Is it possible to have data recovery success with deleted Time Machine backups?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by lbaitis, Feb 19, 2016.

  1. lbaitis macrumors newbie

    Feb 19, 2016
    Has anyone ever had success or has known of anyone who has had success in using data recovery software such as Data Rescue 4, to recover back ups that Time Machine chose to delete unknowingly to the user?

    I am dealing with a troubling situation in which both duplicate backups of my data have had their own near simultaneous disasters. I always thought two backup copies would be enough, but now I know otherwise. My best hope at this point is to recover data from the Time Machine external hard drive. It is a network drive, however, so I cannot hook it up directly to my MBP. I tried connecting it via Ethernet and mounted it, but as I suspected, Data Rescue 4, still does not see the drive. So I am going to have to crack it open and connect it directly.

    Before I do this, I thought I'd ask if anyone else has had luck with this method when it comes to Time Machine and recovering deleted backup data?

    I discovered that almost at the same time as my other external hard drive crashing, my most recent back up available from Time Machine was only a few days in the past. Time Machine had decided, for some unknown reason, that the backup was corrupt (allegedly, as I never received a message saying this). It removed all 2 years of back up data. Space on the drive is no issue. The external hard drive I'm using for Time Machine is a 3TB drive and about 400-500 GB is in use. The sparsebundle for my backups still has dates within it going back to 2014. I have looked and the data is definitely not within the folder where it should be, only files dating to January 2016. I immediately shut off Time Machine backups on my MBP and quit using the disk when I made this discovery a few weeks back. There were a few days of backups performed after the data was deleted, but I am hopeful, that perhaps not all of the 2 years worth of data was overwritten so quickly, especially with so much space available on the disk.

    I'm hopeful that maybe someone else has had a similar experience on this forum. I would love to hear all stories possible - maybe there's a success story out there? I need all the hope I can get right now. Thank you!

  2. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    Is this 3TB drive used for time machine by any chance a seagate drive? 3TB seagate consumer-grade drives have an appalling reputation.

    BTW, if you had two time machine backups, and no original copies of the data, then technically, you only had one backup of the data. time machine is NOT meant as a means of keeping old files on hand to free up space on your system drive.

    Properly, you should have had an external hard drive which kept your important data and made sure it was backed up on both time machines.

    The network drive probably is in a format that Data Rescue won't recognise when you pull out the hdd and hook it into a drive dock.
  3. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    The advice I offer below won't help you now, but I think you should consider it for the future:

    1. DON'T backup "via a network". Instead, use a "standalone" external drive (USB3 or otherwise). Back up to that instead, and make sure it's formatted for the Mac (HFS+). It takes a little more "user interaction" to backup like this, but things just work better this way.

    2. Consider using either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper to create bootable, cloned backups of your internal drive. These are instantly bootable right to the finder and everything will be "there in front of you" EXACTLY as it was on your internal drive.
    You won't realize the beauty of a cloned backup until you get into a "moment of extreme need" -- kind of like where you are now.

    3. Keep at least two cloned backups - one "nearby", and one at "an alternate location", such as work, bank vault, etc.
  4. lbaitis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 19, 2016
    Thank you for your responses. The 3 TB drive is in fact a Seagate Central. I wonder now if the brand had something to do with the fact that TM decided to randomly delete all previous 2 years of backups and start over in January.

    I am much more aware than ever now of making sure to back up valuable data in more ways than two, or three even. I have done one bootable cloned back up already. I'll be sure to do that at least twice a year or before any major removals of data. I've also turned on iCloud, paying the $.99 for the 50 GB per month, and I'll increase that likely when I need to. I've also turned on photostream syncing which I had not done previously. It can't hurt to have one more way to ensure there is more than one copy of photos, I just wish it also synced videos. Most of the data I've lost that I want to get back badly is photos and videos taken with my iPhone.

    My electrically fried hard drive was a 2 TB western digital that I would hook up directly to my MBP and copy over files to back up from time to time, including all of my photos and videos. For years I would copy all files from my MBP to two external hard drives, but I cut back to just the one Western Digital once we had Time Machine up and running. I obviously placed far too much trust in Time Machine. This is the first time I'm severely disappointed in an Apple product. What product manager decided it would be a good idea to bypass alerting a user that all of their previous data was about to be deleted? It would be quite easy to give the user the option to back up the old data to a separate folder before wiping it out. Very poor design.

    I'm planning on sending my Western Digital out to professional data recovery. I need to research which one would be best still. I'm not putting my faith into their being able to get anything from it, although I hope I'm wrong.

    I came across an ad for Stellar Data Recovery software that says it will do data recovery for a Time Machine drive. I have read reviews about Stellar Data that are not so stellar. Do you have any feedback on this software and its effectiveness?

    Thank you for any further help and suggestions. I am very hopeful to regain photos and videos of my kids from the entire year that I've lost, especially since it was the year that my youngest was 1 year old, including first birthday party, learning to walk, first words, and all sorts of fun memories that are hard to lose forever.
  5. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Just some totally random thoughts....

    You're aware that "professional data recovery" can be VERY expensive, right?
    We're talking into the thousands of dollars.
    Take a deep breath and ask yourself, "is this data REALLY worth that much to me?"

    I would not trust Time Machine again.
    I personally have never used it, and never will.

    I maintain cloned backups for EVERYTHING, and it has worked well for me.
    Keep two or three of them (with one stored "off-site"), rotate them weekly, and you'll be in good shape.

    Insofar as buying future backup storage is concerned:
    I would NOT recommend either Western Digital or Seagate "pre-packaged" drives.
    Instead, I suggest you buy BARE drives and do your backups with USB3/SATA docks, or perhaps buy your own enclosures and "roll your own" backup drives.

    Don't put all your eggs into one "backup basket".
    Consider "partitioning your data" and then backing up the partitions.
    For example, I keep individual partitions -- one for "music", one for "main data" (banking, finances, taxes, etc.), one for "media" (pictures).
    These are NOT "in my home folder" -- they are separate and apart, intentionally so.
    I can do incremental backups of my music or media partitions in a matter of a minute or so.

    One question. Perhaps it's something I don't understand about TM backups, but doesn't all the "stuff" already exist on your internal drive?
    That is to say, the photos and videos of your kids?
    TM stuff is really "just a backup" of what's already there, right?

    I wouldn't trust TM to "keep" things that you routinely delete from your internal (main) drive.
    Instead, I would create separate "archival" drives for such data -- and then BACK UP the archives (again, by using a cloned backup).

    Actually, if I had A LOT of videos and pics that I wanted to back up to media that wouldn't deteriorate, I would consider getting an "M-DISC" external DVD/CD/BluRay drive, and a supply of M-DISC media with which to burn.
    Unlike dye-based media, M-DISC technology uses a mineral-based coating that is supposed to last for 50-100 years without degradation.

    You don't even need M-DISC for this unless you want to burn DVDs.
    Standard BluRay 25gb and 50gb disc blanks aren't "dye based" and use the same kind of media, and work with ordinary BluRay burners.
  6. lbaitis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 19, 2016
    Yeah, I have learned how costly professional data recovery can be. I found a company that sounds to have a good reputation and the price for what I would need would be around $900. The plus side is they only charge you the full amount if they can recover your data, otherwise, you pay a $150 processing fee or something to that effect. It still stinks to be out the money, but not as bad as $900 for nothing. I'm hoping maybe I can find success with the Time Machine data recovery and then I won't have to face the choice of going down that road.

    Unfortunately, the files on Time Machine (and the dead Western Digital external HD) had been previously deleted from my laptop due to lack of space to keep them and to download more photos/videos. A few times a year I've made a habit of backing up all of my photos/videos and other important documents to an external hard drive (the Western Digital) before I deleted them. As I mentioned, in the past (previous to 2014), I would make two copies to two different external hard drives, but once we had the Time Machine solution in place, I counted that as my second back up. I know much better than that now. I previously had no idea it also automatically removes your oldest back ups without any notification once your diskspace becomes low. In my case, I have plenty of space on the Seagate TM drive, so space wasn't the reason. From what I've read, all the data was likely deleted because TM decided the back up had become corrupt and needed to start over from scratch.

    I appreciate all of your other suggestions and will take them to heart. I like the idea of also backing up the files to m-disc. I only wish I was upset over losing a month's worth of photos and videos and not a whole year's worth. It's been a huge wake up call.

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