Help me get my PC backup to work on a Mac!
August 3, 2011 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Can a MacBook, a Dell, and a Windows-format external hard drive play nice?

My Dell Inspiron 1545 inexplicably died after 1.5 years of begrudging service last week. Fortunately, or so I thought, I had been doing regular backups using a WD MyPassport Essential external hard drive. I got a MacBook a few days ago, but when I tried to restore my old files, the Mac wouldn't recognize the external HD. I installed Tuxera -- and now the Mac recognizes the HD, but does not give me the option to restore or access my old backups. Now what? Surely this happens all the time. . . but my google-fu is failing me. My old PC was Windows 7 and my Mac runs OS X 10.6.8.

posted by sideofwry to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did you make the backups with the WD SmartWare software on your Dell? Hopefully you can restore the files with the Mac version.
posted by zsazsa at 1:15 PM on August 3, 2011

I wonder what would happen if you made a Boot Camp partition and installed Windows on your MacBook, then booted into it? Just musing here, but if so, I'll throw the question out there -- could you then move the files off the external drive and move them to somewhere on the MacBook that OS X could see them? Worth a shot, if you've got a valid Windows install disk.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:42 PM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: If I format my external hard drive for the Mac version, zsa zsa, I think I lose all of the data I've saved on it. . . Thanks, though!
posted by sideofwry at 2:06 PM on August 3, 2011

Following up on zsazsa, I think what he was suggesting was installing the WD Smartware software on the Mac to read the data off the drive, but not to update the drive firmware. Another alternative would be to install a Windows virtual machine (virtualbox is free and works well) and run the Windows WD software within the VM).
posted by Runes at 2:49 PM on August 3, 2011

Don't re-format anything! Did your backup software compress or otherwise store the files in some sort of proprietary archive? Worst case scenario is you've got to go buy a second external drive, and find someone with Windows to un-archive the backups and copy the files to the new drive. Mac OS will read a Fat 32-formatted drive fine, with a couple caveats -- no file level permissions, and a max file size of 4 gb.

Worst worst case scenario is someone with a Windows machine burns you a bunch of DVDs.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:09 PM on August 3, 2011

I use Paragon NTFS for Mac instead of Tuxera, but they probably are pretty much the same. I've had no trouble using two external, NTFS drives over the years. I think your issue is entirely with the WD software and is unrelated to the file systems. Try the Mac version of the software.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 3:44 PM on August 3, 2011

I'm assuming these are NTFS files and that is the reason it won't play nice with your Mac? As others have noted, there are a lot of software solutions that will allow your Mac to see files on an NTFS hard drive, and therefore you can copy them over. If that is your goal, then it shouldn't be difficult.

Actually, you might just need to borrow someone else's PC, and copy the data over into some format readable on your Mac, and move it onto a Mac-formatted hard drive.

Actually, how much data is on the hard drive, and what kind of data is it? This might be a good time to start archiving your data into the cloud, then you can access it from anywhere on any machine.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:40 PM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: So I downloaded the Mac version of the SmartWare software, and I'm one step further. . . the WD backup program opens and runs like I was accustomed to seeing on my Dell. However, the drive contains 145.9 GB of "additional files" that I'm guessing are my precious precious backups. I cannot access these; I guess SmartWare compressed them or otherwise made them wonky as Devils Rancher suggested. When I attempt to "retrieve" there are no backup volumes or original computers listed in the "retrieve" screen.

Looking into virtualbox now -- after that I suppose I'll be off to find a PC I can borrow.
posted by sideofwry at 5:19 PM on August 3, 2011

Best answer: BootCamp will do a nondestructive partition of the MacBook HD. You can then install Windows there, and run the Windows version of the recovery software.

And after that, use a non-proprietary, non-compressed backup method. Microsoft SyncToy works fine on Windows, and I couple Chronosync and SuperDuper! with Time Machine on my Mac (yes, three separate backups on three separate external HDs...)
posted by caution live frogs at 5:54 PM on August 3, 2011

Another parenthetical thought - are you sure it's the hard drive in your Dell that's dead? If you have a dead logic board or bad memory, or some other component besides the hard drive, it's quite possible that you could pull the internal drive out of it and mount it in an enclosure, and get to your stuff that way, if the external backup drive doesn't pan out. It's a little tedious to pull a hard drive out of a laptop, but it's not a big deal, really, if you can handle a small screwdriver and follow instructions. You can get an empty enclosure at Fry's for around 30 bucks.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:07 PM on August 3, 2011

« Older So Based On No Information, Can You Find It?   |   Bold book covers Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.