Posted October 17th, 2005 @ 06:46pm by Erik J. Barzeski
This weekend while I was in North Carolina, my primary hard disk decided to corrupt itself. A minor inconvenience, I figured. After all, I'd been backing up with Apple's "Backup" application every night.
Note: small changes made (11:29am, Oct. 18) since John Gruber decided to link to me. I may as well clarify things…
Little did I know what a steaming pile of shit Backup turned out to be. The list of things Backup can not do is astounding, including:
- Restoring a backup to a blank hard disk (you need to have the same username as before, with an OS installed).
- Restore incremental backups in one fell swoop. No, now I have to go through and figure out what the differences are between the 170 GB full backup and the nineteen incremental backups that occurred after that.
- Open the .sparseimage files and copy files back over. If you were using resource forks, why, it seems you're out of luck. Bye bye many of my fonts files.
In other words, there's really no way to actually use backups made with Backup in any way that makes sense. If I - a former Apple employee, Mac Genius (and trainer), etc. can't figure this out, I'm not sure how my mom will ever do.
I was backing up my entire hard drive. It crashed, so I erased it and figured I could just restore the drive. Not so - everything is put into a "Restored Files" folder, which naturally means I couldn't boot. PHP? MySQL? Any kernel extensions or things outside of ~/ were, at that point, bound to be lost as I am not about to go through every folder and copy things back over.
Instead, I decided to install the OS and copy my old home folder. That worked... somewhat. I had to use the first full backup, since it contained most of the files. Then, I copied the iTunes and iPhoto XML files from the most recent backup that had them. Then I opened each .sparseimage in chronological order to look for folders with changed documents in them. Then, one by one, I copied them back - photos in iPhoto, music I'd purchased, documents I'd worked on (created, edited, etc.). It was painstaking, and I ignored applications I'd updated or anything outside of my home folder.
Backup insanely copies modification dates of folders even if nothing inside of them actually changes. iPhoto folders apparently change every day, as do iTunes folders. The fastest way I found to determine whether anything was actually inside a massive hierarchy of folders was to get info (cmd-I) on the folder to see if it was "Zero K" (which would indicate that nothing but more folders were inside) or 24 MB (a few music files, perhaps, or pictures, or documents).
People in the comments have made remarks that I'm a dumbass myself. I've written about Backup's crappy capabilities before, and this recent crash just confirms it. I wasn't looking for it to make a bootable backup drive, but it should be able to restore things. I should not have to choose every backup in Backup and "restore" it, and I should never have to restore to a different location - though the option to do so should be preserved.
What did I expect I should be able to do?
- Erase corrupted hard disk
- Choose "Restore"
- Select the latest incremental backup
- Click action button and watch as entire HD is restored - permissions, resource forks, "bootability," from the first full backup through to the incremental backups.
How many of those things was I able to do? The first and the second.
What a fucking joke. I don't swear often, but fuck you, Apple, for releasing something that purports to serve a purpose and then heaping the steaming pile of shit that is Backup. Suffice to say my data is not safe with you, and for that, you've lost a good portion of my respect.
The only saving grace is that I can at least mount the various .sparseimages and copy the files over. Still, 19 backups ranging in size from 1.8 to 3 GB will take plenty of time to go through, that's for damn sure. As I mention above, the .sparseimages don't actually contain resource forks - and now that I've finally finished copying the stuff worth copying, I've deleted them, so I can't look at where the resource forks have gone. All I know at this point is that icons are missing and that things like certain fonts no longer work. I mounted the full backup .sparseimage and drag-and-dropped them over to the previously corrupted disk (after erasing and installing an OS).
Update (10/30/06): Gruber and Zeldman, among others, have recently re-linked to this article. Please note that it's a year old and that, since using (or attempting to use) Backup as mentioned above, I've switched to psync (nightly) and CDs/DVDs (for spot backups) for all of my backup needs and I've done so without incident or complication. Backup has been improved (or at least new versions have been released) since I wrote this article, and Time Machine has been announced as well.
I continue to use Backup to back up my personal data and settings (Address Book, iCal, Keychain, Safari settings, and Stickies), though I've never had to restore any of this data. In fact, given iSync's automatic syncing capabilities and my nightly backup(s), I could probably stop backing up my "Personal Data & Settings" without losing anything.