My MacBook Pro's hard drive died last week. I got a new 250gb drive from Alex and replaced the dead one. Good thing I use Time Machine and a Time Capsule, I thought...

FAIL #1: The Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard installer has an option to incorporate a Time Machine backup, so I mounted my Time Capsule. Unfortunately, Apple apparently hardwired the shared Data volume into this client. Of course, I chose to put my backups on my personal pepper volume, not the common Data volume accessible to other users! The Snow Leopard Installer absolutely refused to let me mount pepper or restore from Time Machine. I checked, and the backup is a 750gb .sparsebundle package on a 1tb Time Capsule, so I couldn't just move it over to the volume the Installer was fixated on -- not enough space.

FAIL #2: I copied the whole .sparsebundle backup to an external 1tb disk, but the Installer couldn't see the backup. It saw the disk, but couldn't find the backup. I tried putting it into a Backup folder, but no joy. Fortunately the Installer points out that you can also restore from Migration Assistant after installation (necessary if you're restoring to a Mac other than the one which made the backup).

So I cursed a little, did a regular install, and rebooted.

FAIL #3: Apple's welcome app (loud music & whizzy graphics) can restore Time Machine backups, but again couldn't see my pepper volume or restore from my hard disk. So I had to walk through creating my account again.

FAIL #4: After logging in, I launched /Applications/Utilities/Migration Assistant (I know most people don't even know it exists, much less where, although it's easy enough to find if you know what you're looking for), and told it I wanted to restore from a Time Machine backup. Again, it was unable to see either my network or local backups, but once I double-clicked the .sparsebackup file it mounted as "Time Machine Backups" and Migration Assistant saw it. Confusingly, Migration Assistant showed the new volume as 'prowler ("prowler")', which doesn't match its name on the Desktop.

Volume names are confusing!

Migration Assistant immediately complained that I was logged in as user pepper, and my backup included a user pepper, and it cannot replace the active account. I won't call this a failure because it's a legitimately intractable problem, but I used "sudo passwd root", logged in as root, and reran the migration -- this is hardly reasonable to expect of users.

This is a fine Catch-22!

Let's hope Apple fixes the Time Machine restore functionality in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, because this is awful.