I have a technique that allows me to recover from almost any problem with OS X or a particular program in 15 minutes or less. I’ve fine-tuned this method over a year and a half of OS X beta testing and while it’s not for everyone, it works like a charm for me. I call it anti-troubleshooting.
It works like this: I save as few files as possible on Jaguar (my boot volume). And I avoid having my apps or documents in my Home folder. If I can keep a file on a different volume or disk, I do. My boot disk has little more than OS X and everything that comes with it.
If it’s of value to me, it is stored on another disk entirely, cleverly named "Storage."
Non-Apple apps are on Storage. My Documents folder is on Storage. iTunes Music is on Storage. And my iPhoto library.
The point is: My application and data files are not stored on Jaguar. So if anything on Jaguar goes wonky. I have no qualms about blowing it away. I could reinstall OS X from a CD, but it’s even easier.
You see, my secret is to clone Jaguar every day when it’s healthy. I have a pair of FireWire disks I clone Jaguar onto every other day. Since I am using Retrospect for a bunch of backup scripts that protect Storage anyway, I use it for the clones, but you can use CarbonCopyCloner, Tri-Backup, or most of the shareware programs with the word "sync’ in their names…
Whatever program you use, it’s absolutely essential to test your cloning technique both ways. First, make sure you can boot from the clone. Then re-clone the clone onto the original boot volume and boot from it.
Granted, OS X is quite stable and this may be overkill for some of you. But I install more new software and hardware in a week than most people do in a year. And I test a bunch of different Macs at any given moment. So having my boot disk be "portable" works for me in other ways as well.
But most of all, my clone lets me recover from almost any problem in 15 minutes or less.
Which happens to be about the length of my attention span. After 15 I stop troubleshooting and start demolition–I blow away (reformat/erase/initialize) Jaguar (my boot disk) and clone the most recent clone back to the boot disk. I lose a few preferences and if I’ve installed software that installs software in my Home/Library, I might have to reinstall it. But I’m back to work in 15 minutes, mostly intact. Now granted I don’t have to do it very often, and many of you will never need it at all. But OS X has many pieces and permissions; it’s easy for one to get just a little out of whack and drive you nuts.
When I’m not in the mood to track down just why, my anti-troubleshooting system lets me get back to work almost instantly.