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amkassir

Using Retrospect with Catalina volume structures

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Now that Catalina is out, I understand the installation creates separate volumes for system files and other data. If I am correct, these volumes are connected as members of a Group, within an APFS Container. The System volume is read-only.

I have questions about how Retrospect 16.5 will function with this new scheme.

Backing up

Since these are 2 volumes (appearing as one to the user), will selecting Macintosh HD as the backup source include all System and Data files?

Restoring

Secondly, I wonder if and how Retrospect can completely restore a Catalina installation. More specifically:

1. If the restore is being made to a completely empty drive, will Retrospect create the necessary "read-only" System and "read/write" Data volumes and restore the appropriate data to each volume? Will it also create a Recovery partition?

2. If the restore is being made over an existing Catalina installation, is Retrospect able to restore system files to the "read-only" System volume?

Thanks for any information you can offer!

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amkassir,

See "Version 16.5 Required" in this Knowledge Base article, and the macOS Mojave – Application Data Privacy KB article it links to.  However I don't think those will answer your all questions; you'd better phone Retrospect Tech Support, and please post what you've found out—including when the august Documentation Committee is going to update that first KB article.

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Here is the response from Support:

Quote

 

Just like in the finder, you only really see one volume.  You will back up the Macintosh HD and Retrospect will handle the rest. Please make sure you have reviewed the Catalina support document at https://www.retrospect.com/en/support/kb/macos_catalina_support
 
Restores are a lot more complicated and it isn't possible to perform a single restore operation for the complete Macintosh HD.  We are working on a detailed document providing directions for doing a Catalina Disaster Recovery operation.   The directions do involve reinstalling the Mac OS and restoring the User's folder over the installed operating system. 

 

 

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The problem with just letting Retrospect "handle the rest" is that it will now backup /System/Volumes/Data/Volumes/<all external drives>. That's just wrong and should not happen. Suddenly my full boot volume backup went from 850G to 1.3T because it's also backing up an external drive that I backup in a different set, AND the external drive I used to backup TO.

Until they fix this in Retrospect, I'm going to have to mark /System/Volumes/Data/Volumes with my No Backup label so Retrospect will skip it for now.

I'll submit a ticket for this, because it needs to be fixed.

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And setting the "No backup" label on /System/Volumes/Data/Volumes AND each of the external volumes in that folder isn't working. They still get backed up. Great.

It's also hard to tell if the correct label is being inspected by Retrospect, since they call it Gray in the Rules editor, even though I've renamed it to "No backup", and there is still a label named Gray that uses the same color.

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sjmills,

Assuming your problem is with a "client" machine, what is your "Volumes" dropdown setting on the Sources -> Options tab for that machine?  When re-Adding my MacBook Pro as a "client", I have the problem that that dropdown defaults to All Volumes—and for a couple of macOS releases that has included some garbage-named mirror volume.  I have to remember to change the dropdown to Startup Volume.  If I had an external  volume cabled to my MBP,  which I did during one re-Add, the default would include that also.

OTOH this may be due to Retrospect not having been fixed to compensate for a change in macOS.  I submitted a Support Request for the problem described in the paragraph above, and Tech Support merely told me to change the dropdown.

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The boot volume I'm backing up is on the same machine that Retrospect runs on, so it's not a client. But if I select that boot volume in the Sources, the Options tab is all disabled, then yes, All Volumes is selected.

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2 hours ago, sjmills said:

The boot volume I'm backing up is on the same machine that Retrospect runs on, so it's not a client. But if I select that boot volume in the Sources, the Options tab is all disabled, then yes, All Volumes is selected.

sjmills,

My "backup server" is booting macOS 10.12 Sierra, and it's running Retrospect Mac 16.1.  All other bootable  local drives would boot under macOS 10.12 or OS X 10.6.  When I click the Sources entry for one of my local drives, I can click the Options Tab, but everything on that dialog is grayed-out.  That makes sense for the checkboxes above "Volumes", since they have to do with options that apply to machines being backed up with a Retrospect Client application.  Greying-out also used to make sense for the "Volumes" section of the dialog, but with "improvements" in macOS it no longer does.  IMHO the dropdown should now default to Startup Volume if the local volume is bootable, with the boot volume automatically checkmarked.

So  here's why and how to file a Support Case, in the event you don't already know.  Another example of great beta testing by Retrospect "Inc.".🙄

 

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I filed a bug, then I uninstalled and deleted all Retrospect files from my machine after attempting to try 16.5, but was greeted with a stupid Try button that took me to a web page to fill out a form just so I could download it again and get a trial code. No thanks, I'm finished with Retrospect and it's bugs, bad design, and horrendous performance when browsing backups.

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All administrators upgrading to macOS 10.15 Catalina,

This Knowledge Base article and this KB article were added on 5 November 2019.  The first of these appears to be a duplicate of this earlier KB article on macOS 10.14 Mojave, with a different URL and minor wording changes; in fact the second article links to that earlier article instead of the first article.

As of 6 November 2019, there haven't been any updates to the Retrospect Mac downloads since 16 October 2019,  Therefore, if a fix to the Retrospect Mac Engine is required because of sjmills' problem, it is still in the future.

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As of today, I'm not able to find the promised "detailed document providing directions for doing a Catalina Disaster Recovery operation" yet. I'm backing up my system but don't exactly know how to restore my Catalina installation. Hopefully this will be coming soon.

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amkassir (and others),

The "promised 'detail document ...'" is no doubt referring to what Retrospect Tech Support replied to you on or before 11 October 2019.  Give the engineers time; this sounds like a tricky Apple-generated problem, and the last sentence of Tech Support's reply at least gives you a hint of what to do if you have to.  My guess—as an outsider—is that the time of at least some engineers is currently being occupied with figuring out how to convert the Retrospect Mac (because it's more Unix-related) Engine to run on a Drobo.

P.S.: It's good to know, per your post directly above, that you can back up your Catalina installation with Retrospect 16.5.  amkassir, do you or did you have external drives cabled to your "backup server" machine—as sjmills does?  If so, why does he have problems that you don't?

P.P.S.: It sounds—per your post directly below—as if the short-term solution, until the "detailed document" is released, is to restore using CCC and then overwrite files with previous versions—if needed—using Retrospect.

 

Edited by DavidHertzberg
P.S.: Good to know that amkassir can backup Catalina, wonder why sjmills can't; P.P.S.: short-term solution is to restore using CCC and then overwrite if needed using Retrospect

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Understood.

In the meantime, I'm counting on Carbon Copy Cloner to restore a Catalina installation more easily than Retrospect might allow, should disaster strike.

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sjmills and everybody else,

I just had a phone conversation with the North America head of Retrospect Sales.  Retrospect "Inc." is coming out with a new bug-fix release of Retrospect Mac in about a week.  The engineers are aware of sjmills' problem; my interpretation is that whoever was implementing "Improved NAS support with auto-adding existing NAS share mounts" in Retrospect Mac 16.5.0 didn't coordinate with whoever was implementing Catalina support.🙄

As for the "promised 'detailed document providing directions for doing a Catalina Disaster Recovery operation'" that amkassir is waiting for, he has no word on that—although I brought it to his attention.

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Has anyone seen the "promised detailed document providing directions for doing a Catalina Disaster Recovery operation'" yet?

I don't feel comfortable relying on Retrospect for my backup needs without knowing how to do a full restore of a Catalina installation. I would hope this information is important for the Retrospect team to impart to users in a timely fashion before disaster strikes!

At present, I'm still using Carbon Copy Cloner, which is very clear on how to perform a restore. I'd prefer to have 2 reliable options (CCC and Retrospect) should disaster strike. Right now I'd be guessing on how to perform a restore using Retrospect. If I have to do a de novo installation of Catalina over which I'd restore various folders, it seems more cumbersome than CCC, which creates the System, Data, Recovery, and Preboot volumes automatically from scratch at the click of a button. 

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amkassir,

For a number of years Retrospect Inc. has had what I call the "august Documentation Committee", which writes most Knowledge Base articles and does the (shoddy) updating of the User's Guides.  The head of Retrospect Tech Support stated a couple of years ago that he is not permitted to be a member of that committee, which IMHO should be taught in business schools as a classic example of mis-organization (probably resulting from his not being able to buy a share of ownership when the privately-owned Retrospect Inc. was set up in 2011). 

In any case the core of that committee is Retrospect engineers, and from everything I can see as an outsider the engineers are up to their eyeballs in work—both the pre-merger-initiated Web-based Management Console and the long-planned but post-merger-initiated non-Web non-Management Console that will replace the Retrospect Windows and Retrospect Mac GUIs.  IMHO that second project is Mihir Shah's top priority, because it will be necessary to provide an over-the-LAN GUI for his announced effort (fourth paragraph) to produce a "backup server" that will run on a Drobo device —where it can't have a local GUI because a NAS device doesn't have its own monitor and keyboard and mouse.

My suggestion is that Retrospect Mac 17 should add the capability of creating its own Disaster Recovery "Disk", similar to the capability discussed on pages 316-328 of the Retrospect Windows 16 User's Guide.  To get that started, I recommend sending a snail-mail to the StorCentric Chief Technology Officer:

Drobo

    Attn.: Mr. Rod Harrison, CTO

1289 Anvilwood Ave.

Sunnyvale, CA 94089

USA

Rod Harrison may not have any idea what macOS Catalina is and what new challenges it poses for the Retrospect Mac product, so your letter will have to include an explanation.  You can also include a request for the "detailed document", but—for reasons explained in the second paragraph of this post—IMHO you won't be able to get it written.

P.S.: You're "preaching to the choir" in your post directly below this; as a customer Retrospect administrator I totally agree with you.  However StorCentric didn't bail Retrospect Inc. out of an apparent financial crisis (resulting—I assume—from their inability to charge customers using Linux-based NASes the price for beyond-Desktop Editions as if they were still using Server versions of macOS or Windows ) out of the goodness of Mihir Shah's heart.  Shah has said he wants a Retrospect "backup server" running on Drobo devices, and "he who pays the piper calls the tune".  IMHO it would take an engineer more than a day to do experiments for the restore document.  Request the document in your snail-mail letter to Harrison; I'm still on High Sierra, or I'd write one myself.

Edited by DavidHertzberg
P.S.: You're "preaching to the choir" in your post directly below this, but Mihir Shah wants a Retrospect "backup server" running on Drobo devices and IMHO it would take an engineer _more_ than a day to _do_experiments_ for the restore document

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Hello David:

I understand from your post that the engineers are extremely busy. At the same time, I contend that Retrospect's ability to restore from a backup is perhaps the most important function of backup software that should take precedence over any other tasks that are in development. Part of that functionality depends on the user's understanding of the restore procedure since it is not a simple one-step procedure, but requires re-installation of Catalina and other steps. Accordingly, I believe a document providing directions for doing a Catalina Disaster Recovery operation is sorely needed and overdue. Moreover, I hope composing such documentation would not take a single engineer more than a day to complete.

While Retrospect Mac 17 may have new capabilities, what we need now for Retrospect 16.6 is guidance before disaster strikes.

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I contacted support and here is the response. There is now a guide for disaster recovery.

Quote

 

Our current step by step directions can be found at: https://www.retrospect.com/en/documentation/user_guide/mac/disaster_recovery_apfs
 
We are releasing a Retrospect 17 soon and with that will be simpler directions, so you will want to keep an eye out for those coming very soon.

 

Reading through the directions, the bottom line is to "restore the system with a standard macOS installer and then restore your user's directory, /Applications directory, and /Library/Application Support directory." I wonder if restoring these three directories misses anything.

Reading further, it seems that the routine backups of my Catalina installation would not be sufficient for disaster recovery. It looks like I'm also supposed to be backing up the Preboot volume, and then using terminal to restore the Preboot volume as well as the macOS installation?
 
Strikes me as being too complicated. Hopefully Retrospect 17 will be simpler. In the meantime, I will rely on Carbon Copy Cloner for disaster recovery.

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On 2/27/2020 at 3:45 AM, amkassir said:

I wonder if restoring these three directories misses anything.

Obviously it'll miss anything not in those paths. Most users will be covered by these "defaults", those who aren't (eg people using Homebrew to install *nix utilities in /usr/local) should know enough to not get caught out. Catalina has made it very difficult to "accidentally" save files in weird, random, places (though my users still try!).

So your backups will be fine for recovery as long as you (and your applications) are following Apple's guidelines. And you only need to back up Preboot if you want to do a bare-metal restore without having to fresh-install the OS (eg you have no, very slow, or expensive Internet access and no USB installer).

Using CCC for BM-DR is a good idea. Using CCC and RS is probably even better -- restore your last CCC backup then use RS to overlay that with more-recently changed files. Best of both worlds!

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Nigel, thank you for your helpful post! Yes, I'm still using both CCC and RS, and your idea to use CCC and then RS is a good one. 

I don't use Homebrew and I think most of my files and apps are in their default locations, which is encouraging for a successful RS restore (if I wasn't using CCC). In most cases I have good Internet access and reinstalling Catalina would be possible.

Thanks again. Your post lent some additional clarity and helps me feel more prepared should disaster strike.

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amkassir and anyone else worried about the "promised detailed document providing directions for doing a Catalina Disaster Recovery operation'",

Retrospect Mac  17.0.1.141—released 1 May— includes "Improved: Disaster Recovery support for Mojave and Catalina - See details" and "Improved: Disaster Recovery redesigned workflow for El Capitan, Sierra, and High Sierra - See details".  Both "details" are pages 154-156 of an enhanced Disaster "Recovery" chapter in the  Retrospect Mac 17 User's Guide.  The only real enhancement is shown in the "macOS High Sierra and Higher" section on pages 154-156; everything else in the chapter is AFAICT the same as it was on pages 143-153 of  the Retrospect Mac 16 UG,  except for the addition of the section title "Mac OS X Mavericks and Lower" on page 156.  (The macOS versions named in the two Release Notes aren't the same as those named in the section headings, but let's not quibble over Yosemite—which isn't mentioned in the UG chapter.🤣)  It also includes Linux Client AES-256 link encryption.

Arise ye prisoners of Proactive (note the eventual release date);  Retrospect 17.0.1 includes "ProactiveAI: Fixed issue where dialog appeared for clients not found on network (#8547)". 😂  A Retrospect Windows administrator got Tech Support's attention (via a Support Case?) about the annoying dialog, and the head of Retrospect Tech Support replied—a rare event on these Forums for several years—that the bug would be fixed in the very next release.

17.0.1 seems to be the promised bug-fix release for 17.0.0, especially for Storage Groups.  However there are also bug fixes for other features, including 3 fixes for Remote Backup.   I guess Work From Home showed the need for these, and probably also uncovered bugs in Storage Groups and the speeded-up ProactiveAI.  There were code changes (did Apple "resolve the low-level filesystem issues"?) for Catalina/Mojave disaster recovery, but the added procedure in the Disaster Recovery" chapter of the UG validates amkassir's Carbon Copy Cloner approach.   It spells out a klunkier pure-macOS way to do the same thing, without the "august Documentation Committee" having to make an embarrassing suggestion to purchase CCC.  (In my 1950s middle school days we would have said "well, duh-yuh"—implying narrator stupidity, but IMHO StorCentric obliged the engineers to come up with an alternative—so Retrospect "Inc." wouldn't have to admit to "being asleep at the switch" for not having documented the same procedure nearly two years ago.)

P.S.: Revised third sentence of last paragraph; there were code changes to enable the the UG page 154-156 procedure to work for Mojave and Catalina

Edited by DavidHertzberg
Revised third sentence of last paragraph; there _were_ code changes for Mojave/Catalina bare-metal recovery

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David, thank you very much for your post.

For some reason, this time Retrospect 17.0.0 didn't notify me of the update when I launched it, so I was happy that your post included the news about the latest update.

Using the Check for updates item under the Retrospect menu resulted in an error, informing me that the Retrospect app was running from a location not in the Applications folder, even though that's where it resides, and I launched it directly from that location. So I had to directly download 17.0.1 from the website. After installing it, I chose to check for updates again, and I got this message:

Quote

 

You're up-to-date!

Retrospect 17.0.0.149 is currently the newest version available.

(You are currently running version 17.0.1 (141).)

 

Somehow I'm running a version newer than the newest version available?

I'm now recommending to anyone wanting an easy restore procedure in Catalina or Mojave to use Carbon Copy Cloner, with my second choice being SuperDuper. How is it that Retrospect costs so much more than these but can't manage a streamlined restore? At least the UG has been updated.

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amkassir,

As for your "Somehow I'm running a version newer than the newest version available? " problem, if you have an open Support Case I suggest adding an Additional Note about it.  I've said before that my impression is that 17.0.0 was released in a hurry, and I now think that the 17.0.1 release was equally hurried—since a post by me in another thread said that on 3 April the head of North American Sales publicly predicted a bug-fix release "in about two weeks".  IMHO as an outsider, StorCentric management is insisting "full speed ahead" on the development of a "backup server" Engine that will run on a Drobo—with a LAN or Internet-connected Console that will run on a Mac or Windows machine.  Add to that the possible personnel fallout from COVID-19, even though J.G.Heithcock revealed in connection with the merger that Retrospect Inc. was now a  "virtual business, with fewer engineers than at EMC, who use Google Chat for meetings" with at least the engineers (most of whom must at least be in their fifties, which worries me) working from home.

As for your "How is it that Retrospect costs so much more than these but can't manage a streamlined restore?" question, Retrospect "Professional" has been targeted since 1990 at customers with the following requirements:

  • Must back up multiple machines to a destination more compact than the same number and capacity of disk drives, which in many cases still means to tape.
  • Must store at least copies of the backups off-site, because of the danger of fire or flood (a favorite location for organizations' on-site server rooms has been in the basement underneath the cafeteria—so use your knowledge of cafeterias to imagine what can happen) or strikes at the worksite.
  • Must allow an employee to easily restore an obsolete copy of one or more individual files, not just the entire contents of a machine's disk drive.
  • Must allow recovery from a ransomware attack that may not reveal itself until several days after the drives of one or more machines have been poisoned.
  • Must prevent an individual employee disabling backup of his/her machine to speed processing—not easy to do with a "push" backup application.

If you don't have any of these requirements, then you can save money by using only CCC or SuperDuper.  If however you do, then you're better off with Retrospect plus CCC/Super Duper, at least while  Retrospect "Inc." is "working with Apple to resolve the low-level [APFS] filesystem issues"  (page 154 of the latest Retrospect Mac UG ). The procedure described on pages 154-156 is essentially a clumsier bare-metal Restore work-around for administrators who can't also run CCC or SuperDuper on all their machines.  Stupidly trying to nuke-and-pave my MBP in April 2019, I did an even-clumsier work-around.

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