Avoid Disaster with SuperDuper! for Mac

by David on February 17, 2011

Hard Drive Disaster… Panic? No way!

The hard drive on my 24″ iMac died just before leaving for a business trip earlier this month. The iMac would not boot up. The screen appeared with the flashing question mark and folder… indicating that there was no operating system available to the machine. Fortunately, this did not send me into a panic. I have all of my data backed up in several places, so it would be a matter of restoring from one of those backups.

Multiple Backups? Yes. Quick Restore? Maybe Not!

I knew that with all the backups, I could restore my system in short order. I knew that if the problem with my iMac went further, and the system processor board or some other part was failing in addition to my hard drive, I would be replacing the iMac with a new computer and that I would be installing all that software again. That wouldn’t be the fastest recovery procedure, but at least all of my files would be available.

Enter SuperDuper! for Mac

While I was on my trip, I did a little research and found out that it might be possible to use the Operating System DVD to boot the system and restore the bootable portion of my hard drive. As soon as I returned (and I mean within hours of getting off the plane), I tried this technique and booted up my iMac. Successfully booting the system, I surmised that the hard drive was the only failing component. I had the Snow Leopard DVD attempt to make the hard drive bootable again. Again, success!

The next day, I booted the system successfully and downloaded SuperDuper from Shirt-Pocket. Using the free version, I made a clone of my iMac’s hard drive (which was still functional, fortunately). It took 2.5 hours to complete (this was slow for a couple reasons: 1) USB port instead of FireWire, 2) Original drive was failing, but functioning slowly). I booted from the newly created clone, and verified that I had my system back. Amazing!

Replacing the Hard Drive on my iMac

I searched the web and found a few kind people who had documented changing the hard drive on an aluminum iMac. This involves using suction cups and Torx screwdrivers.

The instructions I found showed that although this project is not for the faint of heart, the hour-long process was certainly a possibility. I replaced the hard drive without incident. (Well actually, there was one incident: a screw had stuck to my hand when I rested it on the table for a second and promptly fell off into the open iMac. Fortunately for me, it didn’t get stuck under a circuit board or anything, but a sinking feeling came over me as I heard the screw fall into the iMac).

With the newly created clone resting in place of the failed hard drive, I took the iMac back to my desk and booted up. Success!

SuperDuper! Paid Version

I have since registered my copy of SuperDuper! There are some nice features available only in the paid version (like incremental cloning of your hard drive–saving lots of hours).

I have now created another hard drive with my complete system on it. I incrementally updated it regularly. If the current drive ever fails, I’ll swap the drive again and re-sync to my laptop to get the latest files.

SuperDuper! Finished creating a clone drive.

Apparently, the two new drives are faster than my “failing” drive. This clone took only 1 hour and 47 minutes to create. Also, the times seem slow because I used a USB port instead of FireWire. I know USB is slower, but I had a USB adapter readily available.

Thanks SuperDuper! for making my life just a little bit easier and saving me a bunch of time.

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