osX mail, ical, address book recovery?
August 24, 2006 7:47 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend just had osx reinstalled on her computer - which lead to the overwrite of her mail and ical files ... essentially wiping them clean. is there any chance there is a backup or recovery method for the her mail, calendar, address book archives?
posted by specialk420 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
There are at least two options when installing OSX: erase and install and archive and install.

If she did the archive and install then her old information will be kept on the drive in a folder called (probably) "Archived System Folder." You should be able to copy the necessary files from there.

If she did erase and install, then no, they're gone. I'll see where in the system the files she needs—if she did the archive and install—and post that in another comment.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 7:52 PM on August 24, 2006

It depends on how the reinstall was done. It's definitely possible to reinstall OS X without overwriting anything in a user's Home folder (which is where any Mail or iCal files specific to her user account would most likely be) but your girlfriend is out of luck if whoever did the reinstall decided not to do it that way, going so far as to reformat the drive and do a fresh install.

On preview, Marvin's got it.
posted by emelenjr at 7:57 PM on August 24, 2006

will check - little bro did this one... eek.! knock on wood he made the right call.
posted by specialk420 at 7:59 PM on August 24, 2006

Argh, I don't know if I can be of as much help as I thought. I don't use Mail or iCal so the system hasn't buillt up the folders. They should be in the Library folder of your sister's user folder, i.e. Sister > Library > Mail. If she did the archive install you should be able to copy that folder from the archive folder to the new Sister > Library and it will overwrite the Mail folder. (Please back up the old one first.) Launching Mail then should populate it with the old data, and you're good to go.

I suggest waiting a few hours for other mefiers to weigh in if I'm wrong though.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 8:29 PM on August 24, 2006

no dice on the archive install... curious if there might be any other sort of a backup? that we can salvage? scrap file? ... kinda valuable info that got scrapped/overwrote.

thanks in advance

sequence of events: cranky os x >> many reboots >> limited backup (no mail, addressbook, ical) >> os x reinstall (w/o archive) >> restart with missing data in new os x install

looking grim.
posted by specialk420 at 9:18 PM on August 24, 2006

It's worth adding, before you leap entirely down little bro's throat, that a periodic "erase-&-install" does a Mac good. It clears the minor glitches and burps that seem to inevitably gather in any system software after a year's worth of daily use. You definitely have to back up your info, and shame, shame, shame on little bro if he didn't — but it's not like he made a wrong call by selecting one option over the other.*

I assume that your girlfriend doesn't subscribe to DotMac — because if she did, her Mail inbox would have refilled itself upon connecting; and if she does, her iCal entries should be retrievable from iSync. But presumably she'd know, and it would be apparent, so you wouldn't be asking this question.

Even if her files were the victim of a clean install, there's a chance they might be recovered by a professional. Call a local Mac shop in the morning to get an idea of how much it might cost; if the files are sufficiently important, it's worth considering.

* On Preview: If OS X was gettin' cranky, erase/install was probably a good call. It's the third tier of Mac repair for simpletons like me: (1) Disk Utility, (2) DiskWarrior — and if those fail, (3) erase and reinstall.
posted by cribcage at 9:24 PM on August 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

Until she's ruled out all hope of shelling out for a last-ditch file recovery attempt*, shut down the computer and leave it off. At this point, the goal is to minimize the chance of any further write operations (including background system maintenance/logging) causing permanent loss of whatever's still currently recoverable. Especially do not use Disk Utility or DiskWarrior right now. Cribcage is right that they're good for curing system crankiness, but for what you want right now they risk losing what's left.

* DriveSavers or maybe Data Rescue
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:50 PM on August 24, 2006

Next time, boot the machine into disk mode, mount it as a drive on another mac, then get the files off it.

The single most useful and brilliant idea Apple has ever had on their own.
posted by hatsix at 11:40 PM on August 24, 2006

that a periodic "erase-&-install" does a Mac good. It clears the minor glitches and burps that seem to inevitably gather in any system software after a year's worth of daily use.

Not nearly as much good as the hassle it causes though. Like this situation! Erase/reinstall is a Windows thing, and it's spreading. It's necessary on Windows, not so on the Mac, but is becoming voodoo like repair permissions is.

To answer the q: no, it's fucked. If you don't have the folder /Previous Systems/ at the top of the hard disk the stuff is gone. The files are 80% certain to have been overwritten by a full system install, so unless you have a lot of money and don't mind getting back one mail (which will turn out to be spam), don't bother.
posted by bonaldi at 3:34 AM on August 25, 2006

You're hosed. The Mac OSX Reinstall includes a couple of hundred thousand files ( mostly invisible). The chances that it did not overwrite the blocks containing your data is very very slim. Drivesavers et al will cost a bundle whether they find anything or not.
OTOH, Try finding a copy of Norton Disk tools 8 or 9 and see if you can recover anything. Boot from the CD.
posted by Gungho at 6:52 AM on August 25, 2006

Any chance she clicked the option in Mail that allows you to keep all e-mail on the server? Probably that was the first thing you checked, but it never hurts to ask.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:14 AM on August 25, 2006

Norton Utilities hasn't been trustworthy on Mac for a long time. Many people have reported OS X systems being badly hosed by NU. Be very cautious about going that route. Definitely backup first.

SeizeThe Day raises a good point. If she was using IMAP, possibly the email is still on a server. Or if not, her mail hosting company may have a backup that can be used to at least recover some of the more recent stuff.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:41 PM on August 25, 2006

Actually, the chances are very high that some/much of the data is untouched.

With Windows and Linux, at least, the operating system and programs are always lumped to the beginning of the drive where access is quickest (on defrag). I'd assume that OS X also has built-in "application optimizer" in the defrag utility. This puts data out near the mid-drive, so there's blank space between the OS/Programs and user data.

Depending on the size of the disk, its very possible that the files are still there... You'll just need to work a bit of magic to get it back.

The real pivot point here is what OSX considers these files to be. They may have been in the application section because they're read from often, or put into the user data section because they're written to often (and the size changes).... it's worth the gamble of trying out different disk doctor programs.
posted by hatsix at 11:20 PM on August 25, 2006

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