On computing, technology, mishaps, and the importance of backups

I’ve had an interesting past couple of days. The short version for the non-nerds is that a computer improvement project completely went sideways, resulting in my having to restore from backups I made before I decided to start my “improvements”, then finding out those backups weren’t any good and restore from slightly older but more reliable backups.

For the nerds, the detailed version of it goes something like this:

  1. Back up /home filesystem just in case things don’t work out. This takes up ~380GB of a 480GB drive and is the whole reason I’m doing the rest of this. It takes two hours, and the completely inaccurate remaining time calculation isn’t encouraging. But it gets done… supposedly.
  2. Move root, swap, and boot manager (rEFInd) onto 120GB drive. So far so good.
  3. Resize filesystems on 240GB drive using GParted. So far so good.
  4. Try to expand /home to fill most of 480GB drive using GParted. Find out it’s going to take way too long, and it’ll be faster to just nuke and restore from the backup made in step 1.
  5. Restore from said backup.
  6. Wake up the next morning to find system won’t boot, it’s beefing about /home not being mountable (btrfs). Swear profusely.
  7. Wipe (run blkdiscard) on 480GB drive and try restore again.
  8. Reboot and find that the filesystem is still unmountable. Swear profusely again.
  9. Wipe 480GB drive again and format as ext4 instead of btrfs.
  10. Restore from last good Back In Time backup (that’s what is happening on the other computer right now as I write this).

The gist of it is partclone appears to have made a bad backup from btrfs, and I’m not sure if it’s operator error or an actual bug. I may experiment with much smaller filesystems to try and replicate it.

The moral of the story: Backup often and check your backups before you actually need them. For situations where a whole disk/partition backup is the best option, make a file-based backup as well just in case; while the former will be more faithful to what was actually on the disk, stuff happens and you will be glad the individual files are still around in some form when it does.