in tech

My long road to the Mountain

Today, finally, I have a working laptop. What happened? It’s anybody’s guess. I recently upgraded from Lion to Mountain Lion on my Mac. In doing so, large parts of the OS stopped working, specifically, apps such as Safari, System Preferences and the App Store. Needless to say, work cannot continue without accessing the settings.

So, I began the long and arduous journey to re-installing my OS from scratch. Initially, it was pretty painless, I quickly setup Time Machine and took multiple backups and I booted my Mac into it’s recovery partition. The recovery partition is a good feature, albeit inspired, and allowed me to test my main hard disk, to wipe it clean and start over.

The first mistake I made was that I didn’t try to do a fresh install. I didn’t wipe my HDD clean and just installed the OS on top of what existed. This caused a spate of errors beyond what was the initial problem, with many other apps also not working. At this point, I declared full scale war on my Mac and then went to bed, as I had to go to the office the next day.

Next evening, I once again sat down with my Mac and this time, did a clean install, after wiping my HDD. This made sure that I do not carry forward the errors that were present earlier. Of course, Mountain Lion installed smoothly and everything was on track. I had asked my brother the process of a fresh install and he had told me that at one point I would be prompted to use a Time Machine backup to restore all my data to my Mac. I did so, making the process of setting up my Mac a breeze, as all my settings were present in my backup. Well, the best laid plans do fail. The Time Machine backup that I had also contained the corrupted files. It restored those files, causing the exact same errors that I was facing initially. This just meant that I had to find a way to selectively restore the backup and of course, it was time for bed.

Over the next two days, I researched quite a bit about how to do a partial recovery from Time Machine and even tried some methods. Each one of them failed spectacularly. Either I was getting all the settings, including the errors, or I was getting not enough. I resigned myself to my most dreaded alternative – that of doing a clean install, without a Time Machine restore and then opening up my Time Machine backup and manually copying my apps and files back to my Mac. It was time for bed.

Finally, day before, I decided that there was no other way other than to do a clean install and a manual recovery as explained above. But that wonderful day, Apple’s servers were choking. My Mac was not able to download the 4 GB of files that it needed to install Mountain Lion and so, I slept unhappily.

Finally, yesterday, I sat down with my Mac and did a clean install. I did not take the risk of working on the manual restoring of my files but I did decide how I’d go about it. I slept a little peacefully.

And then today, I have cracked open my Time Machine backup and manually extracted all the files and apps that I deemed important. The problem that I faced here is that Time Machine has a peculiar way of working. If it finds that in a previous backup, it has the same files as I am asking to include in this backup, it’ll just make a note of the repetition and not copy the file over and over. This method gives version control capabilities to the Mac but it’s a manual restorers nightmare. I had to g through about 4 individual backups before I was in any way confident that I have the right files.

I am sure that I’ve missed out of somethings.
What’s restored? All the apps I deemed fit, my Downloads and Documents folders.
What’s missing? All my settings, all Preference plugins, all my installed homebrew tweaks and additional languages and some folder-fulls of data that TimeMachine seems to have hidden from me and of course, a general sense of accomplishment. I cannot truly say that I have completely restored my system. There are a lot of things that I’m sure that I’ll find missing along the way and will head back to my Time Machine to grab that file. Hopefully, I’ll find it there.

As for peace of mind? Well, now that the Mac is working, time for me to focus of my Raspberry Pi, so no time for peace of mind. 🙂