Throwing Storage At The Problem

Someday, you’re going to spot on online deal for an external drive at a time when you happen to be flush with cash and with no financial perils on the horizon. You should buy that drive. When it arrives, stick it in a closet. Don’t even open the box.

Why? Because having a fresh, empty drive empowers so many solutions to PC problems.

As I write this, I’m helping a friend recover from a dramatic interlude between her MacBook Pro and a mug of hot water with lemon. The laptop is, well…donezo. But! She has a Time Machine backup. I erased a 500 gig external SSD, installed a fresh OS onto it, and am performing a restore. It’ll be a few days before she can get her lemon-soaked MacBook diagnosed but she’ll be back to work long before then. Her old MacBook Air’s internal drive is way too small so she’ll use my SSD as a boot disk.

This is the same SSD that saved my bacon when my own MacBook Pro’s SSD died a month or two ago. If I hadn’t had an uninitialized drive standing by, getting it back up and running would have been a nonlinear process involving a nonzero amount of angst.

My goals were to get my main productivity machine back up and running ASAP in the short term, and to fix the hardware in the longterm. Normally, I would have had two options:

  • Option 1: Order a new external drive. I’d have been without a working Mac for a couple of days. And spending a couple of hundred bucks to build a bootable external drive from my backup wouldn’t have been attractive, given that I was already going to be on the hook for X dollars to replace my Mac’s faulty component.
  • Option 2: Skip the stopgap solution and replace the internal SSD straight away. This would have been the obvious answer if this were any other $2000 laptop. Alas, I am blessed with an Apple product. This blessing is accompanied by the unavailability of standard upgrade and replacement components. I’m lucky that my 2015 MacBook Pro was the last model in the line where the SSD is even swappable. Still, I needed some time to do a little research and figure out the right solution.

But I had a fresh, empty 500 gigabyte Samsung SSD standing by. I did a restore and was back up and running after only an hour or two of downtime. I took my sweet time investigating the fix for my MacBook and not only found exactly the right answer, but also a replacement SSD that was 30% off during a one-day sale.

This advice isn’t complicated, is it?

If you have a huge drive with nothing on it just standing by like a fire extinguisher or a manila envelope with $5000 in cash and three different sets of identity cards, you’ve got a solution to any number of problems. I was about to list a few but trust me: you’ll know them when you see them.

Oh, and BACK UP YOUR DAMN DRIVE. Both my friend and I went through our trials with our respective elan relatively intact because in the worst-case scenario, we were only losing a little time and money. If we didn’t have backups, our most productive avenue would have been to try to get Superman to fly circles around the Earth so fast that it spins in the opposite direction and we can go back to the day when our MacBooks were still healthy.

He would have done it — because he’s Superman — but he would have scolded you with the same admonition about backups that I just gave you. Better to learn it now and not owe Superman a favor.