Monthly Archives: December 2008

OS X Problems

The two best ways to avoid OS X Problems: backup before problems start and don’t fix what’s not broken.

Avoiding OS X Problems – Backup Before Problems Start

Before making any chages to your Mac, backup your current system by making a mirror image of your current system.  This places an exact copy of your entire Mac hard drive onto an external drive such as a USB hard disk or a secondary internal hard drive on your desktop Mac.

Making a full mirror image backup or clone of your Mac is simple with SuperDuper free backup software from ShirtPocket. This program makes it easy to perform full backups of your entire OS X Leopard Mac without any technical knowledge.  By making a mirror image backup of your system before you make changes, you can always rollback your system to this previous pristine backup version of your Mac.

Understand that there is a major difference between Apple’s Time Machine and mirror image backups using SuperDuper. Apple’s Time Machine makes incremental backups of individual files. SuperDuper backs up your entire hard disk as a mirror image copy.

A SuperDuper backup placed on an external USB drive can be used to boot or start your computer. You cannot do this with Time Machine. Seriously. Try this: install SuperDuper, make a full clone of your current drive onto an external drive (do this before going to sleep or if you have a few hours to do other things), then reboot your Mac and press & hold down the Option key (double up arrow key beside the Apple key).  After a few moments you’ll see two hard disks appear on the Mac bootup screen. Release the Option key.  One disk is the drive inside your Mac and the other is the SuperDuper clone you just made, attached to your Mac via USB.  Using the arrow keys on your keyboard, move the highlighted disk on the screen to the clone backup system on the USB drive and press Enter.  Your Mac will now boot up from this clone on your USB/Secondary drive that you made using SuperDuper.  Once the bootup is finished, you’ll be running your Mac from the mirror backup sitting on your backup drive.

This is the ultimate in security, safety and simplicity in terms of backups! If you happen to drop your Mac off a cliff or it gets stepped on by an elephant and you have a SuperDuper cloned backup, just pop that disk into a new (hopefully insurance covered) Mac and bootup as if nothing had changed.  You can get back to work (or play) immediately. Zero downtime.  Apple’s Time Machine will not be able to do this as it creates incremental file backups, not a mirror of the operating system itself. To restore a system using Time Machine you need to reinstall Mac OS X from scratch and perform a restore from Time Machine.  A lengthy process.

Avoiding OS X Problems – Don’t Fix the Unbroken

I’m loathe to suggest this, but I don’t recommended installing Apple updates to an operating system unless it addresses a specific problem you’re experiencing. I understand that security updates are important, and that stability and other compatibility issues are nice to fix, but if preventing these rare but possible issues comes at the cost of rendering your Mac unusuable then is it really a wise update to perform?

This is akin to injecting a vaccine that prevents disease but is likely to kill the patient. Unless you’re very likely to be exposed to the disease, should you really be taking the risk?  With any medical treatment, a doctor always considers whether the treatment’s possible risks are outweighed by its benefits. If the risks are high and the success of the treatment low, the treatment will be avoided in search of better alternatives. You should think about this too before haphazardly installing Apple Updates only to be rewarded by one of the common OS X problems that can occur.

One Mac OS X problem that generates a lot of frustration and discussion is Airport wireless network connections disconnecting from a router every 15 minutes.  This is an extremely common Mac OS X update problem that is incredibly difficult to diagnose and fix. And, it often starts just after an OS X Update.

When to install a Mac OS X Update:

  1. the update closes online security holes that you’re likely to run into because you perform risky Internet behaviour
  2. software that you currently use has issues that are fixed with the latest update
  3. you’ve just mirror image cloned your system with SuperDuper

You really should never install a Mac OS X update before cloning your current OS X install.  It takes nothing more than a spare drive, some free software and a few hours while you’re asleep.  The cost of an external drive is really reasonable these days.  I just picked up a Western Digital Terabyte USB 2.0 drive for 135€ delivered from Amazon (which you can find it even cheaper in the U.S.).

With respect to Apple OS X upgrades, have a surefire way to return your system to its previous (working) versions: create an image backup of your current Mac OS X system before upgrading by using SuperDuper.

ps. I don’t work for Shirt-Pocket software.  They just make damn good software.