Recover from disaster – in minutes!

What’s the worst thing that could happen to your Mac Pro? Hard disk crash? A bit too much tinkering has rendered your system unstable or unusable? Well I’ve only been playing this Mac game for three or four months now and for a while there I thought – if anything terminal happens, I’m stumped. I really wouldn’t know where to start, I mean after all the underlying OS is based on some sort of Unix and I know as much about that as I know about [enter your chosen mysterious subject here, e.g. astrophysics, unified field theory, women…!].

But fear not, because for not much outlay and with no more technical skill than being able to hold a screwdriver and click a mouse button, you could have a way to recover from a serious problem in mere minutes. How so?

Step 1 – Buy a hard disk. The Mac Pro takes standard SATA hard disks. You don’t need to buy something exotic (and expensive) from the Apple Store, pretty much any modern SATA drive will do. I plumped for a 500Gb Western Digital that cost me around ¬£47 ($94) but there are smaller and cheaper drives you can use that are just as good. Just make sure you get something that’s large enough to hold all your ‘stuff’.

Step 2 – Get some software that allows you to clone your boot drive. I purchased a program called SuperDuper that’s currently on v2.5 and costs a mere ¬£14.97 (about $30).

Step 3 – Install your new hard disk. It’s as easy as removing the side of your Mac Pro, pulling out one of the empty drive trays (Apple call them ‘sleds’), screwing the tray on to the disk and replacing it in the machine.

Step 4 – Boot the Mac as normal and use Disk Utility to set up your newly installed disk. Identify the disk from the list down the left and create a new partition on it. The default settings are usually fine – that’s a single partition using the journalling file system. Give your new disk a name (I called mine ‘Clone HD’). Once you’ve done this you should see your new disk appear on the Mac desktop.

Step 5 – Use SuperDuper to clone your boot drive on to your new disk. SuperDuper is very easy to use, just click the necessary options and you’re done. One thing I would suggest and that is to exclude your cloned hard disk from Spotlight. If you don’t then searches showing results on your boot drive will most likely appear in duplicate as Spotlight finds the same item on your new disk as well.

Step 6 – Repeat the SuperDuper clone process as often as required to keep your clone up to date. While the first backup will take a while as it has to copy everything across, subsequent backups only need copy across what has changed so they’ll be much quicker. I tend to refresh my clone drive every other day.

That is pretty much it. Now if the worst happens and you lose your original boot drive, or find yourself unable to repair it, simply open up your Mac and remove the problem drive, replacing it with your cloned one. Note – the boot drive tends to sit in bay #1, that’s the leftmost bay as you look at the Mac Pro.

I’ll be filling in the exact details shortly of what settings I use in SuperDuper, but I’ve just tried it out and
my Mac Pro booted from my cloned disk without hesitation allowing me to use the system as before. Obviously anything you changed since the last backup will be lost, but as a way of getting back up and running quickly it’s a useful technique. One thing I probably would having booted off my clone drive is to rename it to match what the original was called (e.g. “Macintosh HD”) so that any scripts or other programs¬† etc., that look for a disk by drive label and expect to find the original name, will find it.