The beauty of the backup.

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

I got back from my latest trip to the States a week ago Tuesday. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I put off getting out of bed as long as possible, not just because I was jetlagged, but because after two and a half weeks of swimming, golfing, eating and lounging around, I really didn’t fancy having to get back to work.

When I finally managed to drag myself to my desk and turn on the computer, I saw that there were some software updates to run. This is nothing unusual, so I unhesitatingly downloaded the updates, installed them and restarted the computer—and then watched with horror as my trusty little iMac proceeded to choke and die before my eyes. Or if not die, then at least go into some sort of comatose state in which its hardware was working, but its brain—i.e., all of my files—appeared to be wiped clean.

After a valiant but unsuccessful effort by Jeremy to figure out what was wrong, followed by a rather disheartening and equally unsuccessful phone call to Apple, I found myself facing the possibility that my data was irretrievably lost.

Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Now, any geek worth her salt would have a well-thought-out schedule for regularly backing up all the precious files her computer is bound to contain: the thousands of irreplaceable photos, the thousands of MP3s, the thousands of emails and work documents she needed for her job. But I, being neither a proper geek nor a terribly organized person, have no such schedule, so my backups are lackadaisical at best—and non-existent at worst.

Luckily, since I had just gotten back from the States, my laptop was up to date with my most recent work stuff. Equally luckily, I had long ago moved all my digital photos to the laptop when I ran out of room on the iMac. But older work files, several years’ worth of emails, a heck of a lot of music, and a lot of stuff I couldn’t even remember but just knew I would desperately need at some point in the future—all of that was either destroyed or beyond my reach.


In a last-ditch attempt to salvage the situation, I left the computer running its disk verification and repair program. After 48 hours, it had revived enough so that I could at least drag files off of it and onto my laptop. But then even that stopped working, and it was well and truly dead.

So, that left me with everything on my laptop—and nowhere else. I immediately burned CDs with backups of my work files and email, but I was so daunted by the thought of tackling the gigabytes and gigabytes of multimedia information on the laptop that I kind of just…didn’t do it.

I know it was stupid, I know, I know. But I didn’t know just how stupid it was until this morning, when I went to fire up the laptop and nothing happened. No comforting click of the computer waking up, no reassuring whir of the hard drive, nada. Dead.

Wailing. Lots of it.

To bring this already drawn-out tale to a close, I’ll say that while I sprawled on the bed and sobbed, Jeremy came to the rescue once more, and half an hour later my laptop had gotten over its hissy fit and was up and running again, files intact. But in that half an hour of downtime, when I thought I had really really lost all of my files for real, I mentally kicked myself repeatedly, and hard, for not being more conscientious about backing stuff up, and I swore that I’d never, ever be so blasé/lazy again.

So as I type this, there is a 250 GB external hard drive on its way to me from Amazon, there are 12 freshly-burned CDs next to me containing all my digital photos, there are two other CDs with work files and emails, there is a newly minted .Mac account waiting to be filled with regular backups of smaller files, and there is one rather large iTunes library that is going to be backed up promptly, as soon as I figure out where to put it.

The past week has made me completely neurotic. But when it comes to backing up your files, I think it pays to be neurotic. Lesson learned.



Hi Jessica,

Even though it is only 6 months old my PowerBook G4 is already having troubles. I try to back both my powerbook and my dell laptoup up once a month to my external hard drive.

Key word is try.

I hope the iMac is rescuable.



Well, well. You can breathe now.

I back up daily and redundantly to several external portable drives, since I had a hard drive implosion a few years back… I lost three months worth of my life that time, because that’s how often I made back-ups then. We always learn the hard way. :/

Sorry. Comments are closed.