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New software bricked my iMac — how my data backup system allowed me to recover

My iMac (Retina 5K 27”) completely crashed after installing DJI Pro Assistant software. Here’s how I recovered from the crash along with three important lessons everyone should take away from my experience.

The cause

I own a DJI Ronin S gimbal and use it with a variety of cameras for video work. One of my favorite DSLR video bodies is the Nikon D850. As many of you know, when you are shooting video with DSLR cameras, you generally focus manually by rotating the focus ring on the lens barrel.

Trying to manually pull focus while on a gimbal can especially difficult since the operator is trying to simultaneously manage to hold the gimbal with one hand while focusing with the other hand. A new firmware update for the Ronin S allows the user to remotely control the D850 focus from the gimbal’s focus wheel so you can use both hands to steady the system.

In order to upgrade the gimbal’s firmware, you first have to install the DJI Pro Assistant software on your computer. This software then allows you to interface directly with the gimbal through a USB — C cable to upgrade the Ronin S firmware.

I downloaded the DJI Pro Assistant software to my iMac and at the end of that process, it directed me to reboot the computer. I did, and my computer never recovered. Basically, the computer would power on but it would never move past the boot screen. After trying several different methods to resurrect my computer, I finally had to resort to holding Command + R until the system utilities screen appeared. At that point, I chose to do a full-time Machine restore, a process that took me over nine hours to complete.

The recovery

Because I’m adamant about keeping a Time Machine backup disk attached to my main computer at all times, I didn’t lose any critical work or settings. I was able to get my computer back to its original state as if nothing was wrong.

The difficulty here was that it took a long time to fully restore the computer. To solve this issue, I always keep a clone of my computer’s hard drive on another SSD so that I can move that data over to another computer to work on my files. If I didn’t have that clone, I would have been out of commission until my Time Machine restoration was completed.

Lessons learned

Here are the most important lessons I want to convey to those of you watching this video and reading this article:

Lesson 1

Use an automated full-system backup like Time Machine (Mac) or Backup and Restore (Windows). This allows you to restore your computer to its state at a previous point in time.

Lesson 2

Keep a complete disk copy (clone) of all of your main computer’s working files on a separate disk drive. This clone will allow you to keep working on a separate computer while you restore your main computer.

Lesson 3

Backup everything to multiple hard drives. I strongly suggest having at least one on-site backup hard drive and one off-site backup hard drive. If you can afford the bandwidth and the storage fees, then I also suggest cloud-based backup for your data. I suggest Backblaze, Carbonite or CrashPlan.

Links to backup disk drives I use

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