I’m pretty good at backing up my digital files. I even pay five dollars a month with a service that backs things up off site. That’s really an “In case of emergency” thing since most of my files are really big and to recover a whole hard drive worth of stuff would take a while. They’d have to ship me a new hard drive with the stuff on it as downloading it would take forever.

I’ve also used the “Time Machine” app on my Mac over the years. They problem really is money. I have six hard drives connected to my computer and if I really wanted to back each of them up that means I’d need six additional hard drives. Thats a lot of space, money, and hard drives! (They’re all backed up off site though.)

From 2008-2021 my main computer was a MacPro Tower. My main hard drive on that one, by the end, was an 8TB hard drive that housed all my artwork. I’ve got stuff going back 25 years on that drive. The problem was that 8 TB hard drives are expensive so when I bought that 8TB one I couldn’t afford to buy a backup one too. So I no longer had a Time Machine backup for my main drive. I still had the offsite one though so I was okay.

Last year I finally got a new computer. A MacMini. I had to buy docks to attach all my old hard drives to it but I also bought a 2TB hard drive to use as a backup for my new main system (the built in hard drive of the new MacMini was only 1TB). Of course my old 8TB hard drive was hooked up and I was still going to be working on it and it was still not backed up on site. After buying a whole new computer I sure couldn’t afford a new 8TB drive.

Everything was running fine with the new computer with one exception. Occasionally as I was going to save a document (on my 8TB hard drive) I would get a message that said I didn’t have permission to save it. I could do a “Save As” and rename the file and everything would be fine. Sometimes Macs have weird permission quirks and there was an easy workaround so I didn’t sweat it too much. That went on for eight months.

Last Friday I woke to a disturbing message from my computer. It told me it could no longer save things to my 8TB hard drive and I had to copy everything off of it and reformat it. That will sure cause some anxiety! Especially since I had nowhere to copy the 4TB+ worth of data I had on the drive. I had no choice but to buy a new 8TB hard drive then. I got on Amazon and found that they could get one to me that night. So I ordered it and waited.

I got the hard drive that night at about 8PM and then I had to decide what to do with it. The old 8TB hard drive still had my old system on it in case I wanted to slide it back in my old computer and start that thing up again. In the eight months I had the new computer I never had to do that but I could. If I wanted to do that again I’d have to clone my old drive rather than just copy info off it. I looked up how to clone a drive and gave it try. As I suspected it took about ten seconds to tell me it couldn’t clone the drive. After all the drive needed to be reformatted as it wasn’t working right.

I decided that I didn’t need the old system anymore and I would just have to copy the info to the new drive. I grabbed my “Work” folder and a few others and set them to copying overnight. I knew that with copying such large chunks of info things could go wrong but what else could I do at that time of night? I tried to put it out of my mind and get some sleep.

The next morning I woke up to find that the copying had failed because of permissions. I didn’t have the permission to copy something. The problem is there was nothing to tell me what was the thing that I didn’t have permission copy. So I’d have to copy everything chunk by chunk. I’d grab one folder that had anywhere from 10-200TBs in it and see if it would copy. This took all day. From 7AM until 7PM.

It turned out that what stopped everything from copying the night before was one font. One font out of 4TBs worth of files held up the whole process. It was even a duplicate copy of a font. It cost me about five hours to find that out. Luckily it wasn’t a real five hours as the vast majority of time the machine was doing its own thing copying files as I was doing other things but I had to keep checking it. It didn’t make getting anything done that day any easier.

After I got everything copied I reformatted the old 8TB hard drive and all was well with it. I decided to set it up with Time Machine to back up the new 8TB hard drive. It turns out that is a little confusing to do. It’s easy with a main hard drive and an external hard drive for back up but with two external hard drives I was a little lost. I think I did it correctly but I’m not 100% sure. It’s been backing up for about 12 hours now so I think it’s doing its job. We’ll see.

So I dropped $170 on that 8TB hard drive but now I had another worry. My photo hard drive. That 3TB hard drive has all my photos and other family photos going back nearly 100 years; thousands upon thousands of photos. I didn’t want a panic moment with that drive. I went back online and dropped another $100 on a portable 3TB hard drive.

For my photos I don’t need an active Time Machine back up. I like a hard drive I can just copy to and then turn off. A hard drive that is off can’t break. At least I think not. I’m copy everything from my photos drive onto the new backup drive and then just add the new photos in every now and then. That’s the plan and as I said I’m good at backing stuff up so I know I’ll keep it up. They key was having the money to buy the drives. Luckily I had it this time.