Sunday, January 14, 2007

Three Days Backing Up: A Tale of Woe

Three days spent on data backup. The good news is, my data are backed up (redundantly). The bad news is, I spent three days doing it. I ordered a 160 Gb internal hard drive (Seagate, 160 Gb Ultra-ATA, definitely not bleeding edge equipment) a couple of weeks ago, with the intention of putting it in an external drive case I already had. I'd been using that case for a year or better, swapping a 10 Gb and a 20 Gb hard drive in and out when I wanted to back up the data on my eMac. The new drive was going to save me the trouble of swapping drives (not a quick process, as the case was not made for this) and allow a back up of the entire 40 Gb eMac drive.

What I eventually learned: The case (the board, the firmware, some part of the case) is incompatible with my new drive. I can't use it in the case with the eMac or the Linux boxen. Along the road to this new knowledge, I took apart two Linux boxen, reformatted several hard drives repeatedly, reinstalled Debian stable several times (I lost count) and tried every possible configuration of hard drive jumpers.

The new drive isn't going to waste. It's now the master drive in a Linux box, and I've backed up the "critical data" over my LAN, using ftp. This freed up another 20 Gb hard drive for the external drive, so I can now swap between two 20 Gb's and a 10 Gb. It's not a pretty solution, but I can load lots of photos onto the newly-improved Linux box. I did consider replacing the hard drive in the eMac, but you have to remove about half the guts of that cute little gum-drop-shaped machine, including the cathode ray tube, to get to the hard drive. I'm just not woman enough for the job.

As usual, I collected some links along the way.

  • Articles: Using an external USB hard drive. This is the way my installation should have worked.
  • Advice on buying an external hard drive from MacOS Hints. This is, essentially, what I did.
  • External USB hardrive not mounting after update. Various suggestions are offered, tried, and discarded. The thread ends with this puzzling and uninformative result:
    The external HD is now working again. After trying all the other routes I finally switched the power switch off on the drive and started the Mac, then switched the power to the drive on and it mounted. Perhaps the drive needed to reset itself but thankfully it works now.
    Some of the problems I had with the Mac disappeared when I restarted it whenever I changed drives in the external case. My Linux boxen have similar issues, and the easiest way to handle them is a reboot.
  • Can't format external hard disk. Been there. Failed to do that.

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