10 Replies Latest reply: Oct 12, 2010 8:10 PM by jsd2
Nancy Trainer Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
I'm in need of some real help... my old iMac completely and suddenly died. I've now got a new iMac up and running, but to recover my data I needed to send the old HD to a data recovery company and get it to a "clean room," where they were able to start the HD and recover all its data. They've provided me with an external HD that contains all the old iMac's data.

Now I'd like to migrate that data onto the new iMac in a simple way. I obviously could go through every single #($* folder and copy files, but I know there are many preferences, bookmarks, settings, etc. that will be difficult for me (as a non-expert) to transfer, and I'm concerned about both (a) missing something, and (b) copying over something on the new iMac that causes a problem.

This is what Migration Assistant was designed to do: copy all the stuff I need (and none that I don't). The problem is that the external HD I'm trying to use for the "migration" has only a USB port to connect it to the new iMac. When I connect the drives using the USB, the new disk mounts on my desktop, but isn't recognized in Migration Assistant as a "Time Machine backup or other disk." I went out to Radio Shack last night and got a USB-to-ethernet adapter, which allowed me to get from the external HD (USB) to the iMac (ethernet). When I connect the drives this way, the external HD does NOT mount on the desktop. Worse, since it doesn't have its own keyboard and monitor, I can't enter that passkey that Migration Assistant requires me to enter in order to begin.

I know that there's a "shortcut" to use Migration Assistant automatically with a firewire connection (start the iMac and hold down the "T" key), but this only works with a Firewire connection... and there's no such thing as a USB-to-firewire adapter. Trust me... no such thing. Is there a similar shortcut for an ethernet connection? Or am I completely screwed and have to transfer this data manually??

Message was edited by: Nancy Trainer

iMac, Mac OS X (10.6.4)
  • noondaywitch Level 6 Level 6 (8,130 points)
    I suspect the problem may be the formatting of the ext drive. If the recovery people weren't aware it's for a Mac (or simply don't know the difference), they've probably formatted it NTFS with the partition map set to Master Boot Record. This is a Windows only format.

    It should mount on the Mac desktop (USB connection is fine) but will be read-only.

    Ideally I'd take it back to the recovery firm and ask them to save it to another drive partioned as GUID (for Snow Leapord) or Apple Partiton Map (Leo and earlier) and formatted Mac OS extended (journalled).

    If that's not possible, I believe there is third party software that can do the job of getting your files over, but I'm not savvy in that area.
  • noondaywitch Level 6 Level 6 (8,130 points)
    In order to check the format of the ext disc, connect by USB, open Disk Utility (in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder).

    Highlight the volume on the ext disc (the name below the model no of the drive) and read the information at the bottom of the DU window. That will tell you the format.
  • jsd2 Level 5 Level 5 (6,200 points)
    Migration Assistant will only recognize volumes that are either Time Machine backups or else have OS X installed. It will not recognize a volume that contains only data files.

    Was the data recovery service able to fully restore the HD, or just recover its individual files? In other words, when you connect it by USB and look in Finder, does it still look like a normal startup disk with root-level folders for Applications, Library, System, and Users? Is all your stuff still where it belongs in HD>Users>yourname>Documents, etc?
  • Nancy Trainer Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    OK... just did that. According to Disk Utility, the external drive is "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)." What does this mean? Do I need to return to the data recovery company and have them reformat this drive?
  • Nancy Trainer Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    The external drive kind of looks like a normal startup disk... but kind of not, as well. There are two folders within the hard drive that contain all other folders. So when I open the disk, I've got one single folder that has all others in it. It's called 3564026 (my case # with the data recovery company). Inside that folder is another called "Good." Inside THAT folder are the kinds of folders you'd expect to see on a startup disk, but there are additional folders as well. Here's my list: Applications, Applications (Mac OS 9), bin, HFS+ Private Data, Install, Library, private, sbin, System, System Folder (OS 9), Users, usr, Volumes. So... what does this all mean?
  • jsd2 Level 5 Level 5 (6,200 points)
    Unfortunately it means that it is not a true startup disk, and that you therefore can't use Migration Assistant. I think you will have to transfer things manually.

    I think it is a stretch to try to restore your prior applications and settings from the separate folders that are on recovered drive. Applications that are installed via an installer often have little pieces put in places other than the Applications folder, and they will not work properly unless all these pieces are present where they belong. Likewise I doubt you can recover your prior settings.

    I think my approach would be to consider that you have recovered only your user data. That means first re-installing all your applications from their original sources, re-doing your network and printer settings, etc, making sure that everything is working properly, and then trying to transfer your user data.

    If the recovered Users folder is completely intact, you might be able to transfer a prior home folder all in one piece; otherwise you will have to manually transfer the contents of its various folders (Documents, Movies, etc ) separately. How many users were on the original HD? Are their usernames different from the user(s) you created on the new Mac?
  • Nancy Trainer Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    I suppose I could proceed as you suggest, jsd2, but first I'm wondering why I can't just create a new startup disk, and then transfer the contents of this external HD to that startup disk. I spoke to the folks at the data recovery place and they may be able to do this. Stay tuned!

    If the folks at the data recovery place can't do this... could the folks at the Apple Genius bar do it? After all, I have the rights to a fully-functioning copy of OS X (from my new iMac). We could install that copy onto a 2nd drive, and then install the files from the external (rescued) HD over that, couldn't we? Or is this more complicated than I'm imagining....

    Message was edited by: Nancy Trainer
  • jsd2 Level 5 Level 5 (6,200 points)
    I'd be interested in what the data recovery people say, but I do think the situation is complicated, and that you can't just transfer "everything" to a disk that has a copy of the new OS installed on it.

    The recovered folders in the "Good" folder normally belong at the root level of the startup volume. Of these, "Users" is the folder that contains the home folder(s) that have all your personal stuff - and it is these contents that hopefully could be transferred directly to your new Mac, as I mentioned. You'd have to properly "join up" such home folders with user accounts of the same name and correct the file permissions, but this could probably be done.

    If you directly copied the "Applications" folder to your new system, those 3rd party applications that were originally just dragged into the Applications folder would probably continue to work, but those applications that required an installer would probably give trouble, for the reasons I mentioned. More importantly, unless your old Mac was running Snow Leopard, you'd be replacing newer versions of Apple applications and utilities with old versions, a sure recipe for trouble.

    The reason you can't just manually transfer "everything" to the new Mac is that most of the other folders are system folders - System and Library are normally visible, while the other system folders (private, sbin, usr, etc) are normally invisible. Those system folders constituted OS X as it ran on your old Mac - they cannot be copied to your new Mac and be expected to run there. If you create a new startup disk with your new Mac, that disk will have its own Snow Leopard versions of these folders - you cannot replace them with the corresponding folders from the old Mac.

    Migration Assistant/Setup Assistant works well because it is very "smart" - it does not copy everything blindly, but rather "knows" which files and folders to transfer and which ones not to transfer, and also knows how to properly adjust the permissions of the files that it does transfer.

    I guess what one could do is to try to first re-create a "clone" of the old Mac from the recovered "Good" folder, with the hope that Migration Assistant on the new Mac would then recognize the clone as a valid startup disk and would use it for a migration source. The original permissions might have to be preserved even for such a "dummy" use of the old Mac's files, and we don't yet know if the data recovery procedure did preserve permissions. You could potentially try this just by moving the stuff in the "Good" folder down to the root level of the external drive and looking again with Migration Assistant, but I'd be hesitant to modify anything at all there if that is your only copy of the recovered files. It would be a good idea to have a backup copy at least of the recovered Users folder in any event - you could just drag that Users folder onto the Desktop of your new Mac to create such a backup. If you had a second external drive you could try to re-create the "dummy clone" on the second drive, but that would be complicated as well - you can't accurately copy system files using the Finder.

    I think the idea of consulting with an Apple Genius is a very good one - you are presumably entitled to some help as a new buyer.

    Message was edited by: jsd2
  • Nancy Trainer Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Back from a 2-1/2 hour session at the Genius Bar... through their expertise (certainly not mine), they were able to essentially perform a manual version of Migration Assistant with the data on my non-bootable "recovered" disk. From what I can tell, they simply created a new user on the system, and then used Terminal in some rather complex ways to get an algorithm going which copied the relevant files over. We had a few hiccups (like when Firefox kept trying to search for fonts located in the original HD's Microsoft Word font lists), but being there at the Genius Bar we eventually got everything pretty much merged. At least... I think.

    This does make me wonder why ANY data recovery service would not simply provide this data to its customers in a more useful form. Knowing the ease with which Migration Assistant works, why not just give your customers a disk with Mac OS on it????

    One point for the Genius Bar.
  • jsd2 Level 5 Level 5 (6,200 points)
    That's great news, thanks for the update!

    I suspect that most of the disk damage or file deletion situations that data recovery services usually deal with simply don't permit the recovery of 100% of the files together with the complex folder relationships and permissions that all have to be re-assembled perfectly in order to re-create a bootable disk. They probably routinely don't even try, presenting the customer with a "sack" full of recovered data instead. It sounds as if in your particular case a full system restore might have been possible had they elected to try - you could call them and ask about it.