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OS X - Operating System General OS operation information and support

Important files inaccessible after clean install of OS despite backup on external HDD


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Errol246

 
Member Since: Dec 17, 2011
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Hello everyone,

I just finished doing a fresh, clean install of Mac OS X lion on my macbook pro. Prior to reformatting the hard drive and installing the OS, I made a backup of everything present on the hard drive on an external, Wester Digital, 500 GB HDD. Some of the most important ones were the notes I have taken during my first half year of high school and, ironically enough, when I plugged in the HDD to retrieve some of my previous files, the most important files were the only files I could not get access to.

Before I backed everything up, the files I talk about were located on the desktop. I backed up absolutely everything. I even double checked if everything was there several times. I made sure that my subject notes were there; I had complete access to them and could even go in an edit my documents. But now I can't even see the files.

If you look at the image I've attached, you can see that the folder "Desktop", which used to be a light-blue, accessible folder just like all the others, now looks like a blank piece of paper with a small, black arrow in the corner.

When I then click it (look at the second, attached picture), the following text box comes up (and I translate):

"The action cannot be carried out because the original topic for "desktop" does not exist.

What the **** have I done? Will I ever be able to retrieve those school notes, which I have spent countless hours writing? If so, how can I do that?

Thank you in advance.
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File Type: png Skærmbillede 2011-12-17 kl. 17.10.31.png (28.3 KB, 25 views)
File Type: png Skærmbillede 2011-12-17 kl. 17.12.04.png (39.2 KB, 24 views)
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chscag

 
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The small black arrow in the corner of the icon denotes that it is an alias. But apparently one that is not correct otherwise clicking on it would lead to the original folder. Just as a note of reference here.... leaving files on the desktop and then backing them up can sometimes cause confusion because of duplication.

Have you done a search for your original files? Use Spotlight or any other search engine you have handy. Your files are probably there somewhere. Check your User Library folder to see if your "real" desktop is showing up and you may find your files there.
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Lifeisabeach

 
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That's not a folder. See the arrow icon in the corner? It's an alias pointing to wherever the Desktop folder was when that alias was first made. Presumably it's not working because the Desktop folder that it is pointing to has moved from where it was before, or it no longer exists. How exactly did you back up your data? Be very specific in the steps and keyboard shortcuts that you used.

You can also grab a nifty utility named EasyFind (available for free on the Mac App Store). Point it to your backups and plug in the name of one of your files, or just search again for Desktop. If anything can find your files, it can.


Please verify and include the exact model/year of your Mac and OS X version number (available from "About This Mac", then "More Info" on the Apple menu).
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Errol246

 
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Thank you both for your replies.

I will be as specific as possible, but the steps I undertook were not very complicated:
  1. I plugged in the external hard drive.
  2. I then made TimeMachine do a full security copy of my internal hard drive. The copying itself took about 5 hours; The computer was filled up to the brim. I let the computer stay on over night in order to be able to continue reformatting in the morning.

Things now make a lot more sense to me. Of course something went wrong in the backup process itself. I will try to recover the lost files with an "undeleting" programme and see if they can be retrieved.
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Lifeisabeach

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Errol246 View Post
Thank you both for your replies.

I will be as specific as possible, but the steps I undertook were not very complicated:
  1. I plugged in the external hard drive.
  2. I then made TimeMachine do a full security copy of my internal hard drive. The copying itself took about 5 hours; The computer was filled up to the brim. I let the computer stay on over night in order to be able to continue reformatting in the morning.

Things now make a lot more sense to me. Of course something went wrong in the backup process itself. I will try to recover the lost files with an "undeleting" programme and see if they can be retrieved.
If you have a proper Time Machine backup on an external drive, then you should use the Migration Assistant to "migrate" your user to the new install of Lion. That should get you back to exactly where you were when you made the last TM backup.


Please verify and include the exact model/year of your Mac and OS X version number (available from "About This Mac", then "More Info" on the Apple menu).
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robgendreau

 
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Yeah DO NOT try using some undelete program.

Better yet, migration assistant. It's too bad you did a clean install, as that required erasing everything, including perhaps your essential data.

You said you confirmed all had been backed up; how exactly did you do that?

You shoiuld be aware that when you do a clean install you essentially get a new computer. You then create a new user. That's why it's a good idea to use migration assistant, because you are essentially moving everything to that new user on the new computer Apple's installation is designed to avoid these sorts of problems. You may have those orphaned aliases on your desktop because they pointed to a user that has now been erased. Even if you migrate back those aliases won't be repaired automatically; you'll have to re-find the files and reorganize them.
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Lifeisabeach

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robgendreau View Post
Yeah DO NOT try using some undelete program.
Would you care to elaborate on why he shouldn't try that if all else fails?


Please verify and include the exact model/year of your Mac and OS X version number (available from "About This Mac", then "More Info" on the Apple menu).
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robgendreau

 
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His best shot at professional data recovery, should he need it, will result if he doesn't make any attempts at recovering his lost data that involve overwriting data or directories.

Someone who can't recognize an alias on the Mac system is probably only gonna make matters worse unless it turns out the stuff is really there, but he just can't remember where he put it.
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Lifeisabeach

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robgendreau View Post
His best shot at professional data recovery, should he need it, will result if he doesn't make any attempts at recovering his lost data that involve overwriting data or directories.

Someone who can't recognize an alias on the Mac system is probably only gonna make matters worse unless it turns out the stuff is really there, but he just can't remember where he put it.
I agree a professional data recovery service would be the best shot if it came to it. It also is very, and likely prohibitively, expensive. You do make a great point about his own lack of technical know-how in not even recognizing an alias. It's still a viable option, albeit as a last recourse, though he'd really need a hand from someone who knows what they are doing. Disk Drill is an app I've recommended in the past, but many files it "can" recover may not even have the name associated with it anymore, requiring a lot of effort to narrow down to what you want to recover.


Please verify and include the exact model/year of your Mac and OS X version number (available from "About This Mac", then "More Info" on the Apple menu).
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robgendreau

 
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I wish folks would think many, many times before doing "clean" installs like this. Since by necessity it means erasing your boot drive it is a rather drastic step that isn't necessary in most cases, and has the potential to create more problems than it solves, as it has for this poor soul.
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Lifeisabeach

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robgendreau View Post
I wish folks would think many, many times before doing "clean" installs like this. Since by necessity it means erasing your boot drive it is a rather drastic step that isn't necessary in most cases, and has the potential to create more problems than it solves, as it has for this poor soul.
Well said. If there's one thing that is frequently said time and time again by many of us here… a "clean" install or even a reinstall of any kind is rarely necessary and most problems can be solved quite easily. Troubleshooting in OS X is insanely simple, at least compared to anything else.


Please verify and include the exact model/year of your Mac and OS X version number (available from "About This Mac", then "More Info" on the Apple menu).
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