The Mac Migration

The journey of a rabid PC user into the land of OS X. This is not a blog about "why" you should switch. It is a guide for those who "have" switched.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Painful Lesson

Create restoration images early and often!
I learned this the hard way eight days into my Powerbook expierence. I was so caught up in the new world of OS X that I forgot it IS fallable. I'm not even sure what I did to be honest but the result was a very expensive paperweight. The system would reboot and tell me that OS X expierenced a really terrible error and would I like to send a report to Apple? Sure I would click. Then the system would sit there, endlessly doing nothing and showing me the blue swirls of the background. At least the mouse pointer would move.
I tried to recover but nothing seemed to work. Many hours of configuration were down the drain and now I had the week ahead to face. So I made the decision to start fresh and reinstalled from a formatted hard drive. The install went by quickly enough and I was left with a fresh system. After getting the essentials installed and configured (IM, email, and some basic networking applications) I decided to create a restoration image. Essentially this is just an image of my hard drive. This was a little harder then I first thought it would be. I have an 80 GB USB drive which I decided would be the "vessel" of my laptops souls. The newly installed OS and all the applications weighed in at a mere 15GB which gave me plenty of room to spare.
Some interesting things to note about this process
1) Creating a disk image from the hard drive doesn't work if you are operating on the drive!
This may seem obvious but at the time I figured some OS X magic would allow for it. And there are some third party applications which seem to solve this but I didn't have a desire to shell out any money for this. So make sure you boot from the Install DVD (Hold the C key down while booting to access the DVD drive) and after choosing your language click on Utilities (Disk Utility).
2) You may NOT mount FAT32 drives for this operation!
At least not in my expierence. I thought that my drive was suffering from bad sectors or some other ailment. Turns out that it needed to contain the HFS format (I used the Mac FS with Journaling turned on) to allow Disk Utility to mount it.
3) Make a cup of coffee or bring some reading material
The process can take a long time. I scanned the image after I created it which took an additional hour. The entire process took about two hours for the first image.
4) Early and often
I've made two images so far. One for each milestone in the configuration. The first contained all the relevent day to day apps I need to survive. The second image I made contained my X11 installation. Installing X11 and Fink took a few hours and there was a good chance I was going to mess it up. But once it was done I immediatly booted up the install DVD to capture the progress.

Now that I have created the images I'm a litle more sure of my random installs of unknown software. Just as a side note Apple seems to dislike NTFS partitions all together. OS X will mount them and even allow you to read but no writing! I'm not sure why since there are successful Linux kernels out there with NTFS write suppport but to be fair all are still experimental. If this is your first week, or even day, with your new Mac I highly suggest backing it up. Now.

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