I devoted much of Saturday afternoon to tweaking a few of PixoBebo’s graphic elements. When done, I saved my work in Fireworks, uploaded the changes to the site. Looks nice, right? Richer color, a little drop shadow here and there. Little did I know that my saved graphics would be the last thing ever saved on my Mac’s hard drive.
Behind The Scenes
My office Mac has three hard drives. I don’t like to lose files and it’s been years since I lost anything of value. All three drives are 500 gigabytes, two are clones of the master hard drive (using SuperDuper!, of course).
This Mac doesn’t have Time Machine backing up to an external hard drive. I want to buy a new one terabyte drive, but haven’t driven myself to cough up the extra change. After all, I’ve got three drives; two clones. What could go wrong?
Once the graphic changes were done, my next agenda item was dinner with friends a few blocks away. I saved my files but left the Mac running since I planned to return to the office.
The Bad and the Ugly
When I got back I had an alert message on my Mac’s screen from SMART Reporter which said it detected problems with my hard drive. SMART Reporter is a free utility that monitors a hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. status. I’ve used it on both Macs for a few years. One time a hard drive died without warning. This time I was warned.
Immediately I began shutting down applications on my Mac, but was unable to shut down before the Mac froze. Something was obviously very bad and I was afraid it would get ugly.
My fear was well founded. It got ugly.
Step by Step
My Mac would not start up, so I had to reboot and hold down the Option key to bring the Mac up using one of the cloned hard drives. Try that in Time Machine.
New Macs can start up on any cloned hard drive, internal or external, Firewire or USB.
Once I was up and running again I used Disk Utility to see if it could repair whatever was wrong with the bad hard drive. Disk Utility didn’t even recognize the bad drive. Uh oh. This is not good. By now 20-minutes had elapsed since I discovered the bad drive, though total down time was just the re-boot sequence.
The Big Gun
Time for more drastic action. I grabbed the boot recovery disk from ProSoft’s Data Rescue II, and did yet another re-boot.
Data Rescue II is a recovery utility for Mac hard drives gone bad:
Do you have a corrupt hard drive or one that no longer mounts? Are other tools failing to even recognize your bad drive? Do you need to recover files that have been deleted? Data Rescue II is the best data recovery software on the market for recovering files from a problem hard drive or that have been previously deleted. Data Rescue II works when other tools fail.
No dice. Data Rescue II found the bad hard drive and attempted to find and recover files, but came up with nothing. No files to be rescued.
The utility has a number of settings, including a Quick Scan, and a lengthy expert scan. I tried both, and again, came up with nothing. Whatever was still on that hard drive would be buried in that huge data cemetery in the sky.
Point of No Return
There comes a moment in any recover effort where it takes more time and effort to recover what is lost than to re-build what was lost. I had reached that point.
Apple’s Disk Utility couldn’t find the hard drive. Data Rescue II found the drive a few times but could never find files to recover. That was some bad crash.
The bad drive was a Western Digital Caviar SATA drive. I’ve had trouble with Caviars on previous machines, Mac and PC. My Sunday morning trip to Office Depot turned up a few 500 gigabyte hard drives in the $120 range, and a Western Digital model for $99.
Needless to say, I passed up the Western Digital and coughed up a few extra dollars for a new Seagate SATA drive, also 500 gigabytes.
The Happy Ending
What did I lose? The original Fireworks graphic files I worked on for PixoBebo were gone. I neglected to copy them over to the other clone drives. After all, I planned to be gone just a few hours.
Had Time Machine been running on yet another hard drive, it’s unlikely that even those files would have been lost, thanks to the hourly backups. Also, I didn’t follow one of my own daily rules—back up valuable files before leaving the Mac.
This mini-disaster cost me $120 and a few hours of fiddling around trying to recover files that barely took a few hours to create. SuperDuper! took about three and a half hours to re-clone the new hard drive, less than 15 minutes to do an incremental back up. I’m back to three drives. Data Rescue II is a good product but didn’t save me this time.
Oh, and I’m looking for a terabyte hard drive so I can use Time Machine on my main Mac. I don’t like to lose files.