Let me begin with words to consider for all academiPad readers: It is not a matter of if technology will fail you, but a matter of when. And unless you enjoy rewriting your dissertation or journal submission from scratch, you must have a backup strategy in place.
Sure it is possible that your devices will never have a hard drive failure or be stolen. For the lucky, you will never leave your phone in a taxi or accidentally drop it in the washing machine. But for most, you will be faced with at least one type of “crash” in your future. After recovering from a hard drive crash on my work computer recently, I thought a two part post dealing with the dreaded “crash” was in order.
The goal here is to spend some time thinking about a “crash” so that when one happens, you will be off to races recovering as smoothly as possible.
So as not to overwhelm ourselves thinking about the “crash”, the topic will be split up into two parts:
Part I – Mac crash
Part II – iOS crash
Backup your Mac
Recently, I ended up face to face with a technician at the Apple Store, hearing the words “your hard drive is done. Ok if we put a new one in?” Without even thinning about it I surprisingly calmly said, “yes” feeling great knowing all my data was backed up. My backup weapon of choice is Dropbox. For details on Dropbox, check out the academiPad summary here and if you haven’t already, do yourself a huge favour and set it up today for your main documents folder. If not Dropbox, suggest something similar like Google Drive or Microsoft Skydrive.
With new hard drive installed I left the Apple Store and started to walk home. It was then calm turned to a bit of panic:
- Where are my Microsoft Office install DVDs?
- What application do I need to install tonight before I go to work tomorrow?
- What applications do I want to install on the weekend after I get through the week?
The panic is routed in the fact that I’m “knowledge worker” and I joke that without my computer I’m pretty much as useful as a crumpled up piece of paper on a desk. Sure I can still talk to people and help them work through problems, but my computer is my main “production” device. In order to get my computer back in working order I went through a number of steps. My hope is that the headings and suggestions below will allow you to better prepare for your Mac rebuild:
List all your applications
To get started, go into the Finder and write out all the non-OS X standard applications. For example, exclude things like iTunes, Calculator, Mail, etc.
Next, identify the applications that would need to be reinstalled immediately in the event of a crash. For me, the list ended up being pretty short: Microsoft Office, OmniFocus, OmniGraffle, and 1Password.
Collect your materials
What you need to collect is covered by asking yourself and if needed, writing down the answers to these questions:
- Do you know where all of your install CDs/DVDs are for your software?
While a lot of software can be download online, my experience is that is usually faster and sometimes required to use CDs/DVDs for the larger installs. I would suggest a CD wallet to store all of your discs in one central location. Something I do now, but was pretty stressed having to look through multiple boxes and locations looking for my discs.
- Do you know where the product keys / license codes are for your software?
I could not recommend 1Password more for its ability to track software installation data. More info on 1Password can be found here
There are countless ways to backup your data and will not try to explain them here. If are you are starting fresh, I would suggest learning more about:
I will say that in my opinion, Dropbox is the best solution for your primary documents folder. The OS X and iOS backup : the ultimate guide article available here provides an overview of many options.
The Finder defaults I had set for myself I didn’t really think about too much until after I was faced with a rebuild of my work machine. Following this article’s tips/tricks I had the Finder tricked out just the way I wanted in no time. I still have yet to apply all of my preferences to my rebuilt computer and the psychology impact of constantly reminding myself of the crash by their absence is not to be underestimated. In the “backup recovery cheat sheet” you will find a spot to list Preferences and Customizations. Another example is your desktop wallpaper and Dock preferences, change those right away as I found it helped in making the machine feel like my computer sooner.
Screwdriver that will open your machine. Suggest keeping factory-installed RAM if you upgrade. While it was a very rare case, the Apple Store claimed that my third-party RAM was preventing their Lion images from being copied to my new hard drive. Based on my experience, my suggestion is to always do a reinstall with factory installed RAM.
Your Next Steps
1) Backup!!! Don’t let the determination of a ‘backup strategy’ be an obstacle to backing up. At minimum, make a copy of your immediately important files and store it away from your main device. If you haven’t done that lately, go and do it right now!
2) Create a “backup recovery cheat sheet” by answering the questions above. Print it off and file away somewhere easily accessible.
3) Review your data and make sure have a backup location for each set.
4) Relax – when your computer crashes you are set with your game plan in hand
Disclaimer: Image source unknown.