Tag: backup

Something positive almost always comes out of a negative situation.

In my case, it happened earlier this week while I was continuing work on my WordPress plugin. After adding a single page when testing, I wanted to delete it. Rather than delete the single post, I accidentally clicked the “select all” button on the first page of posts, then clicked through the Yes/No prompt. Immediately after pressing it, I realized what I had done and madly tried canceling the operation. Thanks to MySQL’s lightning fast response time, my last 12 posts were long gone by the time I could do anything about it. After being unable to access my webhost’s backup files, I set about the task of recreating my posts out of the Google cache. They are now fully repaired, which is why you won’t notice a real difference.

What did I learn from this?

Make sure your posts are in the Google index
If your site is indexed often, and correctly, by Google’s robots, you’ve already got a last-ditch backup system in place. While recreating posts from this information is rather time consuming, it is certainly better than losing everything.

Use automated backups
Thankfully, WordPress’ dependence on MySQL databases means there are plenty of plugins available to make backup painless. After some reading, I found a plugin called WP-DB-Backup that can backup your entire database and either download it to your computer, save to your server, or automatically email to an account of your choice. I’ve set up a 7GB Gmail account that will now contain daily backups of my WP database.

Check your webhost backups
Every webhost backs up their client’s data. A good website administrator checks the backups to make sure they work properly. When something goes wrong, a good backup can get your site back online immediately, but if you can’t use it, you’re stuck.

So after somewhat of an anxious few hours, I’ve seen the error of my ways, and now have a safety net in place. Here’s hoping you’ve done the same.

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Maybe you’ve bought a new computer and can’t use Migration Assistant, or maybe you need to restore your data after it has been corrupted. Whatever the reason, you’ll be happy to know that replacing the data in Address Book, iCal and Keychain is as easy as replacing a file. Since OS X stores data inside standard text files, all data associated with a specific application will be found inside the user library.

Here’s where to find them.

Address Book

Navigate to userfolder / Library / Application Support / AddressBook. Inside that folder is a number of strange and mysterious file names. The one you’re looking for is AddressBook.data. If you try opening that file in a text editor, you’ll see gibberish because it is a binary data file.

Transfer that file to another Address Book instance (in the same folder), restart the application, and you’ll have all your contacts again.


Restoring the Keychain, while basically the same process, requires slightly more work to complete. Navigate to userfolder / Library / Keychains and look for login.keychain. This file stores all the passwords and website form details that are collected whenever you save them. “Login” is the master keychain that the system always looks for. If you’re replacing this keychain with another backup, you’ll have to unlock it before you can use it properly again. To do that, open Keychain Access (inside /Applications/Utilities) and select Unlock Keychain “login” from the File menu. Enter your administration password, and you’re good to go.

iCal data

Backing up iCal calendar data is much easier if you export the calendar from inside iCal. To do that, select the calendar from the list on the left side of the window, and choose Export from the File menu. That will produce a file with a .ics extension that can be imported into iCal by double clicking the document.

If you’re looking for the iCal data specifically, the calendar files are located at userfolder / Library / Calendars. The problem with this method is that the calendars are stored inside a cryptically-named folder that can only be distinguished by opening the info.plist file inside the folder. Using the folder itself is probably only necessary when you need to rescue data and iCal cannot be opened.

Thanks to the file organization of Mac OS X, you can be sure that important personal data can be recovered or backed up if there is a problem.

[tags]Mac OS X, iCal, Keychain, Address Book, backup, troubleshooting[/tags]

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It’s 8 AM. You’re just about to email the TPS reports you’ve been working on since 1 o’clock this morning when suddenly your computer stops responding to your inputs. In a panic, you shut down the system by holding the power button, but on the next startup, the screen doesn’t even reach the desktop. Before starting to pull your hair out, you suddenly realize that you’ve prepared for an event like this — you’ve made a backup drive.

By and large, Macs are very stable systems. Even with little or no maintenance, they’ll run for years without a problem. Unfortunately, they do occasionally decide to take a vacation, which most often comes at a very unlucky time. To protect yourself from such problems, you should have a bootable drive that contains only the bare minimum of applications, hopefully allowing you to remain productive in desperate times.

Important note: There is an important difference between making a drive for Intel-based systems versus PowerPC-based computers. Intel systems can be booted from cases using the cheaper USB 2 standard, while PowerPC computers can only use FireWire drives. Be sure to use the correct case for your computer, as well as the right partition scheme: GUID for Intel, Apple Partition Map for PPC.
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