Oh crud

I sat down last night to search through my Lightroom library to find an image to post in today’s blog. When I opened the application, however, I was presented with an error telling me the library couldn’t be located. I checked my MacBook and noticed the drive wasn’t mounted. So I unplugged it and plugged it back in.

The drive wouldn’t mount.

I began to hyperventilate and thought back to what would have caused such an error. That afternoon I had difficulty waking my Mac from sleep and had to force a reboot. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s something I’ve had to do on occasion and I didn’t think anything of it. It was after that my drive went kablooey1.

I tried to see if there was something preventing the drive from mounting, and reset my Mac’s System Resource Controller, just in case something got kludged and the computer wasn’t liking the SSD any more. Nothing worked.

I tried plugging it into the other Macs we have in the house, the drive wouldn’t mount. It was identified in the System Report, but I had no way of accessing it.

I then took to Google and found a similar problem with people in a single thread of a message board. In that instance, the drive would mount on Windows, but not Mac, and the problem has something to do with the drive’s journal being corrupted. OS X was hijacking the drive and trying to run a file system check, but getting caught in a loop. Again, in that instance, killing a specific process on the computer gave access to the drive. As Windows didn’t care about the journaling on a Mac disk, the drive mounted fine. Elated, I checked my Activity Monitor for the process in question.

It wasn’t there.

By this point I was hyperventilating again, and becoming desperate. I purchased a $20 utility to allow Mac drives to boot on a windows computer and installed it on my Son’s surface. Even there, the drive wouldn’t mount.

That settled it, the SSD which held all my Photos was dead2. At this point I leaned over the screen of my MacBook and stared at my Network Attached Storage drive thinking, “Oh please, Time Machine, you really need to work.”

I fished out an older drive from my shelf, renamed it to the same name as my dead SSD3, and entered Time Machine as I held my breath in anxiety. But there, saved to the drive, were the entire contents of the expired device. Sadly, the drive I was using as my test case was neither large enough nor fast enough to become the new location of my Library. So I went to bed thinking, “ohpleaseohpleasestillbethereinthemorning4.”

Somehow, I managed to sleep.

This morning I popped up to Staples and picked up a 2TB USB 3 drive, connected it to my MacBook, and began the restore process. This is where I currently stand, about 50GB into a 287GB restoration. The current estimate is another four hours.

Let this be a lesson, though. Drives fail. You must have a backup, and even multiple backups, of any data you consider valuable5. Typically, I have three. A Time Machine backup at home, a cloud based backup in the ether, and a second Time Machine backup at my ABCNJ office. At present, however, my cloud backup is about two weeks behind6 and the Drive I’ve been using at ABCNJ died several weeks ago. I’ll be rectifying both these issues immediately.

So, if you don’t have a backup of your photos or documents or videos or whatever else you think needs to be saved for the future, back up today. That way, should your drives die, you’ll be only out hours of productivity and not a lifetime of memories.

Update – 11:30 AM

My restore is still in progress, but nearing the finish-line. I just got off of chatroom support with my drive manufacturer (Lexar) and had a great support experience7. The support specialist recognized I knew what I was doing and it allowed us to move through the standard progression of questions. I still need to do one suggested trouble-shooting step, but if that fails (which I expect it will), the drive is under warrenty and I’ll get a replacement.


  1. That’s actually a technical term. 
  2. As I consider it now, the drive had probably died while plugged into my Mac, and this likely created the instability in the system which caused it to freeze. 
  3. Time Machine has one weird quirk which I hope changes at some point in the future. The backups of external drives are only accessible if you have a drive mounted on the system which has an identical name. In many ways, I see the logic of this, but it means I need to have a drive handy if I ever want to check on a backup or restore data. 
  4. I panic at high speeds. 
  5. And “every DSLR photograph you’ve ever taken” is absolutely “valuable.” 
  6. With the service I use anytime I pause backup it decides it wants to go through the whole thing again, so my newer items have to wait to be stored. It’s a pain and I’ll be moving to a new service once my subscription is up. 
  7. I used to run tech support, so I know what good tech support looks like. 

2 Comments

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  1. It seems to me, the more you know, the more complicated life gets to be.

    Sent from my iPad

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