Well, this didn't 'just work': Time Machine and Migration Assistant nightmare...

Discussion in 'macOS' started by VulchR, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. VulchR macrumors 68020


    Jun 8, 2009
    I love Apple products in general but I had a disaster trying to transfer my data from an old Intel MacPro to a new iMac 27". I got the new machine because my data HDD on the MacPro was getting flaky (the other HDD was dedicated to Time Machine backup of the data HDD).

    I inadvertently deleted some files cleaning up before migrating over to the new machine, but I thought Time Machine would save me. It did, but only after raising my blood pressure a few notches: all the information was there but a problem with the permissions halted the restore (fixing permissions with Disk Utility did nothing). Thus, dozens of times the restore aborted, I had to identify the file with the problem, restore it (typing in my password to give permission), manually restart the restore after the file with the error, and wait for to redo the process when the next error was encountered. I think the error was that some files did not have permissions for 'admin' but I'm not sure, nor am I sure what exactly changed each time I typed in my password. In any case this took a day but I was ready to migrate to the new machine.

    So I started Migration assistant using an ethernet cable. It hung. I tried wireless. It hung. I would have tried Firewire but I only have Firewire 400 cables and the new iMac has only a Firewire 800 connector. This meant the only option was creating a Time Machine backup on an external disk.

    Since the new Time Machine backup was completely new, it took more than a day to complete. I then used migration assistant to with the external disk more or less without a problem. However I still needed some data from the other machine, so I copied some more data to the external hard disk using the Finder... and again had errors copying files due to file permissions. In the end I used sudo, chown and chmod to add read/write permission to me and admin and eventually got things to work, but I am still not sure what the problem was exactly.

    All in all it took three working days to do what should have taken at most a day. What I find striking about the whole thing is the lack of attention to detail on Apple's part:

    1. Seriously, crashing out of a Time Machine restore due to a permission error in one file? Why not allow the user to correct the error and then continue? Or even better, why not give all the user to correct all of the errors by entering their password once and display a log of the errors?
    2. Once two Macs are connected via Migration Assistant over a network (as confirmed initial communications between the two machines), surely it should be possible to sort out errors without stalling.
    3. If the user was willing to accept the long time it would take, why not allow migration over USB cables, which, in contrast to Firewire cables, most of us have. I say 'cables' plural because it should be possible to increase the bandwidth with parallel connections.
    4. Wholly incomprehensible error messages - in the days of the internet why not have an fully explained help file at www.apple.com to help us mere mortals understand what the hell is happening when there is an error?
    5. In both Time Machine and Migration Assistant the is a dearth of information regarding progress. If you go online it is clear people have aborted long jobs using these utilities because the lack of progress reporting makes it look like they have hung.
    6. Why isn't there an option to do a fast complete backup to a hard disk using Time Machine? I know Apple throttled Time Machine because it was slowing people down, but would it be so complicated to allow the user to set the priority? It's frustrating to watch a 'nice' process on an otherwise idle machine take hours on end.

    Overall I get the impression that Time Machine and Migration Assistant were programmed by a team of UNIX nerds that resented putting a decent front end GUI on them. I seem to recall back in the day the Apple had user interface guidelines - it doesn't seem like it now....
  2. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    I decided to install Lion on all our machines so we could take our mobile me data with us to iCloud. I wanted to do it as soon as possible so we could port our accounts to iCloud and get a refund for the unused portion of our mobile me family pack. This meant upgrading RAM in our old Mac minis. No problem. Or so I thought. Somehow, after popping in 2 gig of RAM my wife's mini lost it's partition table. I didn't touch the HDD. But the partition table was gone nonetheless. I called Apple to see what they could do. My recent purchase of Lion meant they could help me even though we were all out of Applecare on our ancient Minis.

    It turned out I had to re-install the OS and restore from Time Machine. Only one problem. The Time Machine backup on our Time Capsule was corrupted. It was useless. Luckily Time Machine isn't my only backup strategy. I got all her data back by restoring from CrashPlan but I had to re-install her apps. To me it comes down to this: Time Machine is a convenience but is not a robust back up solution or even a robust migration solution. Later I notice intermittent wifi to my wife's machine and Time Machine was struggling for more than 24 hours to do the first backup. I then found out all our minis had 802.11g not N. I ran a gigabit ethernet cable to her machine and voila, Time Machine finished a full backup in 55 minutes. Wonderful. From now on, I will only use Time Machine network backup with N or better connection.

    When I did my migration, I started from scratch. I made a fresh new Time Machine backup to a firewire drive. I shut down and swapped out the HDD as soon as the backup finished, then picked the backup during OS X install on the new drive for data migration and everything came over. In your case, since you are using cables, I can only suggest you start a brand new TM backup on the older machine, preferably to a firewire drive. You can then migrate from a "fresh" TM backup with no problem.
  3. VulchR thread starter macrumors 68020


    Jun 8, 2009
    Thanks rOk for the advice. I have come to the same conclusions as you - I'll probably get a FW external HD for Time Machine backups and keep an additional copy of the documents via some other backup system. Can you recommend any software in this regard that might do simple backups automatically?

    Overall, though, it seems a shame that Time Machine doesn't 'just work' as advertised. It's a nice idea, and given I used only Apple hardware and software initially I was shocked it didn't work, particularly since some of the inconvenience was created by plain lazy programming. I get the impression that Apple sometimes drops the ball by refocusing its best programmers on rotating projects rather than keeping a good team for each project (e.g., Time Machine, Migration Assistant). The bugs this creates are particularly upsetting in mission-critical tasks such as backing up or migrating to a new machine.
  4. farmermac macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2009
    I've used time machines successfully in the past but I've also run into issues. It's now my "last ditch" backup in case my ccc clones get corrupted.

    Even copying the user folder and application folder is more reliable then time machines. I've restored machines that way and it's great.

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