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You are here: MacNN Forums > Software - Troubleshooting and Discussion > macOS > Time Machine: Not-so-worry-free-backup

Time Machine: Not-so-worry-free-backup
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Helmling
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May 10, 2008, 04:15 PM
 
I've learned an unfortunate lesson (and I wanted to see how many other people are encountering this problem too) about Time Machine. If something interrupts a back-up, then the back-up volume becomes corrupted and must be removed and a new one created.

Last time, my other computer hit the Time Capsule to restore some accidentally deleted photos while my laptop was trying to back-up and then the laptop's back-up disc image had to be deleted and a new one created before Time Machine could work again.

This time I apparently closed my Macbook at the wrong moment and when I got to work I got an error message when Time Machine could no longer find the back-up volume. Now that I'm plugged in Time Machine still can't mount the back-up volume.

Last time, I spent hours on the horn with Applecare (who were uncustomarily clueless) before I just scrapped the back-up volume and started over. Now I know what to do. Fortunately it's a lazy Saturday afternoon and leaving the laptop on for a few hours to create a new back-up isn't a big deal, but I'm hoping Apple is cooking up an update to address some of this.
     
TETENAL
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May 10, 2008, 04:29 PM
 
Sounds more like a problem with Time Capsule to me. For me with local disks only Time Machine had no problem whatsoever with interrupted backups so far.
     
Helmling  (op)
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May 10, 2008, 05:02 PM
 
Well, considering that the marketing for Time Capsule revolves around Time Machine, I'd consider it one and the same.

Don't get me wrong, it's still a great back-up solution...but it's not quite living up to all that was advertised.

After one hour fiddling up on the roof with the air conditioner: 1.6 of 58 Gb

Good thing I don't need to take the laptop out on the town tonight.
     
benz
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May 10, 2008, 08:53 PM
 
yes, similar issue about time machine, well, i just got a " century FW/eSATA external HDD stand as an back up drive using 2.5 SATA HDD. the volume is 90Gb, but failed repeatedly and leads to OS crash.
first i think it might be issue of eSATA, but seems also fail in FW800 connection, with above threads , i think it may be TM issue, now i am trying to delete the backup.db, and try again , but really annoying, another issue is that i am not sure about the stability of retreving back up data?

benz
     
CharlesS
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May 10, 2008, 09:20 PM
 
Originally Posted by Helmling View Post
Well, considering that the marketing for Time Capsule revolves around Time Machine, I'd consider it one and the same.
It revolves around three things: Time Machine, AFP, and 802.11n. Like TETENAL, I've had no trouble at all with interrupting backups on my locally-connected FW800 drive, so my guess would be that it has something to do with the AFP part of things. The other thing that could have something to do with it is the fact that AFP-connected backup drives use sparsebundles instead of just ordinary directories to store the backups - it's possible that the sparsebundle could have become corrupted somehow. Does the sparsebundle mount if you double-click on it?

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Helmling  (op)
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May 10, 2008, 10:49 PM
 
The sparsebundle was actually usable. At one point the Applecare people had me restore to my last successful back-up. However, something about it was also corrupted because it still would not accept new back-ups after that restore. I don't pretend to know how TM indexing everything, but it's obviously very complex and it seems anything that complex cannot live up to the hype of it being simple and painless for the consumer.

Keep in mind, it's not every interrupted back-up session that results in this scenario. I've usually been free to close my laptop whenever I wanted and be on my merry way. This one time, though, something went amiss. I'm thinking there are--probably brief--critical phases of the back-up process that can result in the whole shebang going haywire.
     
Helmling  (op)
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May 10, 2008, 10:50 PM
 
Originally Posted by benz View Post
yes, similar issue about time machine, well, i just got a " century FW/eSATA external HDD stand as an back up drive using 2.5 SATA HDD. the volume is 90Gb, but failed repeatedly and leads to OS crash.
first i think it might be issue of eSATA, but seems also fail in FW800 connection, with above threads , i think it may be TM issue, now i am trying to delete the backup.db, and try again , but really annoying, another issue is that i am not sure about the stability of retreving back up data?

benz
I copy my sparsebundle to another directory so that I still have those old back-ups if need be. Even when they become corrupted and data can't be added, they still seem to be stable to retrieve data from. If you've got the space, maybe you should do that.
     
turtle777
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May 10, 2008, 11:48 PM
 
Let's face it: TM is very 1.0.

As soon as something out of the normal happens, all kinds of things get out of control. TM does what it promises to do, but that's it. It doesn't deal well with any sort of unexpected things.

-t
     
bishopazrael
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May 11, 2008, 01:38 PM
 
For what its worth... and I know it's not much on this thread... but I never understood why God has decided that us lowly disciples should do backups over wireless. Just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I've never been a fan of backups like this over wireless. Honestly a firewire drive plugged in once a week would be fine.
Backups are like guns and condoms. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
     
TETENAL
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May 11, 2008, 02:39 PM
 
A firewire drive plugged in once a week is useless for hourly backups.
     
turtle777
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May 11, 2008, 02:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by TETENAL View Post
A firewire drive plugged in once a week is useless for hourly backups.
That doesn't debunk his main point, just leave the FW plugged in all the time.

And if you need to access data while moving your laptop around, access it from a networked drive.

-t
     
bishopazrael
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May 11, 2008, 04:59 PM
 
Tet..... see the thing is... how many people need an HOURLY backup? This device was marketed towards HOME users. That being the case, I'm sure there are some home users who would like hourly backups, but there are very few who need it. I believe, at least from my understanding of my client base is that most people use their lappy's mobile during the day, but plug it in to the base every night. Usually the base includes a power cord, firewire cord, usb cord that goes to a usb hub, then an audio out plug that goes to a set of speakers, and sometimes the dvi out, thats what most people have for their setup in one fashion or another. So it's my contention that a once daily backup made at 2 am is more than suffecient for their needs. After all... industry standard IT practice for backups was once daily last time I looked. If it's good enough for industry, why isn't it good enough for home users? Just because Steve & his harem of Angles says so?

Once daily is fine for most people who would tell you ... hell.. even once weekly would be great.
Backups are like guns and condoms. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
     
CharlesS
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May 11, 2008, 05:16 PM
 
Especially since the hourly backups tend to slow down single-core machines something fierce.

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benz
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May 13, 2008, 01:17 AM
 
again, i think the issue is on TM, rather than my connection setup, as i tried repeatedly doing back up from TM via either eSATA , or FW 800 but failed in the sense that the OS crash indeed. then i zero the HD and backup file by file/ folder by folder by again using eSATA for ~16Gb data. works fine and had the job done quickly. my config. is MBP 2.4C2D, 4Gb Ram, latest leopard. i guess TM back up is really complicated as it needs to back up the updated, modified files as well. may be if the file is rarely modified or file is simple, that TM can handle because i once use TM to backup of ~110Gb data using FW 400, well it works, but the data structure contains 2 folders with mass size.
so....... structure / complexity of the Db do count, that' s what i feel


benz
     
Mojo-ike
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May 13, 2008, 05:49 PM
 
the same thing has happened to me twice. both times required starting my backups all over from scratch. the first time was with 10.5.0 and the second time was with 10.5.2. both times were with a unsupported simpleshare NAS drive (susing SMB) over ethernet (wireless is evil). despite the promises of several utilities, including disk warrior, i could not rescue the corrupted sparsebundle.

its nice that there is a spinning time machine icon in the menu bar, but its not like it is bright red - it takes time to re-learn that i need to check that before putting my machine manually to sleep.
     
Drakino
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May 14, 2008, 02:09 AM
 
I haven't had any issues with my laptop backing up to my NAS over AFP since 10.5.2 and the Time Machine patch. I can sleep the machine or remove it from the network in the middle of a backup, and nothing goes wrong. Next time Time Machine runs, it cleans up the partial attempt from last time and keeps going.

Opening the Console app, changing to All Messages on the left, then searching for "backup" can reveal useful messages as to what Time Machine is doing. Prior to 10.5.2, I did have interruptions cause some issues, but they were resolved by mounting the sparseimage, then manually nuking any inProgress files. Maybe I've been lucky, but I never bothered to be careful with my laptop when it was backing up, and I've been using Time Machine on my NAS since 2 days after Leopard came out.

Yeah, it's not foolproof (as shown by me having to nuke things in the past), but I've never had a problem that has caused me to nuke the entire backup image, or even a completed backup.
<This space under renovation>
     
MacosNerd
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May 14, 2008, 07:15 AM
 
FWIW, my TM backups so far appear to be fine and have had no corruption issues. The external drive is hooked up to my MBP via a FW800 cable. So far based on this thread this appears to be the safest approach
     
jsyoung82
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May 14, 2008, 09:05 AM
 
FWIW, which Apple machines are these problems occurring on? Specifically, did these machines ship pre- or post-Leopard? The reason I ask is that my wife's pre-Leopard MBP has constant issues (this one included) while my also pre-Leopard MB does not. It seems to me from my experience, as well as others I've talked to, that since Leopard was released (be it 10.5.0-10.5.2) some particular machines have had issues and others not. It's really too bad for us that it's happened this way--my machine is strictly for fun, while my wife's is for work--meaning the one that we need to work doesn't. We've tried all sorts of things to fix her machine, but are pretty much resigned to either go back to Tiger at this point, or get her a new machine that was made post-Leopard (and thusly designed for it). Good upgrade as far as Apple's concerned, I guess $$$
     
MacosNerd
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May 14, 2008, 09:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by jsyoung82 View Post
FWIW, which Apple machines are these problems occurring on? Specifically, did these machines ship pre- or post-Leopard? The reason I ask is that my wife's pre-Leopard MBP has constant issues
My MBP is nearly a year old, and so its most definitely a pre-leopard machine. I purchased leopard when it first came out and as I mentioned in my prior post I've not run into any problems with TM. I have used the restore facility a few times, once for a full system restore and the other times to restore a file or two.
     
benz
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May 23, 2008, 03:54 AM
 
desperate that i finally leave the TM after repeated trials using it a back up, now i stop trying may be till TM update, and now just manually copy files from MBP to the external HD via eSATA, well, not so convenient but at least it works with very reasonable speed by eSATA
     
HiDDeN
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May 23, 2008, 11:04 AM
 
I just started using Leopard and time machine on a new iMac 3,06Ghz. I'm using a Lacie 500gig external HD for backups, but when I enter time machine to restore something it seems frozen up and nothing happens. I even have to force quit it to get out.
     
darcybaston
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May 25, 2008, 02:43 AM
 
I don't like the live-n-proprietary backup technique TM offers that can suddenly suck performance out of a system just because you saved a big document. I much prefer the 3am scheduled device clone to external drive using SuperDuper. I'm asleep, so who cares how the system slows down.

Plus, with a clone instead of TM approach, every little file you have remains every little file you have in paths that you know. There's no bundling or quirky file structure to toy with during a restore operation. What you had, is what you have to restore, using rescue CDs, or option-selecting different startup volumes. Time Machine locks you into its own solution, and I don't like that idea. I want options. I could even do a restore using an Ubuntu installation, or using Firewire disk mode with another Mac.

I use 3 external drives:
1 is a 120GB clone of the Macbook
1 is a 500GB archive I move stuff from the MB onto (and holds my iTunes library)
1 is a 500GB clone of the archive.


For the PS3, similar strategy:

1 500GB drive is a spill-over archive and backup of the internal 60GB
1 500GB is an rsynced backup of the other. (Once a week I bring the Macbook over to do this, plugging both drives into it and run "rsync -ruv /volumes/ps3/* /volumes/ps3-echo" )
Macbook (white glossy) 2.16GHz | 4GB RAM | 7200RPM HD | 10.5.x
     
Gamoe
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May 26, 2008, 05:55 AM
 
I concur on the hourly backup issue. I find it excessive, and frankly counter-productive for my uses. I don't think spinning up the drive every hour to backup is the good for the drive over time, nor is it particularly good for performance when I happen to be doing a lot of reading or writing on the drive at the time. Not to mention it takes a fair portion of processor time, too.

Hourly backups are somewhat mandated for Apple's advertise restore feature, but I don't find that an important nor particularly worthwhile feature for me. Time Machine's backup feature is what I'm really interested in, and that can be well achieved by backing up once a day.

I too am a little concerned with the stability and reliability of Time Machine's ability to restore a complete backup of a drive, though. Last time I needed to transfer all the contents of one drive to another I did a drive clone using Carbon Copy Cloner and I deleted and restarted Time Machine for fear of problems, particularly since I changed the drive's name.
     
kenna
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May 27, 2008, 03:10 PM
 
In terms of a noob who will have a lot of important university work on his new MacBook, what is the safest way to back up and what is the best HDD to do that with?

Preferably a hard drive recommendation in black to match the rest of my setup

I was going to buy the 500GB TM but now i'm not so sure

Can you use TM as a backup with a wired cable???
     
Person Man
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May 27, 2008, 07:10 PM
 
For advanced users, the way Time Machine is set up is not ideal.

As turtle777 pointed out above, Time Machine is very much a version 1.0 feature.

The hourly backups are there for people who create a document and then mess it up somehow by deleting it an hour later or they decide that the version from two hours ago was the better one, etc. Not everyone needs that, but there is another reason for the hourly backup feature, too.

More people need the daily and weekly backups, but that assumes that people are going to leave their computers fully on at the time the backup is scheduled (i.e. not off or sleeping... which many people do). Not all people use the sleep function or leave their computers turned on when not in use.

The hourly feature ensures that no matter when the computer is turned on, at least one backup for the day will get made. This is critical for the average Joe user who needs a set-it-and-forget-it type of backup system. No need to remember to leave the computer turned on/not sleeping, etc.

The hourly backups also ensure that at least one daily backup gets made for laptop users who may not always be connected to their backup drives.

Time Machine, as currently set up, is designed for the lowest common denominator computer user, who needs things set up as they are for set-it-and-forget-it backups. The key is "set-it-and-forget-it." Not "set-it-and-forget-it-except-to-remember-not-to-sleep-or-turn-off-the-system-so-the-daily-backup-runs-at-2 AM."

Power users need more control over the system. What would be ideal is if the crude version control/undelete stuff were handled by a separate system (anyone remember the OS 9 program called Rewind?) and then the user could configure how often backups occurred (hourly, every 6 hours, daily, weekly, monthly?) and how often existing backups are pruned.

Older Macs had the ability to set scheduled start up and shut down times, which would happen regardless of whether the computer was sleeping or turned off. It would be great to be able to do something like that, which would cut down the need for Joe User to remember to leave the computer on. Something like: Turn on (or wake up if asleep) the computer at 2 AM. Run software update, virus scans, etc. Do the daily backup. Turn off at 4 AM. Unless Joe User controls the computer via a power strip.

I think that many of these issues will be resolved over time, as Time Machine matures and Apple adds features to it. But it is frustrating to power users in the meantime.
     
TETENAL
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May 27, 2008, 09:06 PM
 
Why would a "power user" be against hourly backups? Eventually hourly and daily backups get stripped down to weekly backups only anyway, so there is no space advantage of doing a backup every 6 hours vs. hourly. And those hourly backups have hardly performance impact on the machine (at least for dual core machines – I assume a "power user" doesn't use an old low-end Mac with a single core). It's not noticeable. So there is no advantage of doing backups less then every hour.
     
Person Man
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May 28, 2008, 09:53 AM
 
Originally Posted by TETENAL View Post
Why would a "power user" be against hourly backups?
Evidently gamoe, darcybaston, and bishopazrael can all do without hourly backups. They must be power users. I consider myself to be a power user, and the hourly backup issue doesn't bother me. At all.

Eventually hourly and daily backups get stripped down to weekly backups only anyway, so there is no space advantage of doing a backup every 6 hours vs. hourly. And those hourly backups have hardly performance impact on the machine (at least for dual core machines – I assume a "power user" doesn't use an old low-end Mac with a single core). It's not noticeable. So there is no advantage of doing backups less then every hour.
Apparently to the three listed above, there is an advantage to it. But, not everybody:

1. Leaves their computers fully on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which is what would need to be done for a daily backup to function properly on a Mac, because, as far as I know, Macs can't wake themselves up at a predetermined time any more and then go back to sleep afterwards.

At any rate, hopefully future versions of Time Machine will include the customizability these people crave. I wouldn't count on it, but maybe some of it will happen.
     
turtle777
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May 28, 2008, 09:57 AM
 
Originally Posted by TETENAL View Post
Why would a "power user" be against hourly backups? Eventually hourly and daily backups get stripped down to weekly backups only anyway, so there is no space advantage of doing a backup every 6 hours vs. hourly.
Yes, there would be some, but it's hard to quantify.

All those hourly snapshots (changes to previous versions) take u space. If you had only a snapshot taken once a day (half a day), the space that's NOT being used for hourly snapshots is available for long-time archiving.

-t
     
ooninay
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May 28, 2008, 09:58 AM
 
I don't think sleeping your computer compromises systems like TM that do hourly backups since files are not created or modified when a computer is asleep; therefore, hourly backups while the computer is sleeping is unnecessary. The only exception is that if you sleep your computer before the latest changes have been backed up, they won't get backed up until the computer wakes.
     
TETENAL
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May 28, 2008, 10:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by Person Man View Post
1. Leaves their computers fully on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which is what would need to be done for a daily backup to function properly on a Mac, because, as far as I know, Macs can't wake themselves up at a predetermined time any more and then go back to sleep afterwards.
Yes, they can, but even if they couldn't Time Machine doesn't require a Mac to be running at any fixed and predetermined time to function. It just kicks in the next time the Mac wakes up.
     
Person Man
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May 28, 2008, 12:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by ooninay View Post
I don't think sleeping your computer compromises systems like TM that do hourly backups since files are not created or modified when a computer is asleep; therefore, hourly backups while the computer is sleeping is unnecessary. The only exception is that if you sleep your computer before the latest changes have been backed up, they won't get backed up until the computer wakes.
That's not what we're discussing here. We're discussing daily backups. Not hourly. In order for a scheduled daily backup to happen the computer must be fully on at the scheduled time. If it is off or asleep it is not.
     
Person Man
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May 28, 2008, 12:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by TETENAL View Post
Yes, they can, but even if they couldn't Time Machine doesn't require a Mac to be running at any fixed and predetermined time to function. It just kicks in the next time the Mac wakes up.
Exactly, because of the hourly backup feature.

What the others are talking about is disabling the hourly backup feature and setting a daily backup to occur at a scheduled time, when the computer isn't being used. Such as 2 am.

The problem with that approach is that the computer needs to be fully on for that to happen. Otherwise, having the computer do the backup once a day at the first opportunity a la the daily/weekly/monthly cron jobs defeats the stated purpose of those who would do away with the hourly backups: eating up their "precious processor cycles" with the backup, which would most likely take longer than the hourly approach would.
     
ooninay
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May 29, 2008, 12:52 AM
 
Originally Posted by Person Man View Post
That's not what we're discussing here. We're discussing daily backups. Not hourly. In order for a scheduled daily backup to happen the computer must be fully on at the scheduled time. If it is off or asleep it is not.
Sorry... I was actually replying to one of your posts but I see now that I misread it.
     
krove
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Jun 1, 2008, 10:21 PM
 
I *had* a corrupted Time Capsule sparsebundle. Each time Time Machine tried to mount it, a kernel panic occurred. It occurred sometime last month while I was still on 10.5.2. Knowing that I was going to have to scrap my backup that went all the way back to April, I decided to put it off and turned off Time Machine.

Then the 10.5.3 update arrived. On a whim, I turned on Time Machine and tried to run a backup. It worked! So for those who think that Time Machine is only a 1.0 product, I think it's at least 1.0.1 if not 1.1.


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