Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Leopard & Time Machine Experiences

Time Machine Logo

Ever since Time Machine was announced, I had been awaiting for it. I am one of those people that do backup from time to time, but with no regular schedule or automated system. Clearly, Time Machine seemed simple enough and could very well prevent any undesired hiccups.

Once I had Leopard installed on my iMac, I was excited to give Time Machine a try. I decided to buy a Lacie external HD to make the backups. After connecting it, I immediately got a message asking if I wanted to use the disk as a Time Machine disk. I answered positively.

The disk was connected through firewire 800. I left it backing up all night. I took several hours to get all the used space on my iMac HD, a total of 250 Gb, onto the disk. Next day, I launched Time Machine's animated interface. Wonderful. Everything seemed to work fine.

After a some minutes, Time Machine began backing up automatically. This time just a few megabytes. Unfortunately, it took around 15 minutes for something like 3 Mb. In the following days, this became a constant, and I was not happy about it. Backups took way too long. I thought that I had not chosen a good external drive, or that it was faulty.

In addition, my Leopard was not too stable, nor did it operate as fluidly as I was hopping it would. I carefully considered reformatting the iMac with Leopard, and restoring all the user files from Time Machine. I was worried, thought, that the restore process would not work as smoothly as I would want, given the slow backup times and my doubt about the external HD condition.

After some investigation, I found an article that explained how issues might arise for using an APM partitioned drive on an Intel Mac. This could be the cause of my Time Machine troubles. Time for a repartition, reformat, re-first-time-backup.

As my final goal was to get my iMac into better condition, than what the upgrade from Tiger had left it into, I decided that after repartitioning, I would make the external hard drive bootable. I took the Leopard DVD, and using Disk Utility, I "restored" it onto the external hard drive.

Now I had an external hard drive, that used GPT (GUID) instead of the the original APM partitioning, and that was not only bootable, but it had the capacity to install Leopard. Time to try to get all 250 Gb on that disk again. This time it was much faster. It took around 3 hours.

Then, I booted from the external drive. Made a Leopard clean install in around 20 minutes. When the option for transferring files from another Mac was up, I chose to restore from Time Machine. It did it.

Once the restore process finished, most things were fine. As usual, Spotlight started indexing and made the Mac a little bit slow for a while.

After careful examination, I realized that some folders at root level were duplicated. I had "/Applications" and "Applications (from old Mac)". This was true for several others. I deleted all those folders. After all, if I was to need any of those files, they would be present on the Time Machine backup.

Now both Leopard and Time Machine seem to behave reasonable well. I am, though, ready to reproduce this process if I ever need to do so again.