Time Machine question

(Sam Silverman) #1

My mid-2011 mac mini died very suddenly. It was working fine and an hour later it wasn’t. In all fairness, I was getting steady appearances of the dreaded SPOD all day, but no error messages. I had planned to shutdown and restart before I went to bed to see if that would fix the SPOD, but the computer had already died by then.

I took it into the Apple store near me and was informed that they no longer repaired anything that old and to try a 3rd party. In the interim I bought a new Macbook Air (that seems excellent).

I took it home, plugged it into my Time machine and was informed that the most current backup was 12/11/2018! The time machine had been plugged in to the mac mini and should have been backing up automatically every hour. Apparently it wasn’t, and again - there were no error messages.

I restored what I could and all seems well. I’m just wondering why I had this trouble and how can I check in the future if TM isn’t doing it’s job? Is it just a question of clicking the “Clock” icon repeatedly and seeing that the backups are happening as they should be? Or should I be entering Time Machine and seeing if the days are OK? Or…

Any ideas?


Sam Silverman

(David Tuma) #2

I’m expect you have done this, but in Time Machine Preferences check to ensure that the box “back up automatically” is checked.


(Sam Silverman) #3

Thanks, but yes. It’s always been checked.


(mpainesyd) #4

The Time Machine display in System Prefs should show the latest backup date.
Another way to check for recent backups is to use Finder to browse the disk with Time Machine, go to the backupdb folder then your Mac folder. The latest backup date should show at the bottom of the list.
As far as your probelm is concerned it could be that corruption on your Mac Mini hard drive resulted in TM failing to backup - but I would have thought it would display an error.
Note that TM happily manages more than one backup disk and alternates backups between them, if they are mounted. I recommend that you have second backup disk (maybe a portable disk that you keep off-site such as in the car).

(Sam Silverman) #5

I have a second disk that I use to manually backup documents, PDFs I create etc. There was really only one thing serious that I lost (besides a month of emails) and that is the two hours of database work I did right before the crash. I’ve got hardcopy and I can recreate what I lost. It’s a pain, but not devastating.

I’m just puzzled by the lack of error messages - both on the Mac and from Time Machine.

Oh well. Just one of those things you go “hmmm” and scratch your head.

It’s not worth getting aggravated about it.


(Simon) #6

TM used to log a lot of diagnostic information to the console that you could check to find out how much it copied, how much it deleted, etc. In fact, I even used a handy little tool to have my system log files displayed as overlay on my desktop background (MKConsole) so at a glance I always saw what TM was doing. But somehow with High Sierra (or was it Sierra?) Apple thought that logging had to be “fixed”. So now there’s no longer a simple and straightforward way for regular users to check what TM has been doing. Sigh.

(Ray Kloss) #7

Can you pull the hard drive out of your mini and see if you can extract the file you are looking for?

(Sam Silverman) #8

I can’t. I don’t have the right tools or the expertise. I found a very nice gal, highly recommended who does this for a living. For $300 she’ll pull out all my data.

It’s a good price, but I can probably recreate it all in 2 or 3 hours.I don’t think I’m going to go for it.


(Tommy Weir) #9

Can it boot as a Target drive? Ie holding down T and starting it up. If if boots with a FireWire symbol onscreen. Then you can try accessing it using a cable (and at least know dongle) to your new MBA.

(gastropod) #10

Sam Silverman wrote: “I can’t. I don’t have the right tools or the expertise.”

The 2011 model is pretty easy to work with. OWC and iFixit will both sell you the right tools for less than $10, and both have good instructions and/or videos for the process. Just allow a nice block of time with no interruptions, take your time, and don’t forget to breathe. In any case, you seem to have written it off at this point, so you have nothing to lose by trying.

The frequent SPODs you had were probably the sign of a dying hard drive, especially if it was the original drive. Whether you can recover anything will depend on where on the disk the failures happened; if there was a head crash, it may be toast. If you can boot the mini from an external drive, it’s another sign that the drive is the problem.

You can get a SATA dock or a cable to plug a bare drive in via usb for around $20-30. (The docks tend to be more reliable than the cables, and are more generally useful.) I like carbon copy cloner to rescue data, because it gives you a nice list of all the files that it couldn’t copy.

Once you’ve recovered what’s possible from the drive, disassemble it and scratch it up with a file. That will keep anyone else from getting things from the drive. Or if it was easy to recover almost everything (i.e., the errors were all in system files), you can keep it somewhere safe as an archival backup.

Regardless of data recovery, SSDs are getting pretty cheap. Stick one in, maybe bring the memory up to 16GB if it isn’t, and you’ll have a nicely usable system.

(James R Cutler) #11

There are two good ways to check on Time Machine backups.

  • Keep the Time Machine icon on the Menu Bar. When you click on it, the dropdown menu will include information on the latest backup.
  • Download The Time Machine Mechanic (T2M2) from The Eclectic Light Company downloads and use it to check up to 48 hours of TM activity.

(Sam Silverman) #12

Thanks, James! I’ll look into T2M2.


(Sam Silverman) #13

Tommy -

It won’t even power up. The hard drive may or may not be good, but I’m pretty sure the power supply is shot.


(Sam Silverman) #14

That’s an idea! Thanks!

I did have the machine open a few years ago when i upgraded the RAM.

(Peter Drake) #15

Slightly alarmed by this correspondence, I realised that after updating to Mojave the HD I use for TM no longer showed the TM icon, just a run-of-the-mill HD icon. In Sys Prefs I clicked the ‘Select disk’ button and selected the HD again, which now shows its TM colours. Has it been backing up in the meantime? Maybe not…

(Ron Risley) #16

FWIW, I find that about a third of the time after a reboot, my TM disk persistently shows a generic disk icon instead of the TM icon. Regardless of which icon is displayed, TM seems to be backing up properly.

(David Brostoff) #17

Where are you viewing the HD icon?

(I recently updated from 11.13 to 11.14 and now notice TM is not being displayed in Disk Utility.)


(Dana E. Stevens) #18

I have noticed the generic disk icon issue for years and through several versions of MacOS. Currently using OS 10.13.3. I find that if I just leave it alone the icon will change to the green time machine icon after a short time. It seems that the more I fooled with it the longer it took to change back to the green time machine icon. I just did a restart and sure enough the time machine disk icon is the generic yellow one again. At some point it will change back to the green time machine disk icon. I spent a lot of time trying to fix the issue in the past and finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort since the icon fixed itself eventually. The time machine backups have worked normally regardless of the icon displayed.

(Gordon Moynes) #19

I have not been using Time Machine for backups for a while now but when I did I found this utility invaluable:


I notice that High Sierra is the last mac os indicated as supported but the Developer was always very responsive. It may well work with Mojave.


(Peter Drake) #20

The TM icon is on the iMac Desktop. It now shows the green TM clockface icon, as expected. Also shows the TM icon in Disk Utility - I just checked.