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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'll try to make this short... four days of remote-tech-support-hell.

A friend's 2011 MacBook Pro was behaving oddly, and incredibly slow. Unusable.

I walked her through various diagnostics and eventually determined that the Hard Drive was on its last legs... an original Hitachi 320gig unit.

We (very slowly but) successfully performed a Time Machine backup to a new 5-TB WD external.

I walked her through installing a new 1-TB hard drive (easy-peasy).

Started up with Internet Recovery to install the OS (she had misplaced her original system discs years ago when moving across the country).

Herein begins the saga.

Turns out the 2011 MBP (came with 10.7 Lion, but had been updated to 10.10) required a firmware update (which was never one of Apple's automatic or suggested updates via the App Store) in order to reinstall the OS from Internet Recovery. Took a crapload of searching web forums to find that out. Wasted time.

Fortunately she has an iMac in the house as well. Downloaded High Sierra (no others were available with her AppleID) with the intent of making a thumb drive installer to bypass this Internet Recovery stupidity. This is my first warning: apparently there was a recent change in how Apple is distributing the OS - you no longer get a full 5.x-gig installer; it's now a 20-meg installer that downloads the OS once the process begins. This isn't universal: some people are getting the full package; but nothing we did (several attempted workarounds found online) would do the trick. Eventually I found a way to get Sierra downloaded from the Apple Store via a direct link (provided by Apple in a tech support document).

Got the thumb drive installer made, booted the MBP, but the install would not complete. Something about the package failing an integrity check or some damn thing. Apparently this is a common problem (though it's the first time I've ever encountered it). After attempting *many* workarounds, we hit an impasse. She drove an hour to an Apple Store and had them reinstall Sierra (preferred over High Sierra).

She forgot to take her external along, so asked me to walk her through restoring her files. "Sure," I thought. Easy-peasy. NOPE. Booted up, launched Migration Assistant and it refused to see the external drive, could not find the backup. Exited MA and confirmed that the external drive can mount, and the .backup file is present.

Tried a reboot with Command-R into Recovery and attempted a Restore. It could see the backup drive, but still refused to identify the .backup file.

Many more attempts made, none successful, and my reputation as a long-distance tech guru has taken serious damage. She's off to the Apple Store again today to see if they can restore the backup.

Perhaps things would have gone more smoothly on the .backup side if I'd gotten her to use CCC to mirror the drive, but having done the TM route many times before, I was confident it would be a quick fix. It was not to be.... :( Waiting to hear how her Genius appointment went....
 

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If she had a Time Machine backup, she could have restored the entire contents of her backup, macOS included, from the Recovery Partition. You don't need to install macOS first and then migrate.

Integrity check on an OS X install can fail if the date and time on the unit are incorrect, fyi, which would be the case if the drive was replaced and the battery disconnected during that process.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If she had a Time Machine backup, she could have restored the entire contents of her backup, macOS included, from the Recovery Partition. You don't need to install macOS first and then migrate.

Integrity check on an OS X install can fail if the date and time on the unit are incorrect, fyi, which would be the case if the drive was replaced and the battery disconnected during that process.
The date and time issue was one of the fixes I discovered... I won't say it was a problem I discovered, because there was nothing in the process that would have led me to believe it was an issue. Only by stumbling across this in a forum post did I realize it needed to be set in the terminal before attempting install. Alas, it resolved nothing.

AND - just got word that the TM backup isn't accessible. TM claimed it had completed the backup, I verified that the size of the backup corresponded to the size of the files that should have been there.

They're now attempting to recover her files from the near-dead 320gig original drive.... XX)
 

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It would be interesting to see if the TM backup shows up as valid connected to another Mac. It's also possible the TM backup did not complete fully; mostly, but not fully. If that happened, the backup would be unusable. Would be useful to see if you could see all the /Users data from another, working Mac, on the TM drive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Apparently the TM backup done before we pulled the failing drive was not complete or corrupted; Time Machine simply noted "Last Backup" as being completed, so we didn't suspect anything was amiss.

Connected to the iMac and also to the laptop (now with new HD and Sierra), the drive mounts and the backup file appears... it just isn't recognized by Migration Assistant as a valid backup.

So her old HD was put into a USB 3.0 enclosure and we attempted to use Migration Assistant to pull the files and apps from the failing drive, conscious that any hiccups would kabosh the procedure, which is exactly what happened.

We had the option of course to attempt to fix the now-external (former internal) HD, but I didn't want to stress it any more than was essential. I decided to manually copy her files off a bit of a time, comparing directories when we hit a hiccup (e.g., copy of a folder would bring Finder to its knees; I identified the problematic file(s) and continued with others that would copy... a long, laborious process).

On top of that... several directories (including her essential /Library/ and more essential /Library/Mail/ folders) were not visible when the drive mounted as an external. Fortunately I know enough command-line to rescue those and other directories manually.

In the end - she still has a gazillion photos that need to be moved over, but I managed to rescue all of her business-related files so that she can file taxes this week.

But man... five days of Apple's (stupid, sucky) Screen Sharing (why did they have to ****-up iChat SSS?) left me bleary-eyed....
 

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But man... five days of Apple's (stupid, sucky) Screen Sharing (why did they have to ****-up iChat SSS?) left me bleary-eyed....

Well done I guess, but I still don't understand completely how you actually used Screen Sharing etc. to fix an almost non-woking Mac.

That takes some good Mac talent and resources I'd say.

PS: Another reason I use and recommend CCC (Carbon Copy Cloner.app) for major backups.

PPS: One also has to be careful when using Migration Assistant as the order it's used can change the dates of all user data file/folders to the date/time of the migration. A real PITA and there should be some option to change it!!!


- Patrick
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
....I still don't understand completely how you actually used Screen Sharing etc. to fix an almost non-woking Mac.
Once I walked her through installing a new HD in her laptop (via FaceTime), we began the laborious and ultimately unsuccessful effort to install an OS on that new drive and later to recover her files from (what turned out to be a dead) TM backup.

She had to make two trips into the Apple Store; (1) for the OS install, and (2) to attempt a TM restore (which is when we discovered the TM backup was pooched). That evening I SS'd into her Mac and transferred the files from her old HD (now an external) manually.
 

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That evening I SS'd into her Mac and transferred the files from her old HD (now an external) manually.

All that is a lot to do, for both parties, especially using Remote Access. And TM really doesn't help things much when it screws up.
Congrats to all.

Now get a CCC clone set up. :rolleyes:
 

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Manual transfer, is still the most reliable, and IMHO, the best approach if somewhat arguably “olde skule”. When working on a friend's or client's machine I always make a fresh copy or the user folder on a known-good drive regardless of the existence of TM or CCC or SD backups. I have had failures with every one of them in one case or another so no longer take any chances. Too often I am very glad I take this approach.

YMMV.... :D
 

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