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Get Your Fingers Dirty But Not Burnt

Recently I changed the brakes on the Saab, I am still alive.

Let me make it clear, I know how to do this kind of thing, I can do it, but I loathe doing so with a passion. I did it because I needed the car to be able to stop and it was the quickest way to do it. Also I saved a hundred quid or more.

In a similar vein I have up-graded my MacBook Pro. It’s a 2009 edition and it works but it hasn’t been working as well as it had done. I hook it up to an Eizo monitor and run it in clamshell mode (closed) most of the time. I tried dual screen mode but it didn’t work for me. This way of working is quite robust though. If there is a power cut it keeps running, and if I go away my MacBook comes with me.

Now, when I bought it a 250GB hard-drive seemed generous as did the 4GB of RAM. A few years on and the fan is running too much, the Leica is pushing too much data into the system and a G-Drive (750GB) sits besides it storing the photos. What was a neat backup system was beginning to look flakey. I was rapidly running out of space and it’s not so easy to back up the external drive. Time then for change.

I could afford a new Mac but the old one still was still doing a job.

Visiting London whilst waiting for my nephew in Goodge St a nice little man in a nice little shop said “yes we could sort that for you Sir.” And actually, for a few hundred quid my life would be easier. So that’s what I was going to do.

Hands Dirty Again

Now, by mistake I subsequently phoned the wrong shop in London to book it in and the guy I spoke to said he didn’t carry the RAM which led me to buy online. In doing so I realised that once again MacBooks had become user friendly enough to do this sort of thing oneself. A handful of tiny screws and the back is off the Mac. Ten to fifteen minutes and the job is done.

Hold on there, the hard-drive is there for the taking too. In for a penny in for a pound?

In the distant past with the drop down sides to G3 and G4 Macs hardware upgrades were sooooo easy and were my store of choice. It’s a really good website, it tells you,

  • what to do
  • How to do it


  • if you are likely to be able to do it

So a quick chat with the man and it would appear that there is a compelling case for the new hybrid hard-drives a bit of solid state to speed things up and a chunk of old tech. Carbon Copy Cloner is the software to do the job of transferring all of your own stuff from one drive to the other.

Off we go, sudden anxiety about being a static electricity conduit over and the bits are in the software is running cloning, cloning, cee ell ohhh cloning, over a million things to clone.

Many hours later and the job is done. The cloned disk (sitting in el-cheapo SATA housing) is used to re-boot, Macs will boot from an external drive. And boot it did ‘visualise fireworks over Sydney Opera House’

So the old and the new drives were swapped the Mac re-booted and… then… er… ‘visualise heavy rain, no lightning, prior to aforementioned firework display.


Hey-ho, leave the drives as they are, re-clone, cee, ell, ohh, c l o n e a g a i n.

Many more hours later the Mac boots and my how it boots.

More fireworks, yah dee yahhh.

I’m not certain what was wrong first time round but, if it all goes pear-shaped you can still put your original drive back in which is nice to know

Now, if you are following this you will gather that I have a speedy mac, the original (bootable) Mac hard-drive in an el-cheapo case and a now ready to be redundant external (750GB) drive.

Having consolidated everything on to the MacBook I have once again used Carbon Copy Cloner to make a further backup on the G-Drive.

Why? (you ask)

Well, Time Machine is OK, it has just taken me three days to recreate my Time-Machine backup, but with CCC I can create a backup disk that is totally bootable. This means that if the Mac falls over I can plug the drive in and go diddly go-go. I have just tried it. We are running out of fireworks aren’t we? For the record CCC does it’s job on a Firewire 800 transfer in a few hours (330GB) so it’s reasonably quick. Think about this, if your Mac breaks you can take the external drive, plug it in to another mac and run your operation from that until you get things sorted.

I didn’t realise how CCC works at first. It makes the original clone, but then you can schedule this to become a basis for backups. CCC sets up archives of what has changed, you dictate the schedule.

So, I now have

  • a faster Mac due to the added 4GB of RAM and the fast highbrid drive
  • a belt that is the CCC clone


  • braces in the form of Time Machine
  • I have also saved myself another £100 by doing it myself

This is all about robustness, and at the moment that helps. This is about covering grim eventualities that may never happen. However at the end of this journey I thought I would trawl through all of my old external hard-drives and see if there was anything to archive for posterity. I now have a bit of spare capacity and the chance to unite everything.

  • Drive one… click… click… click (Fail)
  • Drive two… click… click… click (Fail)
  • So I boot up a really old Mac. Great, old photos that I had forgotten about. No! No!! No!!! They are corrupting in front of my eyes!!!

You need to remember that, like it or not this stuff fails, one day it will fail for you. Don’t let it spoil your day when it does.

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