Backups save the day

Marina City, Chicago A few weeks ago I blogged about my backup system. How I have two 1TB Iomega external drives and how one drive is a duplicate of everything on the other drive, and how I backup everything on my laptop and VPS accounts. It sometimes seem excessive but I’m paranoid.

This morning I’m very glad I went to such lengths. I wanted to copy some stuff onto my Macbook, and there’s nothing like the bandwidth available from a directly connected disk. I unmounted my drive, at least I tried. Something was keeping it mounted. Instead of following my own advice and checking what program was keeping the drive busy, I used “umount -l” instead. Turns out it was Rhythmbox, but I didn’t realise that until later.

Anyway, I disconnected the usb cable, plugged in the one connected to the Macbook (BTW – Ext2 for Mac OS X is useful for reading ext2/ext3 filesystems) and kaboom. The light on the external drive went out. Oh oh.

Long story short, the drive refused to mount again on the Linux box for several minutes. Eventually it did, but with errors. I’m running fsck.ext3 on it but it’s giving me tons of errors and won’t run automatically. I need to buy another drive this morning.

So what’s lost? My 8 years of photos? All the family videos shot over the last 2 years? My mp3 collection? Nope. They’re all backed up. Murphy’s Law states that if something can go wrong, it will. This was the worst time ever for a drive to fail as I had just reinstalled the operating system, and my backup system wasn’t running properly yet. Thankfully nothing irreplaceable was moved onto the broken drive in that narrow window of time when things weren’t being backed up.

I now want to get that new drive installed before the second goes belly up! Paranoid? You betcha!


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Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

7 thoughts on “Backups save the day”


  1. A NAS with a RAID array? Maybe, except my home network is simple. Two laptops, both using WiFi, so using the network would have been dog slow.

    I tend to steer clear of RAID, probably because I’m comfortable with rsyncing files from one drive to the other, and I know for a fact that it’s dead simple to replace one drive, like I have now.

    I bought 2 Seagate Freeagent Desk drives in Maplin earlier. They’re 1TB each, and they’ll be replacing the Iomega drives. They’re practically silent compared to the Iomega drives!


  2. hey — quick tip. I had similar problems with an external USB HD recently, and had just about given up on the drive when I decided to take it out of the enclosure and try it in a desktop machine.

    Lo and behold, everything worked fine! the WD self-check app and smartd all gave the drive a clean bill of health. It had been the cheapo USB enclosure all along. So that may be worth a try….


  3. Nice. i wasn`t so lucky myself when one drive died and another one with backups on it soon after. are hard drives in maplin not a huge rip off? I was in there a couple of days ago and they were fairly pricey compared to the ones on ebay. but having said that every hard drive i ever bought off ebay has died. I think they get tossed around in the post too much


  4. Dan – Ouch! Murphy came to visit then! The 1TB Freeagent was only 133 Euro in Maplins, so not too bad. I suspect they’re on special offer.

    Took ages to copy the 767GB of data from my backup drive, but it’s just about done now. I’ll plug the second Freeagent in shortly and copy everything on to that and finally switch off the last noisy Iomega drive..


  5. Justin – That’s a good idea! I think more than half the noise from the Iomega drives is the fan. On the downside, I think the drive is actually two drives working in a RAID 0 configuration so hooking them up outside the enclosure might be harder than expected.

    (Weird, only found I hadn’t submitted this comment when I was closing browser tabs)


  6. Glad to hear that you didn’t lose any of your (priceless) files there. Thanks for sharing – very timely for me as I’m about out of space at the moment

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