Having a backup plan for your data is great, but the real test comes when you have to actually restore your information from that backup in the unfortunate event of a computer failure. That test came for me a few weeks ago, when my 2012, 15 inch MacBook Pro completely froze on me one morning. I did a hard restart via the power button, but soon discovered (to my complete and utter horror) that the computer could no longer complete the booting process. No matter how many times I tried to restart, it could not get even 50% through the progress bar. A trip to my local Mac Store later that day led me to discover that my MacBook’s hard drive had failed. I had no choice but to leave it overnight as they put in a brand spankin’ new hard drive.

Thankfully, I’d been making regular backups to my Drobo 5N via my Mac’s Time Machine. I knew that once I had my computer back in my hands, I would need to restore my data back onto my laptop.

For this article, I want to talk about my experience with using the Drobo 5N to restore my computer back to life.

1. Designating the Drobo 5N as the Disk for Time Machine to use

First, Set Up A “Share” Via The Drobo Dashboard Specifically For Your Time Machine

A few months prior to my trusty Macbook’s hard drive failure, it had been showing definite signs of distress in the form of becoming very slow and freezing frequently. Therefore, it made sense that the first thing I did after unboxing my new Drobo 5N was to set it up as the new location for my Mac’s Time Machine.

I’ll assume you already know how to do the basic setup of your Drobo. Beyond that basic setup, I had to create an additional “share” (think of it as a high level folder) on my Drobo 5N, designating it as the location for my Time Machine Backup. To set up an additional “share” on my Drobo, I did the following:

  1. I went to my Drobo Dashboard and selected my Drobo.
  2. In the lefthand menu, I selected “Shares”
  3. I selected the “Share Settings” button.
  4. Click the Add button, and typed in a share name. I named mine “Mac_Time_Machine”. Original, yes.
  5. I made sure to select “Enable Time Machine Support on this share”, and limit the backup space to 1000GB. See below:


Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 5.56.53 PM

6. Click OK. You will now see your newly created Share.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 5.56.05 PM

7. Click OK again to close the Share Settings dialogue box.

8. Then, I went to my Time Machine Preferences > “Select Disk…” and selected my Share from the available list of disks.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 5.55.19 PM

2. Restoring Your Information In the Event Of Computer Failure

Fast forward a few months later to the notorious laptop hard drive failure, and the Mac Store was able to put the new drive into my MacBook in about 24 hours. It felt like I was picking my child from the hospital that day. Prior to leaving the store, I made sure to have them show me that it actually worked. Sure enough, they fired it up for me, and lo and behold, my computer was alive again – and wiped clean, as expected.

Back at home, it was time for me to attempt to restore my computer’s information. I tend to be the person that calls technical support just to hear a comforting voice on the other end of the line, so that’s the first thing I did. They were helpful, and sent along an article with instructions on how to do it, which I’ll reference in this article.

Here is the process I took for restoring my computer, using the Drobo 5N:

First, I booted the computer in Recovery Mode by immediately holding down Command + R at the same time as soon as I turned on my computer. When the Apple logo appeared, I released the keys.

I then went to the Utilities Menu at the very top of the screen and selected Terminal.

This will take you to your computer’s terminal. Warning: be very careful when in your terminal. It’s an area many people (including myself) tend to stay away from, because you can alter your computer’s settings with an incorrect command.

Next you have to type a series of specific commands in the terminal. The following is what I typed, using the Drobo help article found here: https://myproducts.drobo.com/article/AA-01431

Note: you’ll want to insert your own information where it says [Admin_name] [Admin_password], [Drobo IP Address], [Share Name]. Do not type the brackets. They just indicate the next command.

> cd /Volumes

> mkdir TimeMachine2

> cd TimeMachine2

> pwd

(pwd should show /Volumes/TimeMachine2)

> mount -t afp afp://[Admin_name]:[Admin_password]@[Drobo IP Address]/[Share Name] /Volumes/TimeMachine2

(give it a minute or two)

> ls -la

(Note the name of the sparsebundle)

> hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine2/[first three letters of the sparsebundle name and then hit TAB]

(Hitting tab should autocomplete the Time Machine sparsebundle name. It may not look the same as it is displayed above as it escapes spaces and special characters. If it auto completes the name then hit return. If not please contact support.)

I know, I know, it’s not sexy. But it did the job. It took me several tries to get it right, because even adding in or leaving out a space would render the command incorrect. However, persistence paid off.

From there, you can quit the Terminal. You can now select “Restore from a Time Machine backup” and click Continue. You should now see your Time Machine Backups directory as a volume. Select it, and click Continue.

You’ll see a list of your backups, arranged by their time and date. I chose the most recent one, and gave my computer several hours to restore itself.

Concluding Thoughts

At the end of it all, I had my computer exactly back to the way it was before its hard drive crash. It was a truly educational process for me. The toughest part of it all was typing in the commands into the terminal. However, the nice thing is that once you have to do it once, you know you can do it again. While the process was more technical than I anticipated, it was still straightforward enough. Hopefully my experience will be helpful to you in the case of a hard drive failure, and you have to restore your computer.

I’m certainly thankful I’d been making backups to my Drobo 5N.