/14

We just had full moon, and it seems like it brought a ton of new Data Recovery jobs into the MacMedics offices. Spooky!

Now that it’s Halloween, I offer you the perfect metaphor for your Mac’s (or iPhone’s) Back Up. Don’t play “Trick Or Treat” with your valuable data.

When we have clients show up at our Mac Lab with data we can’t recover it just breaks our hearts. We’ve got a great track record for Recovering AND Rescuing data for folks (Usually for just $399 w/ free 1TB Time Machine drive so you never lose your data again BTW), but there are cases we we can’t help with. We will refer these jobs off to Clean Room recovery firms, and often they can save your data in exchange for fees as high as $2500. But, not all data can be saved, and about 10% of the cases we refer, there’s not a positive result, and that data is gone forever.

As soon as you buy a new Mac, or get an old Mac’s hard drive repaired, you need to have a back up program running. On any Mac that is running Leopard (10.5) or Snow leopard (10.6), Lion (10.7), Mountain Lion (10.8), Mavericks (10.9), or Yosemite (10.10) use the built-in Time Machine! It’s very, VERY powerful, and has been used to save lots of our client’s data. Plus it’s the MOST POWERFUL feature that is BUILT IN to the Mac’s modern OS!

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

1. Automatic (Use Time Machine and this point is covered)
2. Redundant (Double your back up with a clone of your data and this point is covered)
3. Off-Site (Take your double back up off-site or get Mozy and this point is covered)

See how easy it is to be 100% covered! Now think of how much better you’ll feel knowing this little project has been taken care of and that your back up has been certified! If you need help getting a back up in place, we can help. On-site, In-lab, or even Remote Desktop Support, we’re there, and we’ll help get your back up configured and tested!

While all of us at MacMedics are HUGE fans of Time Machine, it’s not 100% infallible. MacMedics recommends that you ALSO 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. With a “clone” back up AND a Time Machine back up, you’re covered for TWO types of back ups, and you’re DOUBLING your chances for a successful recovery.

This might also be a good time to enhance your back up plan by adding an off-site back up. MacMedics hosts our own in-house CrashPlan backup server for your important data! So, if you want to expand into a cloud backup, we can help!

We had a client in with a bad MacBook hard drive just a few days ago, and she was mostly backed up, but she was working a major project for her employer that had huge amount of Excel data in it. All she wanted was that one folder. Sadly we could not get it for her. If she had set up Mozy, even if she did not have a back up drive *a common problem for portable computers), her data would have been “automatically” backed up AND “off-site” thus completing two points of the golden triangle of data protection. Best of all, it would have been 100% free!

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!

Also, don’t forget that hard drives don’t last forever. Our rule of thumb for hard drive retirement is as follows. In Apple laptops the hard drive should be proactively replaced after 2 to 3 years years. In Apple desktops the hard drive should be proactive replaced after 3 years. You can find out more about this on our website

There’s one more thing I would like to mention here. iPhones and iPod touch models also need to be backed up. All you have to do is to sync with you Mac from time to time. People are starting to treat these portable Apple products as stand alone devices, and when you think about it, many people are generating data on their iPhones and iPods just like they do on a computer.

You’ve got photos, e-mails, text documents, bookmarks, files, contacts, calendars, and videos that all can be generated or sent to your mobile device. All you have to do is connect to iTunes, and it will back up your device. Apple also has iCloud, which offers a PAID service that will allow you backup your entire iOS device to the cloud. This is however not automatic, and it IS something you have to pay for. Photos in My Photo Stream are saved on the iCloud server for 30 days. To save or back up these photos, you must copy them from My Photo Stream to your Camera Roll on your iOS device. You can then back up your Camera Roll using iCloud or iTunes.

There are not too many ways to get mission critical data off a dead iPhone. We can often do it, but the data is all stored on the logic board of your iPhone or iPod touch. If it gets wet, gets dropped, or gets lost or stolen, then there goes your data. If we can’t get your logic board to fire up, then we don’t have access to your data.

Be sure to read “The Nine Things We Wish We Did Before Our House Burned Down“. We have the list line by line and a link to the original post, which is a “MUST READ” for anyone that has a house OR a computer

Dana Stibolt Of MacMedics Is A Guest Of The Mario Armstrong Show On XM Radio

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Thanks to friend of MacMedics, Mario Armstrong for inviting Dana Stibolt, Owner and Founder of MacMedics onto The Mario Armstrong on XM Radio channel 169 last week.

It was a fun talk about a really serious subject. The majority of the radio visit was focused on the MacMedics 5 Rules of Data Preservation and Protection, which can be reviewed at our web page,

You can listen to the segment here. If you’d like to download the MP3 file or send it right to iTunes, just hold down “Command” and click the link above to download the file.

The interview starts at 7:45 into the recording.

Written by Dana Stibolt

August 24th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

MacMedics Case File: Another Successful And Full Data Recovery For Author Susan Henderson

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We recently helped a new client from New York with a pretty tricky data recovery situation. She had visited the Apple Store to have her hard drive replaced. They were not able to do anything with her old hard drive. They ran some tests and told her her hard disk had “failed and lost all data”. She asked them if she was able to hang onto her old drive, which our Apple colleagues graciously static bagged for her. She then securely packed it and shipped it to us for data recovery.

On our first attempt, we were not able to grab any data, but we stuck with it and was able to recover all of her data.

Below is what she had to say about sending her hard drive to MacMedics:


My computer started freezing regularly and soon after would not restart. I was shocked when I took it to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store and they told me there was “zero data” on my hard drive. I’m a writer and I had not backed up my work for years. I lost a memoir, my next two novels, not to mention years of photos, iTunes, and on and on. I was devastated and sent my faulty hard drive off to MacMedics. They did a “Tier 1” recovery and found all the files to be corrupted. I thought this was the end. Then they did a “Tier 2” recovery, and a few days later sent a G-Drive Mini to me with EVERYTHING restored. I’m ecstatic! (And now I back-up compulsively with Mozy.) Thank you MacMedics!

Susan Henderson,
author of UP FROM THE BLUE

You can read more about this including comments from her Blog readers and MacMedics at this link. You can read more about the MacMedics 5 rules of data protection and preservation at

Also, don’t assume that when someone tells you your hard drive has “failed and lost all data”, that that is the gospel. Many folks don’t have the time, knowledge, or the energy to really know what’s up with your hard drive. At least 50% of the people that come into our shop with a “dead” hard drive don’t need clean room data recovery. If you send your drive away to “clean room” recovery for a free evaluation, and they can recover your data easily, you are still going to pay a pretty penny. Can you risk your data to our process, in almost all cases, yes. You can can do further damage by using the wrong process to try and recover the data, but if we suspect that your drive needs the clean room treatment, we’ll refer you to one of our partners. You data is worth a second opinion. If your data is worth $150, then it’s worth letting us have a crack at it.

Also, the data recovery firms pay a commission to the folks that refer business to them (including us). Many people would rather just have that commission, rather then trying to take the trouble of trying to recover your data. If your data is super critical, then you may want to go right to a clean room firm. If you’re not sure, please call us and ask us how we think your case should be handled. We do this every single day, so we do have a good deal of Macintosh Data Recovery experience we can share with you.

An Unfortunate Reminder Of Why Data Backups Are SO Important

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I recently helped a new client, Jet Stream Girl; deal with a terrible data loss issue. We did our best with her hard drive recovery from a 12” PowerBook. Sadly we were not able to get her data. She had an older iBook that was sick, but still had some of her data on it, so we migrated that unit to a new computer for her.

It was a bad situation, as she lost a large amount of data and photos. This is unfortunate reminder of why backups are SO important. See our web site: for more info.

She gave us a nice shout out in her blog, which can be found here.

Written by Dana Stibolt

August 6th, 2010 at 11:38 am

MacMedics Case File: iBook G4 Hard Drive Data Recovery Job Sounds LIke A Chicken

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This iBook hard drive came into the MacMedics Lab for data recovery. The hard drive came out of an iBook G4. Sadly the client did not have their data backed up. This hard drive has a serious problem and it now sounds like a chicken!

Please ensure you have an automated, functional, and fully tested back up system in place. Hard drives can die at any time. See our website for more information.

Written by Dana Stibolt

July 22nd, 2010 at 8:19 am

MacMedics Frequently Asked Macintosh Service Questions: How Safe Is My Time Machine Back Up?

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We had a new MacMedics client call us on the phone and then come by the office with their sick iMac. The complaint was the unit was super slow. Right away I’m thinking a bad hard drive. The client tended to agree with me. The iMac fits our profile for hard drive “retirement” anyways since it’s right at the three years old mark. This is a fine time to “upgrade” and “retire” a desktop hard drive. (MacMedics recommends desktop hard drives be retired after 3 years and 2 years in laptops)

In this case the client was in a hurry, so in trying to find the fastest solution we looked for the “sniper shot” hard drive fix to see if we could put her back in shape without replacing her hard drive. She had a presentation to work on tonight, and she felt most comfortable with the idea of getting her unit back on-line. We offered a low cost rental, since she had her Time Machine data, but she really wanted her iMac back.

We felt comfortable trying some “fixes” on her hard drive, because she had an up-to-date Time Machine back up. Well, when it really came down to it, those fixes and even a new install of her operating system failed to solve the problem. This told us that it was in fact the hard drive that was the cause of the problem.

The client opted for a new hard drive, AND an upgrade to a 1 TB hard drive (from a 500 MB. Read more about iMac hard drive service and upgrades here.), since her hard drive was dying. Because of what we had learned about her drive being super slow, we decided to multi-task and run utilities on her Western Digital TIme Machine volume while the new OS was also installing. As we started looking at it carefully, we learned that the Time Machine drive was also failing.

We’re not big fans of this brand of hard drive, and when we told the client it was failing, she was shocked to hear it. We learned that the drive was less than a year old (don’t forget hard drives can die at anytime. See our website for more info.) When I told her that Western Digital was not my first choice for storing data, she was again shocked as she bought it from the Apple Store.

Here’s the facts folks. Any hard drive can die at any time, and just because it was purchased at the Apple Store does not give you an extra layer of protection. The other thing to remember is that the process of TIme Machine running every hour is rough on hard drives. The other item everybody needs to know, is there’s no such thing as set-and-forget-it the world of hard drive back ups.

All hard drive back up systems need to be tested and monitored on a regular basis. Time Machine is no exception. It does a great job of providing extremely easy to use back ups, but it should not be the only back up you trust your data with. (See my previous post about Time Machine here.) We recommend a double back up. TIme Machine for your first layer of back up, and a “clone” back up for your second layer of protection. Ideally, you should also have some sort of off-site back up as well.

As we store more and more of our digital identity and life on hard drives, it’s akin to more “eggs in one basket”. When you have more data stored in one place, you increase your risk, if that single hard drive fails, you could stand to lose all of the data stored on it. The other thing to keep in mind is as the amount of data you have active and live on your computer grows and grows, TIme Machine loses some if it’s ability to keep a longer record of you past data. The larger your Time Machine hard drive volume is in ratio to your main hard drive, the longer Time Machine will keep you data backed up. Of course having any back up is better than no back up, but Time Machine’s real advantage is in it’s ability to to keep months and months (even a year) of data for you to look back on if you should need a file that you accidentally erased 6 months ago (or longer).

As was the case today with our new client, she came very close to losing her data as, both her primary and her TIme Machine back-up drives were both failing in different ways. That could have proved disastrous.

What can you do to prevent this? Make a clone of your drive. For as little as $99 you can by a portable USB hard drive and either clone your whole hard drive, or just copy your user folder to it. You can also start burning some of your data to DVDs or CDs and storing that data off site.

No matter what you need in terms of a back up, MacMedics can help. Call any of our offices, and we’ll be glad to help you add your first, second, or third layer of back up. It’s important, so don’t delay.

Tip: If you bought a Time Machine drive when you purchased your new Macintosh, it needs to be installed in order to protect you. Don’t start generating data you care about AND can’t stand to lose if you’re NOT backed up. If you’re reading this, and you need help checking you back up or getting it configured, call us we can help. It does not matter if you’re local to MacMedics here in Baltimore, Washington DC, or Philadelphia. We can come on-site, or we can visit your computer via our Desktop Support Software. A back up coaching session over the phone can be set up and running in about 15 minutes. PLEASE, don’t wait!

You can read some of my other posts on Time Machine here:

Congratulations your hard drive made it through another Friday the 13th!

Back up and secure your data! (Then test your back up system!)

Do you use Time Machine as your only back up? Double it!

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

Leopard’s Time Machine might not be a powerful enough back up for you.

MacMedics Frequently Asked Macintosh Service Questions: Time Capsule Data Recovery

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Update 3/8/14: MacMedics now charges $399 for our famous Data Recovery One service. However, we do now include a free 500GB USB hard drive to return your data to (if you send or bring us a bare hard drive), or it can be used as your future Time Machine backup hard drive so you NEVER have to go through the data recovery process again. See our website for more info:

MacMedics Frequently Asked Macintosh Service Questions: Time Capsule Data Recovery

Where do I go for data recovery service for a dead or failed Time Capsule?

Here at MacMedics we see a number of Time Capsules that have failed or have lost their ability to access the data stored on the internal hard drive. In most cases we can easily rescue the lost data and copy it onto another hard drive for you. You can also buy a hard drive from MacMedics that we can copy your recovered data on to.

Time Capsule data recoveries usually are performed for our Tier-1 Data Recovery fee of $399. This covers disassembly of your Time Capsule, the rescue of all of your data to a hard drive that provide, and we’ll put it all back together again so it can be sent back to Apple (if you are able to do this). No two data recovery cases are the same, so depending on your hard drive’s situation, pricing could be higher if we have to spend extra time with your data. Sometimes the the Time Capsule’s hard drive is so sick, we have to rescue and recover the data, then repair it to make it useable again.

If your Time Capsule’s hard drive has “failed” we can replace it for you with a new hard drive.

Don’t forget that data that is stored on a Time Capsule that is NOT on your computer or elsewhere is NOT backed up. Having your data stored off your computer might reduce the risk to your data slightly, but it does not mean that data is fully protected. The Apple Time Capsule is based on a single hard drive, so there is no system for data redundancy in the system. Please ensure you data is always in two places at once. Also, Time Capsule and Time Machine hard drives live a hot and hard life, so it’s important that understand they will not last forever, and that their life might be shorter that what you might expect from your Mac’s hard drive. See our web site for more info.

Also, if your Time Capsule is still under Apple’s 1-year warranty or AppleCare, we can help recover the data and assist in getting your Time Capsule replaced under warranty.

Questions? Just give us a call at 1-866-MAC-MEDICS or send us an e-mail.

MacMedics Frequently Asked Macintosh Service Questions: iMac Hard Drive Upgrades

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MacMedics Frequently Asked Macintosh Service Questions

What is the cost for upgrading an iMac hard drive through an Apple Authorized Service Provider?

In most cases if your current drive is healthy enough for a large data transfer, and your data is backed up, MacMedics can perform this popular service for $150 plus the cost of a hard drive. A new “top-quality” 1 Terabyte hard drive can be provided with a full three-year manufactures warranty for about $130 making the total procedure with a new 7200 RMP hard drive about $280. MacMedics offers a full 1-year “no-hassle” parts and labor warranty on hard drives that are purchased and installed by us.

Also, if your iMac is still covered by AppleCare, installing a new third party hard drive won’t void your warranty (if performed by MacMedics). Your extended warranty will still be in effect, but will NOT cover the new non-Apple hard drive.

Another scenario that comes up quite often at MacMedics is where an iMac that is under warranty and it’s hard drive has failed. We can still replace your hard drive under warranty AND also offer a new larger, faster third party hard drive. We just charge you for the hard drive upgrade, and the replacement hard drive supplied by Apple is given to you to keep.

Your old hard drive will be placed in a static bag and returned to you (if out of warranty). The old hard drive can serve as a rudimentary “snapshot in time” back up that can be given to friends or a family member to serve as an “off-site back up”.

Obviously if your current hard drive is sick, or your data is in jeopardy, labor costs can be higher. For situations where your data is NOT backed up and the health and security of the data is unknown, MacMedics can remove your hard drive without testing the machine, and perform our Tier-1 data recovery where we make a cold clone of your drive (if possible). Data recovery can be tricky and each case is different, so it’s not always possible to spell out all of the details and possibilities in advance. If the $99 data recovery fee is successful we will copy that data without further inspection or review to any computer or external hard drive if you’re NOT having your computer repaired. See our data recovery “Frequently Asked Questions” at this link for more details.

Don’t forget that if your iMac hard drive (or other Mac desktop) is more than three-years old, then MacMedics recommends a proactive hard drive retirement. See our website for more info.

Not near a MacMedics office? We do accept mail-in repairs! Just put your iMac in it’s original shipping box, and either send it via the carrier of your choice, or call/e-mail us and we’ll arrange to send you a pre-paid shipping label.

The Apple Store does not perform hard drive upgrades, they also can’t rescue data that may be at risk. Folks from all over the world send us their Macs need repairs. If your local Apple Authorized service options are limited, let us help you out. Just fill out this form, and send your iMac in!

Congratulations your hard drive made it through another Friday the 13th!

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Time Machine is an excellent way to back up your files! Its only cool and powerful if you actually turn it on and USE it!

Time Machine is an excellent way to back up your files! It's only cool and powerful if you actually turn it on and USE it!

Friday the 13th can be an un-lucky day, but you CAN take control of your back up and ensure your data is always protected by following a few simple steps.

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

1. Automatic (Use Time Machine and this point is covered)

2. Redundant (Double your back up with a clone of your data or use an off-site back up and this point is covered)

3. Off-Site (Take your double back up off-site or get Mozy or CrashPlan Pro and this point is covered)

If you’d like to sign up for Mozy or CrashPlan Pro, we have links to those services, including the hard to find free 2GB Mozy account. We also strongly recommend LoJack for Laptops. (Use code “BESTOFMONTH″ for 10% off paid service)

We’ve been over this before, but here on the front lines of data loss we see this just about everyday. It’s senseless the number of pictures, school papers, financial and business documents, and music get lost when a back up system can be had for as little as $129!

You need to make your back up system automatic, or use a program like Time Machine. That’s the first step. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY can keep up with a “manual” drag-n-drop back up! To boot, quite a bit of the data loss we see here at MacMedics happens when someone copies over important data during a drag-n-drop Finder copy. Sometime, folks think they have the data copied, but something goes wrong and they just end up with an alias, then they go and delete the original data, because they think they just copied it.

The second step is to regularly test that back up to ensure your files are there and you’re able to grab them anytime you need them. There’s no such thing as a “Set-It-And-Forget-It” back up system. You can check you Time Machine back up by holding “OPTION” when you click on Time Machine menu icon. This will “VERIFY” your current back up to ensure it does not have a problem that is detectable by the built-in check.

Also, don’t forget that Time Machine hard drives, AND Time Capsules live a hot and hard life. The Time Machine process is tough on hard drives, so after three or four years of loyal service, you should retire your Time Machine hard drive and turn that drive into a backup of your backup.

If you need help getting your back up set up, our advice is free, and we have external portable and desktop hard drives in stock!

If you have data you care about it needs to be backed up! Just because your computer is new or you just replaced the hard drive offers you very little protection. Hard drives can die at any time, and in fact there’s an increased risk of that occurring in the first 30 to 60 days of a hard drives’ life.

See our website for more info on “retiring” older drives and ensuring you have a safe back up.

The pictures we take are the most cherished and valuable items on most computers. Make sure the pictures you take this year make it onto your back up system as soon as you import them onto your computer. Also, as an added tip: Don’t have iPhoto delete your pictures off you camera. Leave them in two places, in iPhoto AND on your camera until you have them BACKED UP. You ALWAYS want to have your valuable data in TWO PLACES at all times.

Be sure to read the Blog clipping we link to titles “The 9 things we wish we did before our house burned down” You can find that here.