Got Those Hard Drive Blues

On Sunday morning the hard drive in my new 12″ Powerbook G4 decided to take a permanent vacation. I spent the entire day coaxing data off it, resulting in getting everything crucial except for my massive 1 GB Entourage email database. Luckily, I have a Retrospect backup of my hard drive that was run on August 20, however when I extract the Entourage db it has all of my mail up to July 27, which was the first date I ran the backup process. Somehow my Retrospect backup process missed the Main Identity folder containing my email databases. Bah.

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to procrastinate on selling my old ComboDrive Powerbook G4 which I replaced with an identical SuperDrive PBG4 (the one that is now at an Apple Repair Center getting a brand new hard drive), so I’m now using my old ComboDrive PBG4 in the interim. The short of it is that I’m now missing about 6 weeks of email archives that I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back – everything since July 27, 2003.

Interestingly enough, the Powerbook with the bad hard drive now only boots into the Darwin console, but still have full Interent access. Since I had no easy way of getting my data off this drive I enabled FTP on my old Powerbook and started FTPing gzip’ed folders over my WiFi LAN. It worked surprisingly well until I started getting FTP errors when it hit bad blocks on the hard drive. Unfortunately, this only happened when I tried to FTP my 1 GB of archived email. Bah.

I also learned that Mac OS X’s default for Gzip is to replace the file you are compressing with the compressed version of it. This is bad because it leaves you with no backup. If you don’t know that this is the default, and you Gzip 1 GB of data without backing it up first you run the risk of writing the compressed version to a bad part of the hard drive, effectively making it impossible to retrieve via FTP and also impossible to Gunzip. Bah.

All of this I learned in a 12-hour marathon session yesterday of trying to save my data. It has reinforced my belief that backups are good and regular daily backups are even better. It has also convinced me to abandon Entourage for a better mail client that stores its mail in the more normal mbox format which I can then regularly synchronize to my server if I don’t migrate to IMAP.

The question is: Is Mailsmith a decent mail client? I’ve checked out GNUmail, which looks pretty good. And I’m hearing things about Eudora 6 that make me want to try that as well.

Update: It could be worse. At least I didn’t run over my PBG4 with an SUV.

Posted by Cameron Barrett at September 8, 2003 12:34 PM