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jkr77 03-04-2011 11:40 AM

new here - new imac, concerns about time machine
Hi all, I just joined here so go easy on me.

I have a brand new iMac 27 and until last night, I hadnt tried setting up and running time machine, but I poked around enough online to feel comfortable setting it up to use an external USB drive (500GB Western Digital).

I had to format the external drive since it was FAT32, but no biggie since the stuff I had on there was nothing I needed to keep any longer. Setting it up was a breeze, and my first backup ran fine - I believe it took less than an hour to back up 121GB of data from my 2TB HD. The data is largely photos and video and some music.

After completing the first backup, Time Machine "went away" so to speak, and I really wasnt focusing much on it nor was I familiar with its particular backup schedule or frequency. But later last night, I heard my fans kick in and looking at iStat menus, my CPUs were busy and my temp was way up (from where it normally would be). Normal for me is around 110 degrees F, and this was around 150F. I looked in activity monitor, but truthfully I dont know what I'm looking for or at. The CPU activity was the highest for syslogd and mountFS (FSmount? - sorry cant recall actually and not in front of iMac now)

I assumed this was Time Machine trying to write/read to the USB HD as I saw the external drive light flicker indicating activity....but this went on for 45 minutes and I couldnt tell if TM was actually running. Clicking TM from the dock brought up a dialog box telling me that no drive was found for backup. Reseating USB and such did nothing to resolve. Ended up forcefully shutting down when a shutdown was performed and it just sat there on a blue screen with spinning wheel (20 minutes or so) Upon restarting, iMac went right back to CPU/temp throttle and nothing had changed. TM still said same thing and USB drive still showed drive access light. So I disconnected the USB drive and disabled time machine. Things seem normal, temps and CPU are no longer even breaking a sweat. But I have no other Macs that I can test this non-FAT32 external drive with now to check if there is a problem with it, and my TM is now turned off so I dont have a backup solution.

Thoughts or suggestions? Anyone here with experience with a similar type problem and are my assumptions correct?

Thanks in advance for any pointers


chappers 03-04-2011 01:39 PM

Turn time machine off. Reconnect the drive and see if it tries to do anything or just sits there. If it doesn't attempt to do anything have a look and see if any data has been written to it. See if you can see any data .

I'd then try an write a reasonably large file to it , say 10Mb or so. It shouldn't take all that long, about 3-4 second. ( just copied a 45Mb PDF took 5 seconds). See if it copies the file OK and stops. If you get the same problem as last night I would start to suspect a problem with the drive itself.

Again if all is OK I would reformat the drive, to remove all traces of the previous backup, and see if it works OK this time. Personally though I wouldn't trust the drive as it may be failing, and the last thing you need is a failing backup drive. I'd get a new one. Drives don't last forever.

jkr77 03-04-2011 01:49 PM

Thanks for the advice. So with Time Machine when it is running, I check the status bar at the top? My question is how do i know when TM is doing its thing and has completed?

I know the WD USB drives dont have a tremendous reputation for longevity, and this one is several years old. But I dont need a ton of space, at least I dont think I do. And the Time Capsule seemed like overkill since I dont need another wifi device. I could use Time Capsule for storage but have only one mac so really USB is likely to be the fastest and cheapest storage option. But i would do it differently if I knew that Time Machine didnt behave well with external USB drives. I'll have to research that


IWT 03-04-2011 03:06 PM

Hullo JK

It is hardly my place to advise you to spend your hard earned cash; but what I would say is this:

A brand new EHD from, say, LaCie or Seagate or WD (500GB) is not expensive and most come with the capability of a connection via Firewire 400 or 800 both of which are greatly faster than USB 2.

Moreover, the latest are set up for Mac Time Machine (TM) either from the factory or simply by reformatting to Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

The one thing that you must, must, have is a totally reliable Backup system and Time Machine (TM) does the job very well. It backs up hourly for 24 hours, daily for a month and so on. If on a vital job, you can force an immediate Backup by clicking on the TM on the Toolbar and clicking on "Back Up Now". It's probably a good thing to do anyway just before you shut down or sleep; and at the beginning of your first session of the day.

I agree with Chappers in that your EHD might well be at or near the end of its useful life. Don't risk it. If you have the slightest doubt, but a new one. As I say, they are remarkably cheap these days, especially compared to what you laid out on getting your brand new iMac 27.

Good fortune.


jkr77 03-04-2011 04:26 PM

Ian, thanks - advice taken. I will just assume that once I have a reliable EHD, that my imac wont even break a sweat when running TM, and the CPU wont spike and temps wont raise and it will be nearly transparent to me (initial backup excluded)? Hoping that is the case.

I have no experience with LaCie or Seagate externals, but I think I'm done with WD. But hey it was relatively cheap at the time I bought it.

Slydude 03-04-2011 09:14 PM


Originally Posted by jkr77 (Post 1196137)
Ian, thanks - advice taken. I will just assume that once I have a reliable EHD, that my imac wont even break a sweat when running TM, and the CPU wont spike and temps wont raise and it will be nearly transparent to me (initial backup excluded)? Hoping that is the case.

I have had Time Machine active for some time on my MacBook Pro. First as an external drive directly connected to the computer an now with a drive connected to a Time Capsule. In some programs I get a very brief screen blink when the hard drive mounts the sparsebundle file TM uses for a network-based backup. Thats about the only indication and most of the time I don't notice that.

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