Back-up your data!

UPDATE: After three days of drying under a constant fan, I’m happy to report that my MacBook rebooted! Things seem relatively stable– the keyboard works, the trackpad works, and nothing has crashed since the reboot. I repaired all disc permissions, and tried verifying the disk. There is something that needs repair, but that will have to wait till I get back to the office. I’ve already spread my most important files to a few new places, and I’m hopeful that things are on the mend. The only problem I’ve had is some flickering of the screen under very heavy CPU load- so I’ll get things looked at at the repair shop as soon as I get back.

BQ- thanks for the comments and the links. I’m considering CrashPlan and Jungle Disk right now. Anyone else have recommendations for off-site storage? The webdav for MobileMe is so slow, that even using Cyberduck to transfer files takes forever. Apple’s own backup protocol is ridiculously slow.


For the first time in more than 10 years of laptop use, and more than 20 years of computing, I managed to accidentally spill a full cup of coffee into my MacBook. I immediately turned it upside down, wiped off, drained, took out the battery, and set it up for drying with a small fan. I’m giving it three days to dry before trying to boot up to see what damage was done.

Luckily, there was no smoke or frying sounds- so, I’m hoping it just may survive. At the very least, I should be able to recover the hard drive. In the mean time, on the research front I think I may have only lost a day’s work on the database, half a day’s work on Scrivener research notes, and about 4-6 pages of writing. Oh, and also my prepared notes for delivery at the AHA. Luckily I had already emailed the draft to participants on the roundtable, so all is not lost there! Well, that’s not it– I also lost my course files, but this is a short-term loss, so I’m not counting them, just the things I need to work on now. Oh, and locally stored email.

Maybe none of that if I can recover everything. My time machine external drive is back at home, while I’m in New Mexico. I think it has more recent backups than the files I FTP’d up to my iDisk. Speaking of which- I wish Apple could figure out how to improve upload speeds. I have to use Cyberduck to put files up there, because the built-in back up utility is beyond painfully slow.

In the meantime, I had a request to upload larger images of my workflow on the last, or last two DevonThink posts. That will have to wait until I manage to reconstruct things in January. The computer was my department-purchased laptop, so its fate will depend in part on the department and the university’s repair shop.

Moral of the story? Just because you’ve never spilt a drink on a computer in 20 years, doesn’t mean you can’t start now! Oh, and back up your data– often, in may places, and then some more. Though writing, working, and coffees go together, they should never GO TOGETHER!


Associate Professor of Early Latin America Department of History University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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Posted in Panic and Terror, Processes
One comment on “Back-up your data!
  1. BQ says:

    oh no. So far I have been lucky, except that the other day I dropped the scooter and took a minor roll. With my laptop in my messenger bag. I panicked for a while. All was well, so far, except for a minor dent on one corner of my PowerBook G4.

    As I have lost work before (I learned my lesson just as I started grad school), and since up until recently I worked on Windows environments, I always–and compulsively–do multiple backups. In the last year I have been using CrashPlan backing up locally to my external drive connected to the iMac and to another external drive in my office in campus. Wife’s MacBook harddrive died a while back. I was able to restore 100% of her data. She was happy. I was happy. Oh, I also use SpiderOak to backup my current ‘active’ projects. I am a beta tester for them so I get 20 GB for free, but I think I could probably manage with their 2 GB free service if I was careful to only back up the most essential stuf.

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Chad Black

I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.
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