Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

How to use Apple’s disk imaging tool

iPeople have long claimed that “their” operating system has been ahead of Windows. They say that Windows is always playing ‘catch-up’ with the Mac… and “borrows” (OK. Some say “steal”) the best ideas and features from the Mac OS.
This is an old, and often lively geek debate.

I won’t waste your time rehashing it, or taking sides, but I will say that one area in which the Mac was “ahead” of Windows was it has, for some time now (since OS 9), included a disk imaging utility. Windows users have to purchase such a tool (or find a download) unless you own Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise editions and… who does?
OS 9 came out in 1999.

This Monday, I wrote about how having two backup copies of your files/photos/music really is a Must Have, and how that had saved me much aggravation (I also provided a link to my article on setting the Windows Backup utility to automatically provide back-up protection.) when one of my XP machines refused to boot. Today I will demonstrate how to make a system-state backup copy of your hard-drive on a Mac.

Tip of the day: Create a “ghost image” back-up of your entire hard-drive for easier disaster recovery. The advantages to disk images are: they are compressible, you can encrypt  them, and they are fully searchable.. so you can go into them and retrieve single files or folders. They also “mount” easily, making for rapid “deployment”.
The primary disadvantage lies in the fact that since you are bit-for-bit duplicating an entire drive (or partition), they can be quite large. Also, they’re typically “fixed in time”, and can become stale if not properly amended.

The large size of a partition (drive) image is (usually) not an issue if you apply the second principle of a good back-up strategy: store the copy some place other than on that hard-drive— such as an external hard-drive or optical disc(s).

To make the image, you will use the utility called “Disk Utility”, which is found in the “Utilities” folder under “Applications”, (kinda where you’d expect to find it), which Mac describes as “/Applications/Utilities”.
Open Finder, and click on the black triangle next to Applications. Scroll down to the bottom, and click on the black triangle next to Utilities. Then click on the Disk Utility to open it.

* Under the File menu choose “New”, then “Disk Image”.

* Make sure the volume (drive) you want to copy is selected, then click “Image”.

* Chose Desktop from the “Where” pop-up menu.

Here, you can choose to encrypt, and/or compress. [Generally speaking, you should not encrypt your own (home) back-ups. A forgotten or misplaced password renders them useless!]

* Click “Save”. (You may need to enter an Administrator’s name/password.)

That’s it. Congratulations, you’re done. You will now have an icon on your desktop that is for all intents and purposes another hard-drive (exactly like your original). Double-clicking it “mounts” it and lets you run from it like any other volume (like a thumb drive).
You can (and should!) now move this image to another (attached) hard-drive, or burn it to CD/DVD(s) using Finder, or a disc burning utility.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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April 3, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Backups, computers, file system, how to, PC, tech | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Back in the saddle

Whew! What a day yesterday was. It certainly proved to be one of those days.
You know the ones: they start off with something going wrong.. (like, the alarm doesn’t go off) and then they go downhill from there.
Yup. Those days.

Let’s count how many ways my day smelled up the joint:
1)An older system of mine decided that it would not boot into Windows (XP), and then — with a determination that would make a Missouri mule proud — resisted all resuscitation efforts. No problem (I said to myself.. it was still early in the day). I’ll just re-mount a “ghost image” backup from the DVD’s I made last week.

2)One of the 4 DVD’s was “corrupted”. As in “unreadable”.
As in.. that backup is totally useless to me. Four wasted discs. Caught me a little off guard, too… I pay extra to buy the best blanks, and the company to which I am alluding has never given me a “bad burn” before.

3)By reinstalling XP (which only takes an hour or so) I was able to to pull a full, system state Windows Backup Utility backup off of my external hard-drive. Yay!
3a) only to discover that I had been lazy and and forgetful on this secondary backup (method) of this secondary machine, and the “system state” it was restored to was (as it was in) mid-January. Two and-a-half months in Computer Years is like.. over a year to you and me; way out of date.
At least I didn’t have to reinstall all my programs, and drivers, and updates, and files.. and stuff. Only some of them.

About the same time #2 was happening…
4) I jammed/stubbed my middle toe on an ajar door. Wait! I mean I really did a good job of it.
I thought I was going to have to go to the ER there for a minute.
(Come on, guys. Feel sorry for me a little. Can’t ya? Pretty Please?)

About the same time I was half-way through getting my restored machine back into it’s modern config:
5) A client called to tell me they were having trouble publishing to the Website I had built for them (several months ago). This revealed a string of adventures we’ll just call 6) through 10). I won’t bore you with that, but I will tell you that it was nobody’s fault, and painstaking reconstruction resolved/eliminated all issues.. and, there was no “downtime”.

It was just a day where things that were supposed to “work” simply.. didn’t.

Some of all this is clearly my fault (I left the door ajar, and Iwalked into it), and some of of it is clearly Bill Gates’s fault.. and some of it it is the fault of mischievous invisible gremlins and/or the alignment of the planets.
Part of my problem was I had failed to fully follow my own advice.

So what lessons can we learn from my less-than-stellar day yesterday?
A: ‘Things’ can go wrong. Things can break, get lost or stolen, or be destroyed by fire, flood, lightning, or rust. If those ‘things’ are important, you need a “spare”. Such as, a spare house key.

In computing, these spares are called “backup” copies.
I was saved a slew of work and a ton of wasted time that problem #1 would have caused me had I not had a functional backup. That is why Industry Best Practice tells us to make two backups, and to store them on two different types of media.. in two different places.
The step I neglected was on my image-to-optical disc backup, I didn’t “verify” the integrity of all four discs as the final step of the backup process.

Both my Tip of the day and Today’s free link are combined today. If you have photographs, and/or a music collection, and/or important documents on your computer, you simply must make backup copies or risk losing them forever.

* Windows users should take advantage of the built-in Windows Backup utility. I have published a detailed How To for using it to automatically make backups and keep them up-to-date here (This is what saved my bacon.)
Apple Mac users can make an image backup using the Disk Management applet, which I describe here.

*Make another backup using another backup tool.. of which there are many different types. You might wish to use an “imaging” tool like Norton Ghost, Acronis TrueImage Home, or the free DriveImage XML (Bill Mullins talks about this program in a recent post, to read it, and see the appropriate download links, click here.)

* Verify your backups by testing them. Find out if they’ll work before you need them (Doh!)

The fact is, sooner or later, you will need a spare key to get into your house or car.. and sooner or later Windows or your hard-drive will die and you will need a backup if you want to see those photos or hear that music or work on those important document again.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

April 1, 2008 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, file system, how to, PC, security, System Restore, tech, Windows | , , , , , , | 1 Comment