updated 02:05 pm EST, Thu November 8, 2007
Time Machine issues
A slew of Mac owners are experiencing two prominent issues with Apple's Time Machine backup software, which comes bundled as part of the company's new Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard operating system. Numerous complaints began pouring in on the Cupertino-based company's own support forums, mostly citing either stalled backups or invisible backup sets, according to Computerworld. Apple failed to properly test Time Machine before it launched Leopard, according to Ombudsman and former vice president of engineering at LaCie, Mike Mihalik. "The two tech notes that it's released clarify what Apple should have done as part of the normal release," Mihalik said, referring to two Apple notices covering the largest of the problems experienced by Time Machine users.
The two primary issues plaguing users are a near immediate failure to complete backups -- which usually occurs after around 10MB of data is copied to the destination drive -- and backups that complete but are invisible, making it appear as though the backup was never performed.
The first issue is a result of improper formatting on some external hard drives, according to Apple. Some drives ship with a Master Boot Record partition, or a segment of the drive designed to point the computer at the proper location on the hard drive to begin the boot process. Drives with Master Boot Record partitions are incompatible with Time Machine, and Apple says users must first format the drive properly before using the storage devices to back up files.
"Apple could have added a simple check to verify that the drive did not have a Master Boot Record partition," Mihalik said.
The second issue which results in 'invisible' backups occurs as a result of computer names that include non-alphanumeric characters. The special characters in a computer's name make backups inaccessible and invisible via the Time Machine interface. Mihalik notes that Apple could have blocked all 'illegal' characters that would cause a backup to disappear from Time Machine, preventing improper names.
Despite these issues, however, the Ombudsman says the current issues related to Time Machine are few in number.
"People look at the messages and think, yeah, there are a lot of problems reported, but [what's there] are only in the tens, or maybe hundreds at the most," Mihalik explained. "That's a very small number compared to the number of people trying out Leopard."