Restore from a Drobo FS to your mac, over the network, using OS X Lion

I recently had my iMac Hard Drive completely fail. It would boot to the white/grey screen with the Apple logo, put a progress bar underneath, and then just spin that spinning spinner forever, never actually booting. Very scary! Although I am concerned that I might have to replace my HD before my Apple Care runs out, what I wasn’t concerned about was whether I lost any data.  I knew I had a backup, and that it would be easy to restore from this backup!  Or so I thought…

I had been backing up my iMac via Time Machine, over the network, to my Drobo FS Time Machine partition/share that I had previously set up.  So thus, I knew I had my data backed up, but what I didn’t know is what a nightmare it would be to actually do a restore from this network backup.

As it tuns out, it’s actually a pain in the ass, unless you know the secrets to unlocking the mysteries of Time Machine, and the Drobo FS.  Here is what I had to do, I hope this helps somebody someday:


Launch into Lion’s (in my case, OS X 10.7.4) Recovery partition (hold down the option key after turning on your Mac via the power button, then select the Recovery Partition), or alternatively, boot from the OS X Lion USB Stick or DVD, whatever you have access to (for Snow Leopard 10.6.x, this will probably have the same instructions, so this should work for SL as well).

Next, ignore the main menu options that pop up, and instead run Terminal, via the Utilities menu at the top menu bar (very top of screen, near the middle).  In Terminal, you have to do a few steps (use the following Terminal commands as templates, substituting your own data as necessary):

  1. We have to create a volume on the disk drive that OS X’s Recovery/Restore software can ‘see’ (otherwise known as a ‘mount point’):
    mkdir /Volumes/TimeMachine
  2. Then, we have to mount the network share to this newly created volume, so that it appears as a ‘local’ disk to OS X:
    mount -t afp afp://YourDroboFSAdminUserName:YourDroboFSAdminPassword@IPAddressOfDrobo/YourDroboTimeMachineShareName /Volumes/TimeMachine

    Using the above template, my command wound up looking something like this:

    mount -t afp afp://admin:password@ /Volumes/TimeMachine
  3. Finally (and this may be Lion only, so try with and without), we have to mount the actual image of your Time Machine backup to make its contents readable by OS X’s Restore process:
    hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine/yourMacsTimeMachineFile.sparsebundle

    Using the above template, my hdid command looked like:

    hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine/mainImacTimeMachineBackup.sparsebundle

If you don’t know the name of your sparsebundle file (required for Step 3 above), from the same Terminal window, you can just switch into the /Volumes/TimeMachine directory you created (“cd /Volumes/TimeMachine”), and after completing Step 2 above, you can type “ls” to list all the files in that newly mounted directory.  Your sparsbundle file should be there, so make a note of its name for Step 3.

After you complete the above steps, you can quit the Terminal application, and then launch the ‘Restore From Time Machine Backup’ option from the main menu that Lion originally presented to you.  Click ‘continue’, and choose your Time Machine backup (which may take a second or two to show up, but not much longer than that).

From there, you are on the long road to recovery, and you can enjoy watching that ‘Restoring’ progress bar for the next few hours.



9 thoughts on “Restore from a Drobo FS to your mac, over the network, using OS X Lion

  1. Would this still be an issue if the Drobo were plugged directly into my Apple Time Capsule’s gigabit Ethernet port? Or is that how you have it setup?

    1. I have the Drobo FS connected to one of my Airport Extreme gigabit ports, and my iMac also connected directly to another Airport Extreme ports. I haven’t tried plugging in the Drobo FS to a time capsule, so I’m not sure if it would be a problem…

  2. Thanks so much for this post – the use of the hdid command SAVED me during my migration to Mountain Lion, and is absent from any other similar articles I could find.

  3. Looking for some help here please. I’m ok right up until step 3. I’ve looked at my sparsebundle name and seems i’ve set it up in my Mac as “Ben’s Mac” – this now reflects in the “ls” as “Ben???s Mac” but when I try to use this name in the command it doesn’t recognise the space and returns an error

    What I entered
    hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine/Ben???s Mac.sparsebundle

    hdiutil: attach: extra image argument “Mac.sparsebundle” – “/Volumes/TimeMachine/Ben???s” already specified
    Usage: hdiutil attach [options]
    hdiutil attach -help

    Help please

    1. Ben – try hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine/Ben\’\s\ Mac.sparsebundle

      Alternatively, you might also try to use Disk Utility to Open an Image – navigate to the location and open that way.

  4. Thanks for the detail instructions. I ran everything and was able to mount my sparsebundle. However, recovery say “Backups were not found” even though if I go to time machine or just drilling into the folders I can see my previous backups. Any ideas?

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