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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

January 10, 2006

Hilarious Japes with Techtool Pro

Laugh? My Mac nearly died.

Having not undertaken any diagnostics/repair on any of my computers since the death of Norton Utilities, I thought it was time to check out Techtool Pro, which is the major disk/file utility available for the Mac in the Big Cat era.

So I ran through some of the tests and everything seemed to be OK. Thought I'd check out the disk defragger, which is something I've been thinking of doing to my external drives at home that have all my recording sessions on.

Now, I'm not actually stupid, but I did a very stupid thing, which I knew was stupid when I did it, and which I knew might cause problems.

See, it was clearly going to take all afternoon to de-fragment my disk. If I have a criticism of Techtool it's that it should warn you, in a BIG RED ANGRY FONT, that what you are about to do should be done, preferably, overnight, or at least during a long stretch of hours during which you will not need your computer.

But I needed my computer, so it was either wait 3 hours for the defragmentation or... spend 3 hours re-installing the operating system and recovering data. There was a faint chance that, having stopped the process partway through, I would be able to just restart my Mac and get on with my work, but as it turned out, the main volume was dead and gone - invisible - and it was dead lucky that I'd partitioned the hard drive, so the other two partitions were visible.

I lost all the data on one of the partitions, because there wasn't quite enough room to install OS X on it, so I had to wipe it and start over. The lost data was mostly archival stuff, nothing that will be missed (the iPhoto library, for example, is all duplicated at home), and after a restart I was able to - miraculously - see the old volume and copy my applications and even preferences and bookmarks into my new OS X install.

So it took a lot less than 3 hours, if you exclude the time wasted at the beginning trying to start up with the old install, and vain attempts to recover the data using Techtool - which, again, would have taken hours and hours anyway.

Lesson learned: don't mess with Mr Techtool when he's in the middle of something, and don't attempt to use it if you will need your computer again within a few hours.


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