« Random Excellence: Ian Ruhter | Main | Dealz! »

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


I love Time Machine! I hang out on the Apple boards and we always get people asking how to get there photos back after a crash. When we say "restore from backup" we just get a stunned silence.

Before I had Time Machine my wife had an incident that caused us to lose a lot of photos. Never again.

I wonder if Monster Trucks are a natural outgrowth of Tractor Pulls?

I don't have any Apple products, so I don't understand their nomenclature, but this Time Capsule thing is some sort of backup device that contains a single hard-drive? The failure rate of hard-drives is 100%, so it seems a very strange design for such a system to contain only one drive.

The rest of the I.T. world uses network-attached storage containing multiple drives, having the data mirrored across more than a single drive and with constant error-checking. Is it not wise to get rid of the Time Capsule to replace it with something more standard and with increased reliability?

Mike, check out what they do in Iceland with extreme hill climbs.

You have probably been told this many times before, but Time Machine is not really intended as a backup solution, more a way of finding files that were deleted and now are wanted back. There is no substitute for having a full clone of your working drive. I use (as well as Time Machine) the App, Carbon Copy Cloner to have two cloned (& bootable) external disk drives, one of which is always off-site.

My photograph library is large and so is on an external drive which is copied by ChronoSync to two other external drives (again, one is always off-site). Most people don't do this, but most people eventually loose their data – probably the final demise of 99.9% of todays photographs.

As a child, my father took me to horse pulling, tractor pulling, stock car races and demolition derbies at the (small, very rural) county fair. Not things we had in the big city. Fond memories.

Monster trucks (and tractor pulls) are very loud -- especially inside an arena. Wear ear protection.

Two comments today. Your extensive files being saved and secure are valuable to all of us as you refer to them often on your posts. The other comment is a reference to the front flip with the car and the "sport" in general. "Tractor Pulls are for those who can't undertand the rules of wrestling".

One word (and a question mark): Offsite?

A few more words: Mike, do you have offsite backups as well as your Time Capsule? Could you recover (most of) your data if, say, a crook broke in a decided to pocket the shiny Apple-embossed doohicky along with the computer, or if there were some form of fire of flood damage to your home?

I don't know in other countries, but here in Spain we link inmediately monster trucks -well, everything 'monster'- with USA, even if shows of this kind appear routinely every year -mainly at Christmas- in the main cities.

OK - I guess the little boys thing makes sense (probably big boys and beer, too) ... it was pretty impressive, but equally astonishing that that many people gather to watch trucks drive around. For a prolonged period of time. I enjoyed it, but a 2 1/2 minute video was enough for me. These people had to (presumably) buy tickets, drive there, park, wait in line to get in, sit and watch the event for who knows how long, wait in line to get out, then drive home. And there are a lot of them !

Every time capsule I have owned, and I've owned three, have all failed on me. I'm going to get a Drobo and have Time Machine back up to that, instead. Sorry, Apple, three strikes and you're out.

And then there is this: https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/mrgear-shoots-wd-40-cans-with-a-gun

Only in America.


Believe it or not but some obscure powers managed to import Monster Truck under the Monster Jam name/competition here in Europe. I think two times over a decade just in ... Belgium. Not sure how they marketed it by I know I was sad not to see it advertised "the proper way" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohp_nmI_TFA (contains mildly offensive parodic elements).
Great front flip indeed.

Mike, I'm sure this post will generate comments from people far more qualified than I am, but here are my thoughts on your potential near disaster. Time Machine is all well and good but you should also have a backup with a bootable clone, a bootable mirror image of your disk. Read Lloyd Chambers blog about Time Machine failures. In fact, you should have multiple bootable clone backups with at least one stored off site, at a friend's, wherever. I'm not much of a mathematician but do know one thing, all hard drives will fail, at some point. There is a significant difference between having one and two backups based on the probability of failure. How often to back up is based on your personal tolerance for risk. The value of cloud backup is arguable, some love it, some don't, but hard drive backup is now easy and relatively inexpensive. I am a lone amateur photographer and choose to back up my images every night, at 3AM, automatically, with a program called Carbon Copy Cloner, there are others such as Super Duper, that do the same thing. Though they likely have little monetary value, these images are extraordinarily important to me.

If you had your photos in negative sleeves on your shelf you wouldn't have to worry... :-)

Carbon Copy Cloner. Buy an external hard drive and clone your Mac HD with Carbon Copy Cloner.

I don't say this lightly. I've been a Mac Consultant for many years.

Time Machine does a good job of archiving - saving copies of old stuff.

CCC does an excellent job of backing up. You can plug a hard drive cloned with drive into any Mac and run the Mac from that drive. All of your settings, all of your apps, everything will be there and will work. Time Machine does not do that. Restoring a complete system from Time Machine is more difficult.

I have three backup hard drives that I clone with CCC. I alternate between two of the drives each week, and the third one is in a safe deposit box in my bank. I swap that out every 2 or 3 months.

If you want to save a little money, you can buy bare 3.5 inch internal HDs and run them in a Voyager hard drive dock.


...it's possible they won't accept the old one as a return, because I wrote on it to remind myself which cable goes where—if so, that will prove a very expensive mistake...

Did you write on the old one with a Sharpie? If so, use a piece of white paper towel moistened with some isopropyl alcohol to completely remove your scribbles. :-)

I think tractor pulling is also big in some of the scandinavian countries.

Not sure about new models, but older versions would work with Windows. My only venture into Apple resulted from an Ebay purchase gone wrong- I got a Time Machine instead of a GPS unit. It worked well for a few months until when it crashed. Being in Venezuela at the time it was not worth the hassle to have it fixed. I do wonder about removing the drive to recover the data.

Good news on the Time Capsule, Mike. I use Time Machine, but always to a couple of stand-alone drives; I've never used the Apple Time Capsule device.

Monster trucks - are they street-legal in the US?

Moster Trucks exist in Switzerland. You can even go for a ride on one!

Correcting you: tractor pulls and monster trucks exist in other countries as well. In Holland, a monster truck event went awfully wrong a few years back and the truck slammed into the crowd, killing three and injuring many others.

You can make archives of time capsules which is easy to do: if you have a big cheap disk (cheap because it doesn't need to be fast, it just needs to work) then it's worth doing that.

Ideally buy two such disks and alternate them, since you need to erase the disk before running the backup.

It is not possible to have too many backups.

I have a bit over 4TB of photos, and after too many years of not having proper backups I finally bit the bullet and came up with a solution that works for me.

I bought a Network-Attached Storage box (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1215992-REG/synology_diskstation_ds416j.html, and put 2 8TB drives in it (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1237919-REG/wd_wd80efzx_8tb_red_5400_rpm.html). The data on there is written to both drives (RAID-1), so if either drive fails I have everything on the other -- even edits that I did seconds ago. Then I bought 2 more 8TB drives and enclosures (http://www.vantecusa.com/en/product/view_detail/602), and set up a backup program (https://www.econtechnologies.com/chronosync/overview.html) to backup everything on the NAS box onto each of them. I keep one at home, and the other at my office, and rotate them whenever I dump new photos onto the NAS box. That way I always have a backup off-site in case anything happens in my home.

It was expensive to buy the harddrives, but my plan is that when I run out of room I can re-use them by putting the other 2 drives into the NAS box and which will then have 16TB of storage. By then I hope that 16TB drives will be affordable, and so I’ll buy 2 of those for my off-site backup. Once all that fills up (I don’t expect that to happen for many years) I’ll maybe buy a NAS box that can hold more drives, and then just stick them all in it.

For my actual computer I use Time Machine for an on-site backup, and CrashPlan (https://store.crashplan.com/store/) for an off-site backup.

I think I remember you saying that you’ve put these Time Machine capsules in the basement when they’re full, but then found later that you couldn’t get data off them. Harddrives don’t like to sit unused, and I try to think of my data as swinging from trapeze to trapeze rather than sitting in cold storage somewhere. With this solution, all the drives are being constantly used, so if something fails I’ll know right away and I can replace it immediately and easily just by swapping in a blank drive.

Looks like you may have gotten your replacement just in time. This seems to be a product category that Apple is abandoning:


"Citing unnamed sources within Apple, Bloomberg reported on Monday that the former AirPort engineers are now working on other teams, including Apple TV development.

"The internal changes would suggest that Apple has no plans to update its lineup of routers, including the AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule, and AirPort Express. Apple's portable AirPort Express has not seen an update to the latest 802.11ac wireless standard, remaining available with last-generation 802.11n performance."

[This is Apple's biggest problem...they abandon their customers. Routinely and inevitably. They've been doing it for years, in all sorts of ways with all sorts of products. It's gotten so I don't trust them about this sort of thing. --Mike]

At least in the previous version of the Time Capsule, Steve Jobs insisted that it have no air vents. There was a fan in it, but all it served to do was keep the entire unit evenly overheated. Some twit at Apple picked a power supply with electrolytic capacitors only rated for 55 degrees C, instead of the higher 85 degree rating that is available. The capacitors get weak from the heat, the power supply starts to get unstable, and the disk drive starts to get write errors. This happened to mine, I had it replaced under warranty. But I lost faith in it, and stopped using it for Time Machine backup as soon as AppleCare expired. I kept using it for WiFI for a couple of years.

I now just use an external USB 3TB hard drive for Time Machine. It might even be USB 3.0.

But I do consider Time Machine "real backup", even if it does more than that (lost file retrieval). The Mac OS install software will gladly restore the user file and environment from a Time Machine backup on either AirPort or external disk.

As others here note, I also use a rotating set of 1TB USB hard drives for offsite backups, using SuperDuper.

Mike -
Consider an on-line backup in addition to your Time Capsule. I can heartily recommend BackBlaze (www.backblaze.com). Five bucks a month for unlimited backup and it's all automagic in the background. As they say, "Kiss your lost files hello!"

Got to have several back up drives for your most important files (photos, writings, etc) and then a bootable drive back up so you can get up and running again in case the main drive fails. It's important to also have a drive that can be stored off location. (In case of fire, flood or theft.)

Drives are cheap and software can do the backups or you can do them manually.


I know well the anxiety caused by a failing hard drive. It's more or less inevitable, moreso as the drive gets older, so best to be prepared, with backups and replacement cycles.

Now that I've learned that lesson, though, I've been plagued by failing video hardware. Can't ever be easy!

Mike, I'm sure others will have said similar things, but a single time machine is not really a backup.
The Simplest next step, though still incomplete, is to buy another 3-4 TB Hard drive and create a second Time Machine backup. Time machine software makes it simple.
A better solution is to use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your boot drive and your other main storage drive. CCC can even do automatic incremental backups just like Time Machine.
An added benefit, is that if you have computer problems, you can just boot from the clone and be on your way.
But frankly, you need stuff offsite as well.
The Western Digital 'My Cloud' NAS products especially the RAID 1 units are dead simple to configure and offer redundancy.
Check out cloud storage.
You got a free wake-up call with no data loss, -you hardly ever get 2 of those.

Here in Santa Fe, we have Mazda RX-5 pulls. The competition draws huge crowds.

Mike, that looks like a great thing to do with your next Miata... just add some big tires, you can start a new movement. You can put your "time machine" in the passenger seat (you will probably be ready to crush the thing after it fails on you).

[Curiously, I just saw a Miata in the parking lot at the grocery store--nice warm day today--and it had big tires on it. Not remotely as big as monster struck tires, even proportionately, but they were much beefier than stock, and it did make me wonder if that Miata might have been a V8 conversion. I hoped I might run into the owner on the way out but when I returned the car was gone. --Mike]

Are you already watching Harry’s Garage?


If not, set aside a few days. Harry’s great—like Jay, he’s a true car guy.

(Sorry about my earlier attempt to post a comment – seems like I mistyped some html.)

You know what makes me very nervous: reading about somebody using only one backup.

For heavens sake, get a couple of 4TB drives and set them both up for time capsule and swap them every couple of weeks. They're about $120 bucks each on Amazon.

And put one in a safety deposit box or somewhere safe outside of your house. What happens when your house burns down with your computer AND backups sitting 3 feet apart.

Please, do it!

I have yet to have any Apple Time Capsule last more than a year before it dies. Absolute garbage.
The supplied Time machine backs up to to two different back up drives, when they get fill, I replace them.

Regarding backups I strongly second Bruce McL's suggestion. It's the general process I've been following for nearly 15 years. Continuous live backups are best for restoring individual files or sets from an erroneous deletion of mistake. But it's not terrific for restoring your system drive.

In my case I've been using SuperDuper rather CC Cloner. But they're equivalent. Hard drives are inexpensive enough to have multiple backups. Run them overnight.

Yes, yes, yes to what Bruce McL said. Time Capsule is great for recovering a file you've written over or trashed, and I've used mine many times for those situations. But it's a second-best backup solution if you need to replace an entire drive. CCC.


Like many of your correspondents I use NAS for storing photo's and documents, but having also experienced a NAS failure, I took the precaution of subscribing to Amazon Glacier. This takes a backup of selected folders into a remote Amazon cloud store. The way this works is that Amazon charge you pennies per month for huge amounts of storage, but will hit you with a larger (but not insane) bill for retrieval. This is my "if all else fails" mechanism..


I just thought that I should say how much this little boy (68 this year) enjoyed the monster truck clip. I can't wait to show this to my five year old grandchild who is crazy about cars. Things sure have changed regarding children. We do have monster trucks and tractor pulls over here but they are usually confined to shows where the main concern of the driver is to preserve his truck intact for the next show.

It's wise to have a backup offsite. The "Cloud" is subject to Internet interruptions, a single box for backup sometimes chokes, and a nice 3 TB external hard drive will accommodate quarterly backups. I recommend WD enterprise drives. They are robust and warrantied for five years. They will fit in a safe deposit box. Buy a separate docking/cloning station for the drive (about $40). One last is to use a My Passport with the backup software for regularly and automatically backing up select folders. If it is possible to make an image of the OS and main drive, as is possible on PCs, I'd suggest that too.

@ Bryce Lee: My Time Capsule drive(s) and Time Machine backups have been rock steady.

If you search for Eurosport tractor pulling you will find a lot of stuff.
I was quite addicted to this show once upon a time when I had a tv

The comments to this entry are closed.