My mid-2011 Macbook Air‘s SSD died last week. I’d spent a lot of time setting this up just how I wanted: dual boot OSX and Win 7 (then Win 8) – 50Gb for each OS, and a 150 Gb shared exFat “Data” partition which is writable by both OS. The Data partition contained all my music, photos, and source code.

promo_macbookair

My backup strategy was:

  1. OSX backed itself up automatically to my Time Capsule using Time Machine.
  2. Windows I never backed up because I don’t mind re-installing a new Win machine in the event of failure since it’s a good chance to start from scratch and get rid of old crap – old versions of Visual Studio etc.
  3. The Data partition – the most important one – I backed up manually both to my Time Capsule’s shared network disk and an external USB drive, using Syncback Free. I’d usually do this once or twice a month.

I’d had an inkling that the SSD was about to die for about a week before – every morning on boot the Mac would display a flashing question mark icon. Usually it would boot OK on the second or third attempt. Until it didn’t (on my birthday, no less)…

Cue the usual ranting and gnashing of teeth. Every day I’m not working is a day I’m not getting paid (contractor, ya see). All of the Mac service centres in London promised a 3-5 working day turn around, because they would have to order in a replacement SSD. Which means I’d have to make an appointment with the dreaded Genius Bar since they probably would have the part in stock.

The staff at the Genius Bar are always great, but I HATE the process you have to go through to see them – booking an appointment online. To cut a long story short, I was able to get a walk-in appointment later that day, and because I had AppleCare (which I bought specifically because SSDs are unreliable), the £600 replacement part cost me £0. But it still cost me a day’s productivity (and pay!).

In terms of lost data, not a lot. I lost a Linux VM which I could rebuild in about a day. Source code is on git / svn servers so none. Personal data – some photos of a trip to Portugal but I was able to get lower res copies of most of them from Facebook.

Since then I’ve changed my backup strategy slightly, so as to avoid downtime, by embracing the Mac way of doing things:

  1. No more dual boot – I’m gonna run Windows 8 in VirtualBox when the need arises
  2. Everything is on the one Macintosh HD partition. However, old habits die hard – I still have the content of my old “Data” partition located at /Data on that hard drive, organised how I like it to be and not how OSX wants me to have it organised.
  3. Time Machine + Time Capsule now backs up everything automatically when I get home.
  4. Super Duper backs up and creates a bootable version of my Macintosh HD on an external USB drive. This means that if my SSD dies again, I can boot straight off the USB hard drive and carry on working. At the moment I’m doing this every night, which takes about 20 mins (using the Smart Copy – I purchased a license). But if I think about it, once a week or so should be adequate since my personal files should be getting backed up by Time Machine, and I usually commit / shelve source code every night.

I still feel a bit uneasy about running Windows in a VM, but lately I’ve only been using OSX at work. I’ll see how it goes when I start coding in .NET again in a few weeks.