Carbonite Problems and Backup Woes

Well, I have my new iMac all set up and running.

Data Migration

The migration procedure was fairly straight forward thanks to the fact that I have plenty of cloned backups courtesy of SuperDuper!. I simply started up the new iMac and used Apple’s built in set-up assistant to transfer my data from a cloned backup to the internal fusion drive of my new iMac. I then kept a copy of the old backups around in case there was anything that didn’t get copied across and immediately started using SuperDuper! to create another clone of the new iMac. Easy Peasy!

There were a few things (mainly settings) that didn’t copy across so I was glad I kept the original backups, but I think I have everything now. There were also a few applications that proved a little troublesome thanks to various copy-protection schemes, but I got them sorted in the end.

Time Machine

I also maintain a Time Machine backup and rather than start from scratch with a new Time Machine backup wanted to keep the old one as I then have old versions of files that I can access if I need to. I could have just plugged the old Time Machine drive into the new iMac and continued from there, but the new iMac has a larger hard drive so I needed to move the Time Machine backup to a larger external hard drive as well. I first tried just copying it across which took half a day and didn’t work. After some ‘Googling’ I soon had it under control though with the help of the ‘Restore’ function within Disk Utility. It still took a while actually move the data but it got there in the end and my Time Machine backup was ‘back up’ and running.

I did come across a strange little bug in OSX Mavericks though when using Time Machine with dual displays. If you enter Time Machine to restore an old version of a file whilst the finder is on the second monitor then Time Machine won’t work. It opens but you can’t select any folders or files, you can’t navigate around the Finder window within Time Machine as you should be able to and you can’t restore any files. There’s a simple fix though. Just make sure that the Finder is open on the Macs primary display before entering Time Machine and all is OK.

I wasn’t the only one to be having these problems, but I did find out the solution to it myself so posted the solution on the Apple Support forums. It helped lots of other people too so I felt pretty good about that!


As mentioned above I like to keep cloned backups of my internal drive so that should anything go wrong with it I can easily start-up from a cloned bootable startup volume on an external drive. I’ve always done this in the past using Western Digitial MyBook drives connected via FireWire and it has worked well with no problems. The new iMac doesn’t have FireWire so I now have these drives connected via a Thunderbolt to FireWire adaptor. I also bought a new larger (3TB) Western Digital USB 3.0 external drive that was to be used as a 2TB Time Machine partition and a 1TB cloned bootable partition.

Unfortunately, so far I have been unable to boot the Mac from any of these cloned ‘bootable’ drives. If I try booting from the USB 3.0 drive it just sits there for a while with a grey screen and then eventually boots from the internal drive. If I try booting from a FireWire Drive connected using the Thunderbolt to FireWire adaptor, it does boot but takes 30 minutes to do so and then doesn’t work properly as nothing will actually open. I’m not sure what is going on here, but some people seem to think it is the fact that I’m using Western Digital Drives.

I HAVE successfully booted from a USB stick with a recovery Mavericks installation on it, so the iMac can boot via USB, but I’ve so far been unsuccessful booting from an external hard drive.  I shall either have to accept that I can’t boot from my clones and just use them as data backups that I can hopefully migrate data from should I ever need to, or I shall have to spend yet more money on a drive from a different manufacturer… I may need to do this anyway thanks to issues with my offsite backups…


The third type of Backup I maintain is an offsite backup and this has been courtesy of Carbonite, a service I have recommended in the past. However, I’m now a little disappointed by it as it seems as though the process of moving my data from my old iMac to my new one has flagged all the data on my computer as being new. This is despite the fact that the Hard Drive has the same name, the filenames are all the same, the creation and modification dates of the files are the same, the file sizes are the same and the files are stored in directories with the same structure. In fact, nothing  has changed other than the computer upon which they reside. However, it seems as though Carbonite can’t cope with this and therefore now wants to re-upload all of my data.

My Carbonite backup currently consists of around 300GB of data and that would take me two years to upload! The main problem with this other than the fact that I’d have to keep my computer running 24/7 for years on end, is that Carbonite removes files from your offsite backup after 30 days once they have been removed from your computer. So, if I continue to use Carbonite my backups will be deleted in 30 days and it’ll take me over two years to get them back onto the Carbonite servers. Obviously during that time I will be without an offsite backup.

I have been in discussion with Carbonite about this, but they don’t seem to think it is a problem. They haven’t been very helpful and tend to just quote terms and conditions at me rather than accept that this is an issue they should deal with. I’ve been polite of course, and have tried to point out the problems in a way that should help them improve their service but they haven’t really wanted to listen.

It seems to me as though the algorithms Carbonite uses to determine what are and aren’t new files are fundamentally flawed as they don’t allow you to upgrade your computer and maintain a full backup on their servers. Everyone will update their computer at some point and when they do so their Carbonite backups will be rendered obsolete. Unfortunately because of this I can no longer recommend Carbonite and will have to search for other solutions.

Other Offsite Backup Solutions

I’ve taken a look for other solutions and there don’t really seem to be many that are suitable. BackBlaze and Mozy look good, but in order to get my offsite backups up and running quickly I really need a solution that offers a seeding service and none of them offer this in the UK. I may therefore have to resort to having two portable hard drives that I keep offsite somewhere (probably in Anna’s office). I’ll then swap them over each week and keep a cloned bootable backup on them. At least one will always be offsite and they’ll be cloned and swapped once a week.

This may even solve my bootable clone issues I’ve been having as I can get drives from another manufacturer that hopefully I’ll be able to boot from, It’ll solve my offsite backup issues too, and should, in the case of emergency, actually be better than a service such as Carbonite  or Backblaze as restoring files from an offsite hard drive will be much quicker and easier than trying to download it from a cloud based service.

So How’s the iMac?

Other than these issues, the new iMac is certainly a lot faster than the old one. The screen is bigger, it’s thinner and looks good on my desk.

The fusion drive seems to work without really noticing it. It starts up quickly (from the internal drive) and seems to zip along when doing things. The speed increases are mostly noticed when opening applications such as Photoshop. It does hang now and then and I still get some spinning beach balls from time to time which is a bit of a surprise, but I suppose it doesn’t take long to get used to a faster machine. I’m sure when I go on the older iMac it will seem terribly sluggish in comparison.

I’m not that enamoured with the Magic Trackpad, I should have stuck with the Magic Mouse. I have asked Apple if they can exchange it and they say they can, but in order to do so I’ll have to send the whole computer back… That’s just ridiculous and far too much effort so it looks as though I’ll have to stick with the trackpad and possible RSI, or fork out for another Magic Mouse.

Otherwise, all seems good and I just need to sort out my backup strategies so that I can be 100% happy with it all.

The fact that my iPod Nano decided to break last weekend hasn’t helped my technology woes either.  Apple apparently couldn’t fix it even though it was only a stuck button so I’ve had to downgrade to an iPod shuffle. Hopefully soon I’ll be a happy Apple Fanboy again, just as soon as I’m back on top of all my technology and gadgets.


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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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