A Glitchy Drive Can Ruin Your Trip Back in Time

by Barrett

This is the steady glow of your digital life. If it starts to flicker, you’d better be paying attention! It contains Time Machine, the portal to your digital past!

This is the steady glow of your digital life. If it starts to flicker, you’d better be paying attention! It contains Time Machine, the portal to your digital past!

Face it: You can’t go back in time if your gear gets glitchy.

Time Machine is wonderful software to back up all your precious content on your Mac, but you also need healthy tech to support it.

Last month, my G-Technology external hard drive was running its regular Time Machine backup, and something very odd happened.

The 2TB G-Drive ‘quit’ unexpectedly, and of course the backup failed on my iMac.  I stared at my tech companion, unaccustomed to this kind of problem.

So I rebooted the drive and tried again.
This time, the silver box behaved, and the backup completed without incident.

Was this a one-time glitch or a sign of things to come?
I tried to erase the unpleasant episode from my head.

But as we all know, little tech glitches rarely just go away…
(and eventually, they turn into “The Terminator!”)

Last week the glitch came back.
And this time my failing G-Drive did a number on my Mac and froze it up quicker than you can say ‘Flux Capacitor.’

I couldn’t bring my stunned iMac back to life without performing a hard power shut down via a Vulcan neck pinch to the back power button.
(It doesn’t get much worse unless you yank the power cord out of the wall!)

Yes, the third time was the charm, and Time Machine completed its backup.
But it was clear I had a problem with my external back-up drive…

Countdown to Disaster
I mentioned my little story to a couple of colleagues last week, and I swear their faces turned slightly white. It was like I was holding a time bomb in my hand.

In a manner of speaking, I was.

After a few moments of uncomfortable since, one whispered, “You’d better do something about that.”

The other one simply looked away as if I was a Morlock…

I’ve talked before about the importance of backing up your data.

Yes, I’ve got both local and cloud-based backup solutions in place.
But you can never be too careful when you’re talking about your digital life.

Now it was clearly time to practice what I preach…

I’m a big fan of G-Technology drives.
(I’ve been running this particular G-Drive for over 3 years.)
But no drive lasts forever.

So let me repeat this a different way…

Every drive you own will eventually fail.
It’s just a matter of when.

And when that happens, your personal portal to your past disappears…

The fix:
Time to buy a new backup drive…

How Big a Backup Drive Does Your Computer Need?
So another problem with my failing G-Drive drive is its storage capacity.
I’ve got a 2TB hard drive sitting in my iMac, and my G-Drive is also 2TB.

Common logic says your Time Machine drive should be at least 1.5 to 2 times the size of your computer’s internal drive.
That’s because Time Machine is capturing more than what’s on your computer right now. The whole point is to save older versions of your existing content in case you need to go back to it…

I’ve always known that when I got through more than 50% of my iMac’s internal drive, I would start to stretch the limits of my G-Drive.

I’ve already crossed that threshold, and even though I haven’t specifically run out of space yet, that problem is waiting in the wings… ready to pounce.

I’d rather avoid that little fire drill all together…

So as I started shopping for a new Time Machine drive, I focused on 3TB and 4TB sizes.

Checking Out Glyph
Even though I’m a longtime fan of G-Technology, it’s always a good idea to review the competition when buying anything, right?

Remember those colleagues who treated me like the plague after they heard about my tech woes…?  They both suggested Glyph drives as a well-regarded (though expensive) solution.
Glyph also offers a generous warranty as well as a limited data recovery service when you buy one of their drives.

All very nice!

I took a look online, and Glyph has a new 4TB GPT50 coming out with USB 3.0.  But it’s not being released until later this month…

Sticking with G-Drive
The new Glyph GPT50 looks interesting, but I really needed to address my Time Machine crisis right now.
(It’s not wise to tempt the Fates of Tech.)

So it was back to another G-Drive for me.

Their 4TB model with USB 3.0/FireWire is listing for $320, but you can pick in up from Amazon closer to the $300 mark.
(I don’t need the pricier Thunderbolt model, since I have an older iMac without Thunderbolt.)

Yes, $300 is expensive compared to the competition… but this is your digital life we’re talking about…
(“Don’t cross the streams,” and never skimp on your drives!)


Should You Transfer Old Backups to Your New Drive?
So my new tech pal showed up on Friday via Amazon Prime, and I quickly introduced it to my computer.

Then I faced a choice.

Should I start from scratch and do a full backup with the new G-Drive or first transfer over the old backups from my failing drive?

My first instinct was to transfer all the files over from the old drive, but I ran across a dissenting opinion online from pondini.org.
(This website from James Pond is a treasure trove of Time Machine goodness.)

He suggests that first transferring the old backups would take a “very long time.”

And with my old drive in its weakened condition, perhaps an extended transfer session would be too much of a stressor…

I figured the time spent saving my precious data was better focused towards completing a brand new backup…

(Granted, I wouldn’t have access to my old backups… but I’m thinking/hoping I don’t need them…)

Let the Massive Backup Session Begin!
So I powered up my hungry 4TB protector, selected it as my new Time Machine drive, and then I went to bed.
(Initial backups also take a wicked long time.)

I quickly slipped off to sleep, because my mind was clear.
My soul was cozy, believing all my beloved personal digital content was again protected…

  • My hundreds of home movies, thousands of family photos,
    and my future blog ideas (all three of them)

Is it all a dream?
(I’ve only got two ideas in the cue.)

When I awoke the next morning, I checked out the progress of my backup.
My iMac glowed wearily, ‘About 19 hours’ to go.


$300 and 19 more hours?!
This part was definitely not a dream.

But if you want to keep your personal time portal to the past operational, and you don’t happen to have access to an Omega 13 device from another galaxy,
that’s the price you pay to protect your digital life.