Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

In a last ditch effort to get my computer operational I reformatted what appeared to be a corrupt disk and borrowed an external disk to boot from. My OTHER MacBook Pro is in the shop and I had wiped it clean before sending it in. This SECOND MacBook Pro was the backup so the only backup I have is a backup backup which is about 6 months old.

Erasing the disk that possibly had the only copy of 6 months worth of data on it was an interesting thing. I knew that if I sent it to some service or used some tool that I might be able to recover some or all of the data. However, I imagined the time, stress and grief that it would cause me to engage in such an activity. I tried to take inventory of what I had done in the last six months and what items were unique and what I could recover from other people or from the Net. When I clicked "erase" on the Disk Utility, it was actually extremely liberating. Like decided to "let go" after dwelling on a loss in the family or something...

I realize this may sound a bit high drama, but I'm sure I'm not the only one whose brain shuts down to almost all outside input during a broken computer incident. Now I'm running on a fresh install with very little baggage and it actually feels quite nice. This also means no World of Warcraft and possibly more blogging. ;-)


It's liberating for a while until you remember something important that was deleted. :(

A long time ago, I made it a point to separate my computer from my data by storing everything online somewhere else. Later, I realised I didn't need a lot of it because the internet was one gigantic hard drive anyway.

I have my writings, and my work, sure. and I copy them 2, sometimes 3 times to CD's or whatever. But lately as we get ready to move, I realise a lot of them, I haven't had any reason to use ever again. Most of it has become nostalgic, pretty much.

I'm sure you do a lot more work than I do, though. heheh

6 months? Pshaw! How about 10 years. Sorry about the loss Joi. I do feel your pain. And your liberation. I do have four words for you though: "SuperDuper!" and "External Firewire Drive".

Shikata ga nai.

you have to start to backup more often. I use a small usb 2.0 HDD (20 Gb iOmega - very small one), and it is enough for all my mail and documents.
Since you don't use Microsoft f@#@#@ing software, you will be able to copy all data.

You did back up your contacts... right?

I didn't do this once a long time ago and that's all it took to make me a believer. When I'm on a plane the first thing I do when that bell goes off is start transcribing names, addresses and phone numbers into Address Book. Even if I can't plug into AC I'll spend my batteries doing this one thing.

I just checked and my .mac sync last occurred at 7:29 (two hours ago). So, I know the most important gem of all is safe and sound.

For my data backups SuperDuper is really good. For some reason I like RsyncX better. Can't remember now why that was... think it had to do with OSX Server compatibility at the time or something like that. Everything goes onto an oversized external firewire drive weekly.

i must say i hate doing manual backups.. there should've been a good solution for this problem utilizing machines around the world to backup your data with very high reliability long ago. i'm sure people would pay a reasonable amount for such a package. anyway, i know the oceanstore folks have been working on a solution for some time, but i expect industry will pump out better and better automatic backup solutions that just work.

Oh come on Joi. That's no excuse, just re-install WOW!

I agree with peoples comments on keeping your digital life online. Makes switching machines and in this case installs trivial.

this happened to me in the past. i messed up my debian install. had to come clean. closed my eyes and formatted. lost lots of data. but felt reborn. is all good.

Wiping 6 months would kill me. That means too much code to have to do again.

I'm actually surprised you didn't have a backup on an external disk. I regularly copy over my files with Carbon Copy Cloner to an external firewire disk.

Now that you're not in WoW anymore, I think I'll boot that one, too, in solidarity.

I hate having to reinstall I can not begin to tell you how many hours I have spent reinstalling software on hardware. I look forward as I am sure everyone else does to more blog posts, it is fun to read your thoughts no doubt!

I'm just gonna say that you 'seem' to have too many Mac's. If possible please send one to me, yoroshiku ne.

I lost basically all data that I had accumulated since I started to work on computers that possesed a hard drive some years ago. At the time it was the worst thing ever happening to me. When I finally decided to put the hammer to the drive in frustration I sensed a kind of opertunity to start all over. The next day was already good - I reinstalled my stuff and had a clean fast system - yet some hard work was gone - pictures, 3d and stuff that took a long time doing. Then slowly I realised that all work I was doing was digital, fictional, imaginative 0 and 1s in some virtual magnetic universe. Ever since I have a totally different view on data I produce on the computer. Its not real so it does not hurt if it is lost - the virtuality is a game humans have invented and you can win or loose but the outcome won´t effect the world in any way. I have been plaqued with broken hard drives ever since and I lost work again and art and code (indymedia producers have a hard time backing up 2 TB of data you know) but never again did I feel sorry for myself about the loss, never has it felt to be a loss again. So I think its not only a liberating experience but also spiritual experience on some level - free yourself from possesion or the such ;)

I just didn't have time to make a backup. This machine WAS my backup. I have a 6 month old backup on an external drive. I usually back up more often, but I had literally been juggling machines with 4 broken computers in my trail. I tried to keep one machine as a backup with a copy of my data and one machine "in play." The problem was, the last machine broke literally one day before I had to leave and I only had enough time to suck the data onto this new machine before I left. (I was walking the office with two computers connected with a firewire cabe.) I asked the data from the old machine to be wiped before being sent in for repair as a precaution. I probably should have spent a couple of hours before I left for the airport to do the backup, a couple of hours in the morning before a trip are very expensive, but in retrospect they would have been worth it.

Yeah, I use SuperDuper and backup my contacts to .mac. However, I had .mac sync turned off for awhile since it was bogging down my machine on the road. :-(

no time for manual backup? leave the computer switched on in the night, and copy all new files since last time. It's not a good ideat to use another machine for backup. Even the HDD is not the best choice, but is still better than a whole computer...

sorry for your problem...


Get either a Sony Vaio TX series or the SZ Series.
I have the Sony Vaio TX running OpenSUSE Linux 10.1.
Everything works , including Skype, and more applications than you can shake a stick at. Also I travel all over the world, Europe, Asia, Middle East.. The laptop has run like a charm, and endured, heat, cold, airlines, abuse, etc... It small 2.1 pounds.

Also look at the Fujitsu Laptops they are very rugged and the battery life running Linux on them is superior. Friend of mine has the P7000 gets average of 8 hours out of battery running OpenSUSE Linux 10.1.


Hi Joi,

I am using both online backup/sync service and manual backup to my desktop computer and LAN drive. If you are to do some "professional" work, you cannot lose any important data (I hope you have not lost them). I do not trust the machine/hardware, nor people including myself, we make mistakes and they tend to break down.


I'm really bad at doing backups, but I'm getting a little better. Mail and important documents on my MacBook go to - cheap, reliable online storage. I still need to do a full backup to an external hard drive. It has also been a few weeks since a backup of the iMac. Naughty me.

I have re-installed my windows many times before and everytime I found something important was deleted without any backups. Such a regrets will last for a few days but then more interesting staff will come into my computer and become another "something important". This is digital life, everything just come so far and gone so far.

After having several G photos in my hard drive, I miss those old photos that my grandmum showed to me before. There was no digital photos at her time, but it worths more than any memory cards or digital camera.

I had a crash and lost 1 year of data.

After a month of considering all the options and the ramifications, I put out $1200 to have it recovered.

Thesis research and pictures were my reasons for doing it.

It hurt me financially, but I KNEW that I would forever regret it if I didn't get that stuff back.