I wanted to take a moment to very publicly thank the developers at Shirt Pocket for making SuperDuper, the backup software for the Mac.

A few weeks ago, my MacBook Pro started making noise. A LOT of noise. One of the fans broke and made my Mac sound like it was harvesting grain or sanding plywood. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled at the idea of repairs, and Apple confirmed what I’d not wanted to hear – 3 to 5 days of repair time to get the machine fixed.

At the Student Loan Network, we have extra machines in case things like this happen, but as anyone who’s ever gone through the process knows, sitting in on a hot spare means operating in an environment that isn’t yours. Shortcuts and aliases, preferences, it’s literally like trying to drive someone else’s car, wearing someone else’s clothes, living in someone else’s house. It’s never pleasant, though usually tolerable.

Enter SuperDuper. I originally chose to use it because it uses half the disk footprint of Apple’s Time Machine, and unlike most users, I actually do backup my data regularly. In the manual for SuperDuper, it says it’s possible to boot from its backups. Unfortunately, I found out that if you back up to an image on disk rather than a disk partition, it’s not bootable.

Except…

… If you boot from the Mac OS X install/repair CD and fire up Disk Utility, you can load the disk image of a SuperDuper backup, mount it, and use it to restore your hard drive.

So when the AppleCare box came for me to ship my ailing MacBook Pro to Apple, I did a final incremental backup, shut down, booted the spare MacBook we have in stock, did a restore, hit reboot, and hoped.

If I believed in an external deity, I would have yelled that my prayers were answered. Not only did the MacBook boot, but it loaded in my environment, with all my Quicksilver hot keys,  iTunes, everything, exactly as I’d left it when I shut down the MacBook Pro. It was like my computer just decided to go on a hardware diet but otherwise was exactly the same, not a thing out of place.

Today, the MacBook Pro came back from Apple. I did the process in reverse – backed up the MacBook, Disk Utility, restore – and here I am, typing on my MacBook Pro, as if it had never left. Only now the fan is quiet.

SuperDuper not only saved my data, but it made a 3 day absence of my computer more than tolerable – it let me work uninterrupted, save for the hour to backup and the hour to restore. I can’t thank the folks at Shirt Pocket enough for making such a damn fine utility, and it has certainly paid for itself MANY times over in the past few days.

If you run Mac OS X, go buy SuperDuper and start backing up today.

Full disclosure: I paid money to Shirt Pocket, Inc., not the other way around.
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