Archive for September, 2010

How I recovered after an OS X reinstall


September 19th, 2010

The other day I reinstalled OS X. My computer had become extremely sluggish and I wanted to see if the performance would improve if I reformatted my hard disk and started over. Along the way I learned a few lessons about restoring using Arq. Here’s what I did:

Before Wiping Out My Data

Before I went through with it, I made sure I had all my data backed up. Arq had backed up the following:

  • ~/Library (excluding Logs and Caches)
  • ~/Documents
  • ~/Music
  • ~/Pictures/iPhoto Library (my photos)
  • ~/src (my source code)
  • /Applications
  • /Library/Application Support


I inserted the Snow Leopard installation disk, shut down the computer, and then started it holding down the Option key. I clicked on the DVD and the computer booted from it. I formatted the disk and installed OS X. I created a user with the same name as I was using before.

Next I downloaded and installed Arq. I launched Arq and entered the same S3 keys and encryption password I was using before.

Finally it was time to restore using Arq.

Initial Restore

Instead of waiting for absolutely everything to be restored from S3, I restored files in several steps.

Restoring ~/Library

The first step was to restore ~/Library from my “other computer” (the previous incarnation of my computer). I opened the triangle next to “Other Computers”, found my old computer, opened the triangle next to “Library” and selected the latest backup:


Then I clicked “Restore…” and Arq restored the Library folder to ~/Restored by Arq/Library (because a Library folder already existed).

When that restore was done, I closed all open applications, deleted the contents of ~/Library, and dragged everything from ~/Restored by Arq/Library to ~/Library.

Back in Business

At that point I could use Mail, iCal and Address Book. I selected a few applications in Applications backup folder and restored them as well.

I also wanted to sync my calendars with my iPhone, so I plugged it in and it sync’d. Later I’ll delete the iTunes files in ~/Music and replace them with the backed-up files.

Restoring Everything Else

Now that the computer felt “back to normal”, I restored my “src” folder (where all my work files are). Then I got back to work, restoring the really large folders (Documents, Music and Pictures) at my leisure over the next few days.


The multi-step restore approach was a big time-saver and got me up and running fairly quickly. The Library folder was relatively small (really small in fact, with the exception of Mail).

I learned that reformatting the hard drive helped a little with sluggishness, but the long-term fix is likely the purchase of an Optibay and an SSD.

I also learned that restoring this way is fairly complicated. So I’m thinking about how to make a product that would restore more seamlessly while also allowing people to get back to work before absolutely everything is restored. There’ll be more to come on that.

Deleting other computers’ backups


September 18th, 2010

If you’ve transferred your work to a new computer and don’t need the old computer’s backups in your S3 account anymore, you’ll need to delete them. Arq does not currently provide a mechanism for deleting those backups, but you can delete them through the AWS Management Console. Here’s how to do that:

First, open the AWS Management Console (

Next, select the bucket that Arq uses for its backups (named “.com.haystacksoftware.arq”).

Now you’ll have to determine the computer UUID that you want to delete. To do this, look at the computerinfo file within each one:

  1. double-click on a computer UUID
  2. control-click on the file computerinfo and pick “Download”
  3. open the downloaded file with TextEdit
  4. if the “computer name” matches the one you want to delete, you’ve found the right computer UUID.

Here’s an example “computerinfo” file:

<plist version="1.0">
        <string>Stefan Reitshamer’s MacBook Pro</string>

In that example, the computer name is “Stefan Reitshamer’s MacBook Pro”.

Now that you’ve found the right computer UUID to delete, go back and select the bucket itself to see all the computer UUIDs again. Then control-click on the computer UUID you want to delete, and pick “Delete” from the pop-up menu. AWS Management Console will delete all the objects for that computer UUID.

WARNING: This delete cannot be undone! Please be careful when deleting.

How to back up and restore your important Mac OS X files


September 18th, 2010

Apple has excellent instructions for backing up and restoring

  • Safari bookmarks
  • Address Book contacts
  • iCal calendars
  • Keychains
  • Mail preferences and messages

Here’s the link:

To back up your Safari bookmarks etc, make sure Arq is backing up these items:

  • ~/Library/Preferences/
  • ~/Library/Preferences/
  • ~/Library/Preferences/
  • ~/Library/Safari/

To back up your Address Book, make sure Arq is backing up these items:

  • ~/Library/Application Support/AddressBook/
  • ~/Library/Preferences/

To back up your iCal calendars, make sure Arq is backing up these items:

  • ~/Library/Calendars/
  • ~/Library/Preferences/
  • ~/Library/Preferences/

To back up your Keychains, make sure Arq is backing up this folder:

  • ~/Library/Keychains/

To back up your Mail, make sure Arq is backing up these items:

  • ~/Library/Mail
  • ~/Library/Preferences/

To restore, follow the instructions in the Apple support article linked above.

iPhotoSync beta 18 is out!


September 1st, 2010

This beta release fixes a number of issues including network communication errors.

It also supports running simultaneously for multiple logged-in users on the same computer.


To get the latest release you can pick “Check for Updates” from the iPhotoSync menu (if you’ve already installed it) or download it from here:

The full release notes are available here:

As always, please send any feedback you have! Email it to

- Stefan