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International Verify Your Backups Day

This article was first published in TidBITS#965/16-Feb-2009.

I’m not a superstitious sort, though I admit to preferring a particular jersey and shorts when I’m racing. But for many people, Friday the 13th is an inauspicious day, long reputed to be unlucky.

So I propose that we fight back against both superstition and the forces of entropy that constantly tear down all those works we labor so hard at creating.

The best defense against entropy is a good backup strategy. To quote a long-ago ad campaign from backup software maker Dantz Development, “To go forward, you must back up.”

But as those of us who have had to rely on our backups in the past know, the act of backing up is only the first small step in the full equation — it’s being able to restore that really matters.

Some psychiatrist friends with their own practice once ran afoul of this in a serious way. Their bookkeeper had religiously been making backups of all their invoicing and billing records as she worked, but she had never tried restoring from those backups until her hard drive died. When she went to restore from her carefully prepared backups, she was aghast to discover that they hadn’t been working. Months of data was lost, and it was a huge problem both for the bookkeeper and for my friends.

Therefore, I humbly submit that Friday the 13th, whenever it rolls around, should be considered International Verify Your Backups Day. (The United Nations is welcome to make this official.) In 2021, we’ll be celebrating only in August. If you’re reading this article on some other day, I’d encourage you to verify your backups right away and then continue with the Friday the 13th schedule.

Take a few minutes to identify some critical files and see if you can restore them successfully from your backups. If a bootable backup is part of your backup strategy, make sure you can actually boot from it. (If you don’t have a good backup from which you can restore right now, allow me to recommend Joe Kissell’s Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac.)

That’s it. No costumes are necessary, there’s no obligatory greeting, and no one expects you to prepare a special meal. If you feel the need to honor your successful verification, a little celebratory imbibing of your favorite beverage is never inappropriate.

But do tell your friends, relatives, and colleagues about International Verify Your Backups Day. Because losing data is not a question of if, but of when, and good backups from which you can restore reliably will protect you from unexpected losses small and large alike.

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Comments About International Verify Your Backups Day

Notable Replies

  1. I’m pleased to say that my Time Machine backups were in full working order when I needed to restore some data back in January after the purchase of a new iMac due to my old one breaking down. I also have an online backup via Backblaze as added insurance.

  2. How about Wednesday the 18th as a poor substitute? Booted to my CCC external drive so that I can do Clean Install on my internal hard drive. Boot was very slow but it got there.

  3. There’s never a bad time to test. :slight_smile:

    First boots are often slow, but it may be faster on a subsequent one. Though of course external drives are almost always slower than internal drives too.

  4. My external firewire ssd is so much faster than my iMac internal disk that I now boot from the former and back up to the latter.

  5. Hey, it’s Friday the 13th! Have you verified your backups today? We’ll assume that most are working, but let us know if you discovered a failure.

  6. Great idea. Verified both my cloud and local Time Machine backups. The latter experience was a bit odd, but TM’s UI has always been a bit…unique.

    When running through the backup date indicators (column on the right side of the TM window), at first nothing happened when I clicked on the BU from about a year ago. Uh, oh. So I tried something much more recent. The indicator for that BU date turned red when I pointed at it. Uh, oh again. But I went ahead and clicked, and that date’s window opened. So, I worked my way back in time. Every date indicator I pointed at was red, but every one of those dates’ windows opened. Finally got back to the original date I wanted, and now its indicator also turned red, and I was able to successfully restore a folder from that BU. Whew!

    Not sure who thought using the color red to indicate an available backup was a good idea (like, how about green?), but the bottom line is I was able to verify TM is working properly.

  7. I use Carbon Copy Cloner with the setting " Find and replace corrupted files: Once a week" that should – in my opinion – make sure that my backups work, right?

  8. It’s a good step, but honestly, no. The only way to make sure your backups are working is to use them for the purpose they’re designed for—to restore. In an ideal world, you’d restore everything to a new drive to make sure it worked fully, but smaller spot restores should be generally good enough. Anything else is insufficient information to be certain that the backed-up data can be read and written.

  9. I am soo glad you posted this. Seems my migration to a new Mac Studio Pro a few months ago, didn’t migrate the TM setup or changed it to manually. It was doing TM locally but not to my TimeCapsule 4TB I have on the home LAN. And that over time, I’ve been backing up iPhone images/data via export in Preview to folders on a drive that was excluded from backups.
    Yes, I use CCC to clone to a dedicated external, that is weekly. But now, I may have to open up the old TimeCapsule and replace the 4TB with a 8TB. Or, invest in a NAS like Synology and throw some 4TBs in as a RAID and get complicated.

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