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Tom Briant

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Warding off the vampire of power outages

Recently the power went out at editorial headquarters. The wind blew hard in the Valley, so the power went out for 15 minutes.

The power outage didn’t affect my MacBook, since it went over to its battery. It did affect two external hard drives.

I use a trick that I picked up from M. Christopher Stevens of Otherworld Computing. You can move your User Folder for 1 or more user accounts to a larger external drive. M. Christopher describes the procedure in detail here.

He does include some caveats at the end. You must ALWAYS have your external hard drive with your data powered up and plugged into the Mac before starting the Mac. Most of the time, you will have no problems. When the power goes out at 3 in the morning...that’s a problem. Even if the power went out for 15 minutes. Your Mac has lost contact with the external hard drives.

So I solved this problem with the purchase of an external uninterruptible power supply (UPS) from Fry’s Electronics. It cost me $50. The brand is APC. It’s compact but heavy. The instructions are simple to follow and well-illustrated.

Now OS X comes with UPS management software. Just go to the Energy Saver preference pane. It looks like a light bulb, either conventional or compact fluorescent, depending on which version of OS X you have.

My UPS included a cable with an RJ-45 plug on one end, for the UPS, and a USB plug on the other, for the Mac. When I plugged them in, I got a new icon on my menu bar. Now I know the UPS connects to my Mac.

So if you try this trick to put your user folder on an external hard drive, plug that external hard drive into a UPS!

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