The MacBook is Dead, Long Live the MacBook (And a Cautionary Back-up Tale)

My faithful 15 inch MacBook Pro has surpassed all records for laptop longevity. I bought it seven years ago, as a treat to myself shortly after I began earning a decent amount of money and learned what it was like to be able to buy something you want rather than need – a novelty after six years as a student and a further year in an NHS training position. At the time, it didn’t really cross my mind that it would be a good investment. I was just pleased that it was partially tax deductible as I used it for some work purposes.

But seven years on, and having schlepped it up and down the country and twice all the way to California, I can honestly say it is some of the best money I have ever spent. At approximately £1500, it works out at just over £200 per year. Which compares favourably with the cheaper laptops my husband uses (he’s a Linux hippy) but which never last more than two years.

But the weekend before last, in the middle of attempting to create a photo collage, it died a very sudden death. The only warning was the fact that I was unable to create a new Folder in Finder, nor pull a new-that-day photo from our server whilst the previous day’s pictures could be happily edited. It turns out I was working from cache, because when I tried to restart to solve the no-new-folder problem, nothing happened. I got a blank white screen. We tried Safe mode and fscking, plus a few other internet suggested options. With hindsight, I probably should not have tried repeatedly to restart it, but instead popped it straight in a plastic bag in the freezer, for the best chance to later extract some data.

Yes. That.

I’d like to say that I haven’t lost a shred of data in what appears to have been a fatal head crash. But it turns out that my back up process was not really robust enough at all.

I’d like to blame my husband, the tech-geek, for over complicating things, but the truth of the matter is that my back ups are my responsibility and the foolish mistake I made was having a partially manual back up process that relied on my memory to carry out.

Learn from my mistake.

We’ve not lost any photos, as these are all stored on our servers (I’m not kidding when I say my husband is a geek – he’s a software engineer and runs his own servers, including the hosting for my blog. We don’t spend as much on heating our house as a result of all of his hardware, but it’s pretty unbearable in this hot weather!) The servers have mirrored disks, and are backed up offsite via Amazon S3. In addition, we archive a lot of our Compact Flash cards, so we have at least four copies of every picture across two locations (and in practice Amazon stores data across at least three locations itself). That is back up as it should be done.

What I’ve lost is some recent photo edits, as I’d got in to the (bad) habit of keeping the edits only on my local drive. It’s not a huge problem, as most of those edits have been used online, so I still have the final web-ready versions, and the other edits are easily repeatable. More critically I’ve lost some writing which hadn’t been backed up as it was a while since I’d remembered to carry out the manual process.

It’s nothing catastrophic. I just have that awful sinking feeling of not being able to remember exactly what I’ve lost (well, duh!). I know it’s not a huge amount, and none of of critical importance, but it’s still a wake up call.

I agonised for a few days about what to do about replacing my trusty MacBook. In order to restore all the back ups I do have, I really need to stick with a Mac. And I have no reason to change. I wanted to buy a new one straight away, as I struggle to blog from my iPad – and especially struggle to do anything with photos. But it’s a lot of cash to cough up without warning. It meant dipping in to the “contingency fund” which is really meant for emergencies like the boiler needing replacing, or the roof coming off the house.

Whilst still working out what to buy and when, I did quickly make decisions about my future back up policies. No more having to remember to save files over to the server to get them backed up. All my photo edits will automatically be saved alongside the originals, and my whole local hard drive will also automatically copy to the server. lessons have been learned.

As for the replacement? As a result all the extra work I’ve done the last couple of months, I’ve been able to order a new 15 inch MacBook Pro. I just hope this one serves me half as well as it’s predecessor!


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