3.16.2009

Google University

Almost daily I spend a fair amount of time at "Google University". It's my higher learning center. When I have a problem, or a question, or just a nagging...it's on the tip of my tongue, but I can't think of it...that I'm looking for, a quick search and Google provides all sorts of answers. Most of the time, very good solutions.

Most of the time.

Last Thursday morning I was had a very sluggish MacBook Pro. My normal programs were opening slower, I was watching the spinning beach ball much more often than I wanted, and I was getting concerned. I started poking around and found that my Mac's hard drive was getting close to full. Of the almost 100GB of space, there was only about 6GB of open space. It wasn't in the danger zone, but most of the Google Universe agreed that I should free up some space.

The search of my hard drive folders revealed I had 2 major space hogs...photos & video. Between my iPhoto & iTunes libraries I had a combined total of 50GB of storage used up - about half my hard drive! What to do now?

I had a few options. My photos and music were backed up on my iPod so I could consider some changes on my hard drive. I started looking around for ways to store my entertainment on an external hard drive. I was pretty sure it was possible, but never had a reason to make that setup work.

Google University (GU) to the rescue. I searched and found a link to this page. I read through the content twice and especially the comments at the bottom indicating many others' success with this solution to my problem. Unfortunately I failed to notice the date of the post - September 19, 2006!

I started by backing up my music and photos to an external drive that I keep for archive file storage. All went well. Good feelings all around.

I also picked up a new external hard drive from Best Buy to put my usable iTunes and iPhoto files. It was a nice 500GB Seagate FreeAgent Go drive, plenty of room for my 50GB of entertainment, plus growth and other file storage when I need it. I passed on the Mac version and bought the PC version to save $40 (on sale at the time) and get an additional 180GB of space! After a quick reformat to work with my Mac and PC I was ready to go.

Back to my link from GU, I ran through the steps, dragged files appropriately, adjusted Advanced settings and it didn't work. It didn't work! I wasn't panicked as I knew the files were backed up, but I wasn't happy either. I ran through everything again. Nope, nothing. iTunes couldn't find the files. They were where they were supposed to be. iTunes appeared to be reindexing when I pointed it to the files, but nothing would play.

It was then that I noticed the date back in 2006. It's possible that the article was appropriate back then, but it wasn't working now. I didn't know how to go about fixing things as the files weren't properly indexing, even when I put them back where they were in the first place.

The clock was ticking quickly, minutes to hours. My frantic searches weren't much help. I remembered my Time Capsule backup - Apple's solution for incremental backups. Unfortunately I hadn't used it in a long time, so I wasn't sure it would be successful (or even when the last backup ran). I gave it a shot and it appeared to want to work - except a wireless restore of the 17GB of music and index files was going to take anywhere between 12 and 291 hours, according to the status bar.

After a couple tweaks, I finally connected my MBP to the Time Capsule via ethernet and successfully restored the iTunes library along with the proper index files in just 20 minutes. Yippee! Life was good again - though I still didn't have much free space on my hard drive and it was almost 1AM. Not fun.

Back to Google University I went...looking a little closer at my search result dates. After a bit of poking around I found what appeared to be the correct solution. iLounge had the answer I was looking for...I hoped. It made sense and it specifically refuted the first, wrong, answer I had found.

I buzzed through the steps one more time and gave it a shot. About 2AM I called it a night and went to bed with my iTunes library consolidating to the external drive. The next morning was a late start, but when I did get rolling, I was happy to find my music files synced up and fully accessible to iTunes from the external drive. Many thanks to GU & Mr. Hollington at iLounge!

The moral of the story...freeing up space with an external drive isn't too tough if you do it right; & check out your GU solutions to be sure they are really answers to your current software problems; & backups really are worth the effort - figure out a good backup solution now!