Backups Don’t Exist Unless You Test Them

This week’s Tech Tip is a cautionary tale.

Backups Don’t Exist Unless You Test Them. This adage may not make immediate sense to you, but let me explain. It is extremely important to test your backups by actually restoring one or more files. If you don’t know that you can successfully restore a file from your backup, then you don’t know if you really have any backup copies of your data at all. I was recently reminded of this adage when an acquaintance lost all of her email messages and a client came close to losing all his data. Let me elaborate.

My acquaintance clicked a button in Mail’s preferences to remove her email account. She failed to read the warning that stated this would delete all email in the account’s Inbox and Sent folders. Upon seeing all of her mail vanish before her eyes, she turned to her backup system. Apparently, her son had configured her Mac to backup to a Time Capsule. However, to her dismay, she learned that her Mac had never been backed up at all. There is no happy end to this story. She is now contacting friends, family and colleagues to give her their mailing address, phone numbers, and email addresses and to re-send important emails.

My client had been successfully backing up his Mac laptop to an external USB hard drive using Time Machine. However, he bought a new backup hard drive, but failed to reconfigure Time Machine to use this new drive. One day a glass of water was spilled on his laptop. It wasn’t cost-effective to repair the laptop. Instead, he bought a new laptop. He figured I would be able to easily restore all of the data from the Time Machine backup drive. We were surprised to see that there was no backup data on his external hard drive. Fortunately, the hard drive in the damaged laptop was still functioning properly. We were able to physically remove the hard drive from his old laptop and transfer his data to the new computer.

I’m confident that you don’t want to lose data, so please make sure you monitor and test your backups. If you use Time Machine, please read my previous tech tip about Setting up and Monitoring Time Machine. It includes links to one of my other Tech Tips about restoring files from Time Machine as well as Apple’s own article about monitoring Time Machine and restoring data from a Time Machine backup.

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