Installing a second hard drive into a MacBook Pro = Very Cool. Having a mobile bootable backup anywhere = PRICELESS.

MacMedics Locations in Severna Park & Lanham

This Blog post is from Kory Barrett from MacMedics Washington:
Even the employees here at MacMedics are not immune to Macintosh troubles. No matter how closely we follow our own advice, computers being the mortal devices that they are, we too experience problems.
So it wasn’t a real shock when my MacBook Pro recently failed. But in the process I became a huge fan of a new backup solution.
It all started at home, when I opened up my unit to check email before turning in for the night. However, I immediately sensed a problem. Though the power light on my latch release button was a solid white as normal, my screen stayed completely dark. No matter what I attempted I couldn’t generate video. Thinking it was stuck in a “sleep” state I tried several methods to wake it up. When that didn’t work I shut down the unit and restarted it. I tried several different startup tricks (zapping the PRAM, Option-boot, etc.), all to no avail.
Realizing that I had a real problem, I decided to hold off until the following morning when I’d be returning to our lab. The question of the integrity of my data didn’t really enter my mind at this point, as the symptoms did not suggest a hard drive failure. There were no unusual sounds that I could detect (grinding, screeching that we often hear when drives fail), and besides, I back my data up on a nightly basis using Time Machine to an Apple Time Capsule that I have at home.
Upon arriving in the office the next day, we methodically diagnosed the problem. When we concluded there was an internal hardware failure and began to disassemble the unit, I did finally start to get anxious about my data. What if my backup wasn’t reliable? I do perform sample tests from time to time, but I’d never done a full restore from it, and actually we’ve seen at least a small number of failures when trying to restore from a Time Machine backup. And even if it were successful, A) I’d still have lost all the work I’d completed since my last backup ran (a full day’s worth), and B) my backup was at home, meaning I’d have to leave work and spend a good part of the day going through the restore process, meaning more lost time.
So, it got to a point where I couldn’t wait to get the drive out of my MacBook Pro and attach it to our lab equipment to verify that my data was OK. Thankfully, it was, and the cause of my problem was a bad logic board. We replaced the board and I was back up and running. My worst fears were never realized.
But while the outcome was positive, it did get me thinking. If my drive had failed, how reliable was my backup? How much important data would I have lost in the day of work since my backup last executed? And had I really considered the time it would have taken me to head home and go through a full restore? Looking at it this way I was not satisfied with my backup plan, which obviously needed improvement.
It’s now about a week later, and I feel really good about what I’m doing. A colleague recommended a product to me that I am now using. It runs separately from my nightly Time Machine backup at home, meaning my data is in three places. But, while my nightly backup has its benefits, my additional new backup has others. What I did was install a 2nd, internal hard drive in my MacBook Pro. Using Intego’s Personal Backup software, I “clone” my hard drive to this 2nd internal backup drive several times a day. It runs quickly and does not slow down my machine in the process. Now, if my primary drive ever fails, I can easily reboot my machine to my cloned backup and get back up and running right away.
So now I’m really covered. If my drive fails, I have an updated internal backup. If my laptop gets stolen, I have a separate backup at home. I feel very comfortable that my data is well protected, and shouldn’t we all be?
But there’s the obvious question – “How did I fit a 2nd hard drive inside my MacBook Pro”? To do so, I sacrificed my internal SuperDrive. In its place I purchased a “sled” that holds the 2nd hard drive, designed to fit right where the SuperDrive was. I had asked myself “How often do I really need my SuperDrive anyway?”, and realized it wasn’t too often. For those rare occasions I also purchased an external SuperDrive. It’s small and very portable, and fits nicely in my laptop bag. So whenever I do need to install from a disk or burn a CD or DVD, I can still do so.
Cost-wise, including the internal drive sled, the hard drive itself, backup software, and the external SuperDrive, this solution was only about $100 more than a typical external hard drive backup. For me, it was well worth it.
If you are interested in learning more, please let us know, as we’d be happy to set this up for you. You really can’t be too careful with your data, and remember, it’s not a matter of if a drive will fail, it’s a matter of when.
More reading on hard drive failure and backups can be found at Also be sure to read our post about Time Machine here.
Current and new subscribers to the MacMedics newsletter can request our free Time Machine white paper.

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