My Catalina Nightmare and The Apple Support Staff Who Saved Me
This is a warning to anybody who is thinking about installing the Catalina beta, particularly on an older Mac… BACK UP YOUR STUFF. Thankfully, I did and iCloud saved me with the vast majority of my files. There were a few that I had to recover from my Time Machine backup but all is well now. So how did this nightmare start?
Welcome to my 5 part saga…
Being the nerd that I am, I decide to take a look at the macOS Catalina beta and thought it would be fun to install to see what’s going to be coming up soon for myself. Now, I do this every year with every new version of macOS and I have never had an installation issue. So I just set it to install and left it to do its thing. I went to get some groceries and I came back a couple of hours later to notice that the progress bar was stuck at about 90% with nothing much going on. So I forced a restart and waited. The same thing happened. I tried a third time, still no luck. So I started to panic and I was wondering when the last Time Machine back up was. Fortunately, I’d done one the day before whilst I was half asleep so I calmed down a little and called Apple Support.
I spoke to a very nice lady from Ireland called Julie who helped me sort out what the hell was going on. We booted into Recovery Mode and tried to get the beta to install again. Nothing happened. We tried Internet Recovery Mode and still, it wouldn’t install. At this point, we agreed I should give up and downgrade to Mojave, so we fired up Internet Recovery Mode and tried to get it to revert back to Mojave and that’s when things got weird. Macintosh HD also had a friend that we didn’t know about, Macintosh HD – Data. After several minutes of us wondering why this was on the system, we just carried on and installed Mojave on to the regular Macintosh HD disk. And whatdoyaknow, it STILL didn’t work. So now we had a problem on our hands. Through a series of workarounds, we finally got Mojave to install and Julie told me I would be able to restore my Time Machine backup. She then left with me some instructions as to what to do when it finally installed and hung up. Call duration 2 hours, 18 minutes and 34 seconds. She was amazing and I thank her for everything she did. However, what she wasn’t to know is that my Time Machine backup wouldn’t restore., due to a lack of free space. I start to panic again.
It was 11pm now and Apple Support was closed, so I had to use their Live Chat system instead which was fine, though a bit slow with responses. A guy called Daniel told me that I would be able to set up the system as new and then let iCloud do most of the work, with Migration Assistant filling in the gaps.
The same issue occurred as before, only this time *Migration Assistant* said it wouldn’t be able to do it and asked me to uncheck some of the files to make it work. I unchecked everything I could, yet it still said there wasn’t enough free space. I gave up and decided it would be better just to sort it out in the morning. I finally went to bed just after 2:15am.
I woke up this morning with my Mac having downloaded some iCloud files in the background overnight and I had the majority of my stuff there but I still wanted to know what was up with this extra volume on the disk and I wanted to be able to restore some of my previous settings etc. I actually found it was easier to manually re-download a lot of my apps, not that I had many anyway, only about a dozen or so 3rd party apps. I call Apple Support again and got through to this wonderful lady called Moira.
She did Screen Sharing with me and worked out what the problem was that was preventing me from going through with the Migration Assistant; *Macintosh HD – Data*.
60.67GB of my 128GB SSD was taken up by this strange volume, which I never made and I never remember anybody else making. Moira then told me that it must have been made at some point so we clicked Get Info and it showed it was made in November 2015. Now, I remembered something happened with my Mac back then, but I couldn’t remember exactly what it was.
*And then it clicked… that data recovery guy.*
At the time, I didn’t have my external hard drive for Time Machine backups, and I unfortunately deleted a very important file which I desperately needed. I also didn’t have documents in the cloud on either. In the end, mum hired a guy to come over and try to get him to recover the data. It was a long shot but we wanted to try. In the end, it was fruitless. But as part of the process, he created this extra volume on the disk, which just never got deleted. I also bought an external HDD after that experience.
Moira and I combed through everything on this extra volume and transferred over everything that we needed. She then told me to back up again on Time Machine but it would take some time so she advised me to call back later. Call duration, 1 hour, 56 minutes and 14 seconds. 45.8GB backed up and just under 2 hours later, I called Apple Support again.
This was the final call and I get put through to a Senior Advisor called Adam who coached me through what to do and was very helpful in explaining why data recovery people create partitions / volumes to find corrupted data and through Recovery Mode, we finally deleted Macintosh HD – Data for good. Nuked that dead weight of 64+GB. A restart and a few system tweaks here and there, and my Mac was finally running as normal again. 24 hours of hell and stress, all because Catalina didn’t like me, it seems.
The moral of the story is that iCloud saved me and my Time Machine backup proved useful in saving me from potential disaster, though I didn’t need that backup in the end really, aside from copying over some files manually. But above all else, being able to get this level of tech support for FREE really is something I can’t get over. I was honestly expecting that I’d screwed up the disk so bad when the 4th attempt at installation didn’t work that I’d have to send it off to Apple and it would cost me money I don’t have.
But nope, these people all helped me and kept excellent logs of everything. I have come away from this experience a little more weary of macOS betas, but I did get over 60GB of internal storage freed up in the process. Every (i)Cloud, a silver lining.
Apple Support Ireland, you’re all amazing. I can’t thank you enough!