how i did it: getting your Time Machine back-up to restore on a non-Apple NAS (Drobo).

– Or – how I pulled baby back from the dead.

[Note: for the funny video of me pining for my iMac, “Baby,” go here.]

20120810-115239.jpg“Baby” is my iMac, a big ol’ 27-inch behemoth from mid-2010 with an Intel Core i7 processor, 12 GB of RAM, and a Terabyte hard drive.

Or it had a Terabyte hard drive, until things went horribly, horribly wrong and way far south.

Now I’m gonna warn you, this post is going to eventually get a little tetchy and command-line geeky, which is part of what I’m about, and therefore part of what this blog is about. So if that’s not your cup of tea, you might skip on to another post.

That said, my cautionary tale of woe begins with my decision to upgrade form Mac OS X 10.7.4 Lion to the 10.8 Mountain Lion (or Mounty Lion, as I like to refer to it; or in this case, no-longer-will-Mounty-Lion). Yes, I am well aware that early adopters pay a price, and living on the bleeding edge means, well, sometimes you bleed. Sometimes, a lot.

Basically, after starting the upgrade after purchase (which i felt smugly satisfied with myself for getting it downloaded and started over a VNC screen sharing connection from my iPad — ah, how pride goes before the fall). I got the install and restart of Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion started and went off for a few hours while it did its thing, figuring I’d come back to a pristine new system with oodles of new features.

Big Mistake.

When i got back home to Baby, the screen displayed was not what any user ever wants to see: big white dialogue, with a big yellow warning triangle with a white exclamation point was in the top center of it, the universal symbol for something just done shit the bed.

The verbiage on the screen basically said the hard drive failed (!) during the upgrade/install and to hit restart and try again.

Which I tried to do.

A couple of times.

Same ugly result with the “hard drive failed” message and that yellow warning triangle with the white exclamation point, taunting me. Taunting, I say.

A phone call to AppleCare tech support and tossing it up the chain a couple times landed me with a senior AppleCare support tech… who also determined there was nothing else to be done, call code blue.

Upon getting to my local Apple Store Genius Bar with Baby, the Genius Bar tech there ran a quick couple of tests on the hard drive — and quickly found 18,000+ I/O errors. “Wow,” I replied, sort of glassy-eyed at that point, “that’s… a few.”

Fortunately, under warranty, they could just drop in a new hard drive for me, and I had an easily accessible back-up (or so I thought) on the Drobo-FS at home. It took them most of the weekend (as I pined for Baby, see post with video of that here). Even then, I wasn’t done with them, as, thinking they were doing me a favor, they put on the newer Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on there, when I needed 10.7 Lion to match and restore my back-up first. Sigh. Back to then Apple Store Genius Bar with Baby to have them load that for me.

Once home, I was now in the hell where the Apple Migration Assistant, either in the set-up after you first install the OS or after the set-up running Migration Assistant wouldn’t see the Drobo-FS drive share that had my back-up.

Several more calls and e-mails to AppleCare and Drobo tech support ensued.

We figured part of this was because the Drobo-FS and its shares were password protected, as they should be — you don’t want your network hacked and people getting into your sensitive data and back-ups; the other part was because Apple’s Migration Assistant, under both 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain was not going to look for network drives, like on third party NAS (Network Attached Storage) drives like the Drobo-FS (which is ethernet only, how we wanted so everyone in our house office could back-up to it), except Apple’s own Time Capsule. It had previously done this under 10.6 Snow Leopard and earlier Mac OS X versions. I acknowledged to the AppleCare support tech the Apple Party Line that they really only ever want you to use Time Capsule for such devices, but I really just needed my back-up off the Drobo-FS and back on Baby.

After much back and forth, we got it figured out, and below is the terminal command line Fu (富) you too can use if you ever run into the same problem, restoring your Time Machine back-up from a third-party NAS.

– – – – –

So before we get into the deeper tech of it, I want to just give the appropriate shout-outs and acknowledgements to the Apple Store Pioneer Place and, in particular, Nate of the Genius Bar there; Ashley the senior tech on AppleCare phone support and his many call backs & e-mails helping me through this; and also, Bradley from Drobo tech support, who provided many of the tech links by which I pieced this together and finally succeeded. Thanks, folks.

Now, my, “How I Did It By Victor Frankenstein,” for others in similar dire straits, on restoring an Apple Mac OS X Time Machine back-up from a third party network only NAS that has Time Machine compatibility but is not Apple’s Time Capsule (Drobo-FS [ethernet only], Netgear ReadyNAS, QNAP, etc.). Ready? Propeller beanies on tight? Here we go.

First, when it’s and ethernet-only NAS like Drobo-FS, skip over the step support techs usually are told to tell people: “Try plugging the Ethernet cable from the NAS into the back of the Mac!” Reason: that does nothing. Nada. Nichts. Big Goose Egg. Null, the empty set. If it’s not seeing it on the network with a decent ethernet connections, good cable and router, it won’t see it that way either.

As I said, the main problem why the opening screens of set-up in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion offering migration did not see the Drobo-FS and it’s shares (partitions), or the Migration Assistant in Utilities after set-up, was the drive us password secured on the net. Also, the reason regular Migration Assistant could not see it even after initial system set-up and you’re in Finder and have mounted the network drive on the desktop is probably due to the fact that Migration Assistant shuts down all other applications, including Finder and all other mounted connections, and will only look for Time Capsule on the net at best.

So then how to get it to be seen so you can do the restore?

First, if it is possible, restart the Mac holding down Command-key-R to boot into Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion recovery partition. If you can do that, you are 1/3 of the way home.

If the recovery partition is not working for you, there is no reason to despair… yet. You will need to create a mac os x 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion bootable DVD or USB thumb drive to start the machine. You might have to go to someone else’s Intel Mac and have them create a log-in account for you, or ask at your Apple Store Genius Bar, or wait until AppleCare tech support mails you one. 😉

To create said bootable Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion DVD or USB thumb drive, rather than go over all that here, I suggest these tech notes or videos I found —

For a Mac OS X 10.7 Lion boot drive, there’s this tech note, or this video, or this other video.

For Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, here’s one video on making a boot drive, and here’s another video.

There’s also a cool applescript application called Lion Disk Maker, that, if you have the installs for 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion, it will make the DVD or USB thumb drive for you. You might throw a donation the developer’s way to say thanks and support his efforts & updates.

O.K., back to the recovery and restore —

Once you’re booted either into the recovery partition or from a recovery DVD or USB thumb drive, go up to the “Utilities” menu and choose the Terminal.

Once in the Terminal, first switch to the Volumes directory off of the root —

#> cd /Volumes

#> pwd [to make sure that is where you wound up]

#> ls -a [to see what is in there]

Now you need to create a sub-directory in “Volumes” for your network NAS volume/partition/share to mount there. You could name it anything, it disappears once you restart the Mac. I named mine “TimeMachine.” —

#> mkdir TimeMachine [< — no need to “sudo” first here, as when you boot from a recovery partition, you access terminal as “root” — SO BE CAREFUL!]

#> ls -a [to make sure the directory got created]

Next, you need to mount the network NAS volume/partition/share with its log-in & password. You’ll have to find the IP address of the network NAS first, using command line tools like ping, ifconfig, nmap, etc., or looking it up from another computer on the net.

#> mount -t afp afp://[your user log-in]:[password]@[192.168.xx.xx, etc., whatever the network NAS IP is]/[your Volume or Share Name] /Volumes/TimeMachine

Important: remember in this bit of terminal-command-line-Fu that you use the IP address, not whatever network name you gave the network NAS — your Mac in this recovery partition state won’t recognize that name and will not mount it, it will return something like a “-1069” network error in the terminal.

Wait a bit, it’ll take maybe up to a minute or so across the network, but if you get the plain “#>” prompt again with no error, it mounted.

Now do —

#> ls -a /Volumes/TimeMachine [< — to see that your volume/partition/share did, indeed, mount and get the exact name of your Time Machine back-up, *.sparsebundle]

You should see now, the contents of your network NAS volume/partition/share. Yay!

(To see the blog tech note where i learned about this, provided by Drobo tech support, see this blog’s tech note, here.)

However, you are not home free yet! Do not switch back to restore from a Time Machine back-up yet, it won’t work!

There is still one more step to go in Terminal. You have to use the hdid” (hard drive image driver) to mount the sparsebundle image. This is perhaps the most important step of all —>

#> hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine/[your back-up name].sparsebundle

Again, it might take a minute or two across the network, but if you get back just the “#>” prompt, it has mounted! In mounting the sparsebundle image, “hdid” will also probably list what volume assignations it mounted (“ds1dsk3,” etc.). it will also put it in another sub directory under “Volumes,” called, “Time Machine Backups,” or to get there in a unix terminal, “Time\ Machine\ Backups.” switch there —

#> cd /Volumes/Time\ Machine\ Backups

Then —

#> ls -a [to make sure it looks like your back-up is, indeed, in there]

If all looks copacetic, you’re in! Now (and not before this point), you can switch back to the main recovery section by quitting the Terminal.

In the main recovery section, in the dialogue, choose “Restore from a Time Machine back-up.” In the next screen it will let you know what it’s going to do and search for, click “Continue” at the bottom of that screen.

After that screen, it will search for Time Machine backups, and will show you the “Time Machine Backups” directory as a volume that contains your back-up that “hdid” created. Select that and click “Continue” down below.

In the next screen, if all has gone well, will show you all the back-ups incrementally by time and date you can restore from, most recent first. Select the one you want (usually, most recent) and choose to restore from that one.

Voila! If the restore starts, you’re home free. Depending, of course, on amount of data to restore and network connection — mine was ~470 GB and even with the 1 GBit ethernet connection, it took 13+ hours.

Anyway, that’s how i did it. Phew.

A couple last things —

  • I sent a suggestion up e chain through the support tech to the Apple engineers — it would be so much better if the Migration Assistant, either when you first start the Mac after OS install in set-up, or from Finder, would also search for network drives and offer you to log-in and mount them, the same way the standard finder AFP “Connect to server…” does. The OS already had those AFP code libraries to do that, they just need to apply them in any implementation of Migration Assistant, including at set-up.
  • I have now made many redundant copies of the Mac OS X 10.7 Lion & 10.8 Mountain Lion recovery dvd’s & usb thumb drives. I’m once burned, twice paranoid like that. And there was a sale at Office Depot on 32 GB USB thumb drives. 😉

144 thoughts on “how i did it: getting your Time Machine back-up to restore on a non-Apple NAS (Drobo).

  1. Pingback: 布団セット シングル 『ランブロス』 ベッド用 掛け布団 ベッドパッド 枕

  2. Good article. Now don’t ever do that again. 🙂 No one recommends this for this reason (hackery) and too many links in a chain in a network. More chance for a failure. I just bought a Drobo 2nd gen and plan on using it with a .sparsebundle attached directly. This could be used somewhat better by rsync’ing the local bundle to a NAS or cloud or whatever, then if it messes up you’ve got the local copy which is easier to deal with.

    Later drobos make Time Machine volumes easier to manage but this should work with the ole second gen.

  3. Thanks! This was very helpful in trying to restore from my Drobo 5N. This really should be a lot more straight forward on Apple’s side.

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