Alex Kaloostian

Apple Certified Master Trainer | Systems Integrator | Video Editor | Motion Graphics Artist

Wiping the slate clean

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I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

Yesterday my boot drive started acting up.

Its an OEM 512GB SSD that came in my lastest-gen 13″ Macbook Pro Retina. I haven’t heard widespread reports of these units failing, so I think it was just a stroke of bad luck. I wanted to create a new partition to install Yosemite, but it wouldn’t let me. I assumed it was because I was using FileVault, so I turned it off. Three hours later, I tried again- but DiskUtility still listed it as a Logical Volume. no dice. I tried the command line, I tried repairing permissions, repairing the disk, no dice.

Okay, fine, I guess Ill wipe and restore. I am one of the precious few people who actually regularly back up, so I wasn’t too worried, but just to be sure, I wanted to run Time Machine one more time. My backups were at home, but I had a nice, fast USB3 SSD, so I set up a new backup of everything, after deleting things that would waste my time like Dropbox, Google Drive, Adobe apps  and Warcraft. Those four folders saved me 100GB. I could just get it all back from the cloud, anyway.

So that left me with about 150GB to back up. No problem, I was expecting about 2 hours, and the progress bar agreed. But then a funny thing happened: it finished in a half hour. And the backup was only 40GB.Okay, something is clearly not right here, so I looked at the settings… somehow, I had excluded my entire home folder. So I un-excluded it (TimeMachine settings are weird) and backed up again. Again, it excluded the home directory.

Okay, so something is definitely strange. I booted into target disk mode, plugged in a thunderbolt cable, and tried to make a disk image with Disk Utility. After 20 minutes it was only 3GB into it. Okay, something is clearly not right here! Ran repair disk, it found some errors. Ran it again, more errors. Okay, something is clearly not right here!

Nuke it from orbit, only way to be sure.

Like I said, I had a backup, so after verifying it, I tried to wipe my drive… nope, it wouldn’t unmount. It was in target disk mode, but it wouldn’t unmount! So off to the command line I go…

sudo diskutil unmount force MinervaHD

There we go. I’ve been noticing this a lot lately: on a couple laptops and a couple iMacs, of all different ages. Drives will act funny and not unmount. So I had that comment memorized. Now I could erase and repartition and everything worked beautifully. Verify disk: no errors.

We can rebuild him, we have the technology

Now I’ve got a new task: put everything back. I could restore from my Time Machine backup, but I wasn’t feeling it. Why? A few reasons:

  1. It’s slow. I was backed up to my iMac server, and I’d have to restore via wifi.
  2. Cables. Yeah, I could drag out some cables and plug into my base station but.. that’s so… 90’s.
  3. Even over a cable, restoring the backup at the file level is slow.
  4. The biggest reason: Ive been using this mac for a long time and it has gotten cluttered. Sometimes it just feels nice to start off fresh, ya know?

So I was curious: With all the new technologies Apple has been introducing to make it easier to support people in the enterprise, and with BYOD policies and whatnot, like Caching Server and iCloud, I wanted to perform a real=wold test and see how it would really go. I was the model candidate, after all. So let’s give it a shot.

I started around midnight. Since the drive was COMPLETELY wiped, I didn’t even have a recovery drive. But as we all know, command-option-R will boot to an internet recovery drive, that’s right, a real live recovery drive hosted on Apple’s servers. All you need is a Mac with updated firmware that’s newer than mid-2011.

After holding down command-option-R, I was presented with a scary blank screen and only one menu: to choose a wi-fi network. I did, and a moment later the Internet Recovery icon appeared. i clicked it, and it began to boot. Obviously, this is going to be much slower than the internal SSD: My typical 3-second boot (yes really) took about 5 minutes. but there was a handy progress bar and countdown to keep me engaged.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 11.29.34 AM

I clicked Reinstall OS X Mavericks, and it started off. It had to download the OS of course, which took about 10 minutes, then it rebooted and began to install, which took about her 25 minutes, which is pretty standard.

When it was finally done, I was brought to the usual setup assistant, where I entered my language, keyboard, and iCloud name & password. For a while now, entering your AppleID will automatically enter your personal info into the address book (sorry, Contacts app) but now in mavericks, entering your AppleID also logs you into iCloud. Next I set up a user account & password, and finally declined to register my Mac (It’s already long since registered after all).

I was logged into a beautiful, fresh OS. I could almost imagine that new account smell. Now its time to mung it up! I clicked Software Update and downloaded the latest versions of Safari and iTunes. Interesting fact: using Internet Recovery will automatically install the latest OS and security patches, but not the latest auxiliary apps. Then I clicked the Purchased tab in the App Store and, since I was already logged into my AppleID, I clicked download download download download to download all of my purchased apps. It was lick ticking off a shopping list.Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 11.23.52 AM

Next I went through the system preferences and tweaked the settings the way I liked them. I made note to check iCloud, which I was already logged into, and it had already synced my mail, contacts, calendars, notes, reminders, safari bookmarks, reading list, and iCloud documents. I had to turn on Keychain syncing, it sent a confirmation code to my phone, I typed it in, and it synced my passwords like that.

Because I was on wi-fi ac, which gives me 1000mb/sec wi-fi, and because I had already been maintaining a caching server at home, all my app store apps had already finished downloading before I even finished tweaking my prefs. about 8GB of apps, including Final Cut, Motion, Compressor, iWork and iLife, were all set.

Download Dropbox, log in, start to sync. Download Google Drive, log in, start to sync. Download Adobe CC installer, log in, download my Adobe apps. Then the most difficult part was tracking down all the other various & sundry apps I use, like VLC, Handbrake, Adium, Lingon, Batchmod, TweetDeck, µTorrent, and AppCleaner, and installing them from their individual pages.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 11.20.16 AM

One thing I like about Dropbox is that it uses LAN syncing when available, so my DropBox files started syncing straight from my iMac over the local network, but Adobe and Google were coming from the internet, so I let that run and I went to bed.

Now I’m back to work, and I have all the apps I depend on daily, and all my files. Yes, there are tons of pref files and such that I didn’t bring back over, and when something comes up, I’ll go to my backup and grab it. But being nice and clean and fast is worth it.

Author: alexkaloostian

I'm a video editor, motion graphics designer and Mac IT consultant in the Boston area.

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