Thursday, December 3, 2009

Apple Time Machine Gotcha...

In general, I've been loving my MacBook... it's small (easy to take to client meetings), has good battery life (unlike my Dell PC laptop), and easy to use (it's a Mac... right?).  I have particularly liked the way that Time Machine works automatically and invisibly: I've used it a time or two to reach back into the past and find a file that I deleted a while back and had forgotten about but suddenly needed. This approach works better than a few simple disk backups and is like the "10-Tape Rotation" scheme I used for years when I was backing up to separate tape volumes: I always had the recent stuff plus backups extending back in time for up to 3 months.

However, I just ran into a little "gotcha" when I was upgrading to a slightly newer machine.  Mac's also have this wonderful feature of being able to easily clone your hard drive. With a utility like SuperDuper!, you can also clone your machine onto another machine (on the same network). What's even better is that there is a free version of SuperDuper! which makes a complete clone of your machine onto the new machine (the paid versions offer you lots of options such which files/folders to exclude from the clone, thereby making things run faster).. very nice!

Of course, before I cloned the machine, I did a current backup onto my Time Machine drive, setup the cloning operation, and away we went. Took over 2 hours (I've heard that if you have large files on the machine being cloned, things take waaaay longer than if you don't: I had a pair of 2Gig compressed files so what was expected to take 20-30 minutes took much longer. But this is a minor whine, as everything else worked flawlessly on the clone).

However, Time Machine believes that this cloned machine is actually a new machine, and that's not good at all. It means that the new (cloned) machine no longer recognizes my Time Machine HDrive as the current backup drive and wants to start all over with a full backup. What that also means is t hat I can no longer go back to the files that are saved on my old Time Machine backup drive -- they are essentially gone.

I wonder if anyone else has had this experience; if so, do you know how to:
  1. avoid the problem in the future or 
  2. access the old Time Machine backup "just in case"
Hopefully I won't need those old files, but you never know... that's what backups are for. Too bad Apple doesn't have an obvious/easy way to work-around this...

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