This past week I have been working primarily on my Computers, specifically the backup system for my laptop. This article is a bit geeky, if not interested in the details, at least read the conclusions.
My Laptop and Daily Workflow Like most photographers my laptop is essential on a trip, it is the repository of all the images taken during the day and having a working backup system is critical to avoid losing each day’s work on the trip. I’m using a a Apple MacBook Pro Retina laptop, whose performance and screen quality is fabulous. I’ve been using a 2TB Western Digital portable drive to backup the machine and contain a copy of my image library for use on the road. The daily workflow includes importing images taken during the day into the library and then backing those files up onto a second smaller portable hard drive prior to erasing the files off the camera’s memory card.
Diagnostics and System Errors
I use several tools to monitor the operation of the system and report any errors. The tools I use include:
- SMART Reporter, an App available on the Apple App store which reports any SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology errors.
- Drive Genius / Drive Pulse Reports on any serious disk problems including the detection of bad disk. (Note if you buy drives from OWC, this took is highly discounted). Last week I started getting Drive Pulse messages concerning the number of back sectors on the Western Digital disk. I ran the following tests on the drive:
I ran the fill disk utility using the DiskTester included with Diglloyd tools. This will fill the disk with 1000 files of random data and time the write and read time for each of these files. This will force the disk to mark any bad sectors and the tool includes a way to graph the results across the whole disk, gaps in consistent timing will indicate sectors of the disk that have been replaced with spares. The report showed serious problems with the disk. I also ran the Drive Genius Physical check on the disk and got similar alarming results. The disk needed to be replaced.
A Replacement, Testing, and Further Issues
I purchased a LaCie 3 TB Thunderbolt drive. A physically much larger drive, but hopefully one that is a bit more reliable. I formatted the drive and ran the Drive Genius Physical check and all appears to be well. I used Carbon Copy Cloner (http://bombich.com) to make a clone of my laptops boot drive and copy the Aperture Library. During the process I got Drive Pulse messages that there were bad sectors. I stopped the process and reinitialized the drive using the write all zeros option (a time-consuming process that writes to every part of the disk). There were numerous bad sectors, the Drive Pulse recommendation was to back up the disk and replace it immediately. The disk had to go back. Finally I replaced that drive with a OWC Elite Dual Pro Dual, which uses 2 disks with a hardware RAID option, which I set to mirror to provide greater data integrity. I reran the burn in test, including the zero’s initialization and this time all went well.
1. Diagnostic tools are critical to identify problems before Hard Drives fail. Drive Genius proved to be very effective in creating alerts about pending problems. 2. Backups are critical, if this had been the primary drive rather than the backup, with no backup this could have been catastrophic. 3. Even new drives can be bad, Testing a new drive is critical before trusting it with your data.