Back That Up

As I write this, Apple’s supposedly wonderful Time Machine software is busy making its third attempt in twelve hours to backup my system. Those who follow me on Twitter (again with the Twitter—all the cool stuff happens there first these days) will know that I’ve been having issues with the hard drive in my iMac, and that I finally have the opportunity to get it fixed. What I didn’t have was an external hard drive large enough to do a full system backup onto before taking it into the shop. It would be an incredible shame to have my computer repaired only to lose all my data. Like curing a disease by killing the patient.

Someone who relies on their computer as much as I do not having a backup drive is kind of like a lawyer who doesn’t have a will, and since I’m not all that eager to be compared to lawyers at the best of times, I went out and bought a 2TB (that’s right, TB) external drive. It took me some time to figure out how to format it for use with Time Machine, but I got that down, and started the backup. Five hours later, “Time Machine Error: Unable to complete backup. An error occurred while copying files to the backup volume.” Fuck a duck, as my mother would say. Being the Google super-sleuth that I am, I found a couple of fixes, but only one that really looked promising. I did that, started it up again, and went to bed. I awoke six hours later to find… “Time Machine Error: Blah blah blah.” Fuck a duck. This time I was more clever. I reformatted the target drive, went back to Google, and poured through the Time Machine logs.

It turns out that Time Machine chokes on corrupt files, and deep in the rabbit-warren that is my downloads folder was a music video I downloaded more than a year ago and then completely forgot about, letting it sit there and collect dust, corrupt as you like. 30MB of bad data, all confined to a single file, made a 320GB backup fail. Fuck a duck. So I deleted that, and twenty minutes later my third Time Machine backup seems to be going smoothly. Fingers crossed.

Oh yeah, the reason for my post. I was supposed to take my machine into the shop today, but because I’ll be at work by the time this nonsense finishes, it’s going to have to wait until tomorrow. I still have Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault and Martha Ostenso’s Wild Geese to review before next week, which might be a bit tricky without a computer. The folks at the shop tell me I should have my computer back by Saturday afternoon, barring unforeseen complications, so aside from on Twitter, which I have access to at work, you won’t be seeing much activity from me online in the meantime. Just a heads up.

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my Time Machine backup drive is named “Wells”.)


Writer. Editor. Critic.


  1. Mental note: Recommend workplace *against* using Time Machine, set up a real backup solution.

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