I recently dealt with a challenging situation where the client’s hard drive in his computer crashed and we were forced to use his Time Machine backups to restore his user data and third-party applications.
My client owns a flat panel iMac that he purchased two years ago. After he bought his new computer, I set up his Time Capsule router to provide wireless connectivity and configured Time Machine so his files and programs would be automatically backed up to the Time Capsule hard drive. Late last year, he upgraded the OS on the iMac from 10.5 to 10.6. More recently, he moved to a new location and has not taken the time to retrieve his installation CDs and DVDs that are stored in boxes in his closet.
A week ago, my client called and said he could not boot his computer. He said that the log-in screen had not moved beyond the spinning dial stage. I recalled that his iMac exhibited this same start-up response during one of my recent visits. Moreover, I remembered from looking at System Profiler that his iMac hard drive was manufactured by Matsushita. While Matsushita is a brand name, I have found their drives to be less reliable than most of the competition.
In response to the second start-up failure, I recommended to my client that he take his iMac into the Apple Store for repair, since the computer was still covered under Apple Care. He did as I suggested and instructed the Apple Care technician to restore both his data and programs using the Time Machine backups stored on his Time Capsule router. Two days later, he received his Time Capsule and iMac with a replacement drive.
When he booted his repaired iMac, he noticed that while his documents had been restored from Time Machine, his Dock displayed question marks in lieu of the icons that represent his third-party apps like Word and Entourage. The only programs that opened successfully and appeared as normal icons were those that OS X installs like Mail and Safari.
I went back onsite to investigate. I turned on his cable modem and connected the Time Capsule to the modem and his iMac. I launched About This Mac from the Apple menu and noticed that Apple Care had installed OS X 10.5.8, not 10.6. I glanced around his work area and noticed his Snow Leopard install DVD was perched on his bookcase – one of the few discs that had not been tucked away in his closet. I upgraded his iMac to 10.6, rebooted the machine, and ran Migration Assistant.
Using Snow Leopard’s copy of Migration Assistant, I was able to restore the missing apps to the hard drive. Apparently, Apple Care ran the 10.5 version of Migration Assistant, which doesn’t yield the same results.