Power On Software’s Rewind – a utility that promises to undo changes you’ve made to your Mac by sending the state of your Mac’s hard drive “back in time” – should serve as an object lesson on how not to release a piece of software.
The Rewind demo generated a deafening buzz at July 2000’s Macworld Expo New York. And then Power On released Rewind 1.0, a program so buggy that a subsequent update appeared to be designed only to disable Rewind’s most unstable components. The latest version, 1.1, delivers much of what the program promises, but some problems remain.
The theory behind Rewind is easy to grasp. It tracks changes you make to your hard drive – software installations, changes to the System Folder, and the trashing of items, among other things – and stores data related to these actions in a hidden database. If you do something you’re unhappy with – you download a virus, for example – you can command Rewind to return your Mac to the state it was in before you initiated that action.
If you’ve done something so destructive that you can’t boot from your hard drive, Rewind lets you start your Mac from Emergency Disk – a hidden, user-configurable partition that contains a System Folder and diagnostic utilities.
In tests where we rewound individual files and recovered trashed files, Rewind performed admirably. And it fared reasonably well when recovering entire disks, but its performance wasn’t perfect. For example, after installing two troubleshooting utilities on a PowerBook G3, we rewound the disk to the previous day. Rewind failed to remove the folders for the recently installed utilities. However, reversing the process – sending the drive forward to a time after we installed the utilities – brought the files back as originally installed.
Rewind 1.1 is a good addition to your data-recovery tool kit, and it’s likely to improve with each update. Enough quirks remain, however, that we’ll use it in combination with other utilities – such as Dantz’s Retrospect – as our frontline defence against disk corruption.