Canadian man sues after Time Capsule backup loses photos of child’s birth

“A Surrey, B.C., man is suing the Apple computer company for $25,000 after his Time Capsule backup drive crashed, taking with it a year of photographs including those showing the birth of his first child,” CBC News reports.

“In his suit filed in B.C.’s small claims court, Perminder Tung says he bought the Apple Time Capsule in June 2009 and used it to back up two MacBooks and an iPhone,” CBC News reports. “It failed last month, he alleges, and when he took it back to the Apple Store, he was told the data was lost and irretrievable.”

CBC News reports, “Tung, who is a lawyer, says he’s since learned of many other Time Capsule failures, which have spawned online forums, a memorial register and dubious fix-it yourself videos. In his claim, Tung is suing Apple Canada for just over $25,000 to replace the hardware and to compensate him for the loss of recorded memories like the birth of his first child.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Not Apple’s problem. Users are responsible for backing up properly and backing up properly means having multiple backups, made at regular intervals, which are not all located at the same site. Perminder Tung, through his own incompetence, is responsible for the loss of the photos showing the birth of his first child, not Apple.

113 Comments

    1. My wife once worked for a backup company doing tech support. One of her co-workers once asked a customer a question that I think applies here:

      “And when did these documents become important to you?”

      1. Well, in all fairness, there are some files that you don’t necessarily access on a regular basis, but they are important to keep archived and safe for when you do want/need to access them. (I don’t know the context which this question was asked, but still…)

        1. To be sure, it was a rude question that should have gotten the individual disciplined, but the jerk customer was asking if there was any way he could recover files he had not scheduled for backup. It was pure laziness on the customer’s part and now he wanted the backup company to bail him out of a hard drive crash. My wife took over the call and recommended a data recovery service.

    2. If this man “backed up” his data to a Time Capsule and then deleted the data from the originals, then the Time Capsule is no longer a “backup.” It instantly became primary storage.

      If he had the misfortune to simultaneously lose two MacBooks and an iPhone and, then, his Time Capsule crashed while attempting to recover the data from those items, then he had terrible lucy, be he should have been able to recover his data from a safe, offsite backup (cloned HDD, Carbonite, etc.).

      What? He did not have one? Too freakin’ bad, bozo. Go sue somewhere else because I am damn tired of the lack of personal responsibility in this world.

    3. I don’t get it. If the Time Capsule is the “backup,” then the primary copy still exists. While it is possible that BOTH the primary storage and backup can fail at the exact same time, or for a catastrophe like a fire or flood to destroy both at the same time, it would be unlikely. A Time Capsule uses a hard drive; of course it can fail (at any time without warning). But the primary copy of the data should still exist.

      I use Time Machine to a local external hard drive as my main backup. I really like it because it works automatically, every hour. For my most important data files, I make a secondary (manual) backup to a network storage location.

  1. “Backup” doesn’t mean “only copy in the world”…these photos shoulda still been on one of his computers. So is he claiming a double failure, or that he’s an idiot?

    1. Good call. He must have just moved the photos to a Time Capsule share, not backed them up through Time machine. Time Machine + Time Capsule is perfect b/c you end-up with two copies of everything.

      Unfortunately, hard drives die all the time; it’s not Apple’s fault.

      1. Yeah, and he must really love those “photos of the birth of his first child” (cue the emotional string orchestra here) if he couldn’t even be arsed to keep them on a device where he could see them.

        Proud papa indeed!

        1. I disagree with the comment trend here. Apple market’s great products to consumers “that just work”. That is their hard earned and mostly deserved reputation.

          If a backup is failing, it should be a self-detected and self-reporting problem before anything happens to the original copy. If he was getting warnings like that, then it is the customers fault for not taking corrective action. If not, then Apple needs the feedback.

          (Still recommend periodic BR-ROM, and continual hard-drive and cloud backups though.)

          1. I concur. If Apple’s products are supposed to “just work” and they don’t, without warning, I have trouble blaming the user.

            I had trouble a few years ago with a software version of RAID that Apple implemented. It did not alert me when one of the HDs began to degrade and several months went by before a hard failure occurred. A few geeks on this forum told me, “You just didn’t know what you were doing”. But, isn’t that the kind of response you’d expect from a Windows geek.

            Windows UI ranges from poorly conceived to outright thoughtless garbage. Apple advertises that they get UI and their HW/SW integration is the superior paradigm.

            Well, put up or shut up.

            1. Its easy to blame the user, this is user level equipment, its not high end server storage.

              If you really really want to keep it safe, place it in multiple places, including off-site on media that has proven longevity.

              He obviously removed the photos from any and all computers assuming that a single point of failure, his time capsule, would never ever fail. This is extremely foolish..

            2. Only a moron will use a BACKUP DEVICE as a archival storage device.

              Apples time capsule is sold as Backup only, not as an Archival storage device.

              2 years ago Apple was sued for almost the same thing and Apple prevailed since it is not marketed as a Archival device, so no matter how you slice and dice this it is User fault for not understanding the difference, and Apple makes it perfectly clear that that the device is BACKUP ONLY not for long term storage of Archival information.

              This will be thrown out just as the other on was.

              It’s so funny how Trolls take over that have no clue of the difference and what a Backup device for short term use is compared to a Archival storage system for long term use.

            3. It’s also funny how you, Here We Go, have no clue that regular non-tech-savvy consumers have don’t know the difference and can’t expected to know. You are calling the vast majority of computer users “morons.” I would suggest “only a moron” thinks all computer users are as competent as you are.

            4. “Non-tech-savvy” users is an excuse. A very old and tired excuse. In this day and age, consumers are expected to know. RTFM on common sense.

            5. JimR, where do you get this revelation that consumers “are expected to know” technology? In what circles do you run? Come back to the planet and find out about the millions who are still just on the edge of trying to grasp computer use. I have taught technology classes from middle school through adult and I can tell you there is an enormous number who still aren’t comfortable. How many classes of tech-phobic adults have you taught?

              Consumers “are expected to know” only but people like you. People with some sense an an overview of people understand that many do not know. We would LIKE consumers to know about tech, but they all do not…even some kids who you would think know more than the adults around them.

              Those who don’t know often stay silent on the fringes lest they embarrass themselves. My feeling is that tech (including keyboarding) needs to be TAUGHT from the earliest grades with the same enthusiasm as reading, writing, and math. Some schools do. Many just SAY they do because they have students USE computers or iPads. Not the same.

              Many teachers -MANY – are still computer illiterate, or t least phobic, themselves.

              Get a new attitude, JimR. Get some experience in the real world. And get some understanding and compassion for those who want to know tech, but simply don’t.

            6. He obviously had enough “tech saviness” to use his TC as an external drive. Apple sells the TC as a backup device when used in conjunction with Time Machine. The user manual provides quite specific steps on how to. Obviously the Canandian attorney did not take the time to read – not a good characteristic for one practicing law.

            7. TBSteph, I don’t know the full story. Do you? In some posts, people are speaking generally, not necessarily to this specific case. Someone else could have set up the drive for him. Or he could have. Many don’t read manuals. Do you read every manual on everything? Even so, some just don’t get it.

              Apple, and the other computer manufacturers, could do a lot more to directly teach these principles and procedures, but they don’t. I could easily set something up to help any company with this. Consumers would feel much better about getting into it. But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

              I have known some very unknowledgeable, disgustingly unknowledgeable, lawyers. I don’t know this guy. But it doesn’t matter. Many statements here are aimed at consumers generally, not just at him.

            8. Hg…you are “expected” to know many things. The law, for instance. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, despite the fact that there are more laws than a person could learn in a lifetime.

              The vast majority of people are morons. It just so happens that many of them use computers.

            9. Well, King Mel, I can’t disagree with you on much of your last premise. But I will take a position counter to the “ignorance of the law” excuse.

              It has now become impossible for anyone, even the lawmakers themselves, to know the law. In the past, this “excuse” dealt with a difficult, but potentially knowable body of law. Today, it has become absolutely impossible to know the law. Far too many innocent people are now behind bars for “crimes” about which they knew nothing, had no way of knowing had they wanted to, would not have broken had they known and, frankly, which should not have even been laws in the first place.

              Witness the guilty person recently punished for doing his job unclogging a toilet. Governmental abuse is now entrenched in these unknowable laws and needs to be reversed if we are to try to live in a just and fair society. It’s not happening.

              But we should differentiate lack of knowledge of the law from transgressions of people who simply didn’t take the right classes, get the proper training, or have someone who knows what they’re doing to help them but did not violate a law.

              I know the computer makers could do a far better job with built-in training to such people on their equipment. I am not incompetent in technology, but I certainly admits I do not know everything and can still mess up without the help of you and others. For those who want to do the right thing but who don’t have our shared resources, the task proves impossible.

            10. This goes beyond technical knowledge, precedes it, however you want to look at it. This is a common sense issue. If you only have your data in one location, it no longer becomes a backup does it?

            11. You’re exactly right, JimR. The lack of common sense out there is just what King Mel is saying. Sometimes common sense needs to have some foundation though. Once people hear something once, it then seems like common sense to them. I have worked with quite a few people who have such a phobia of tech that they can’t think much beyond the next keystroke. Those people first need some self-confidence that they can actually handle the computer. Then they can step back and start thinking sensibly. There really still are many people at that end of the spectrum.

              It seems sensible that a lawyer should be beyond that level but, as I said, some lawyers are themselves not very competent. And, even though all equipment can fail, Apple really does have to substantially reduce the failure rate of this particular equipment.

          2. Hard drive die. Period. Sometimes without warning. I’ve had three hard drive die in the last few years, but most of the information was backed up on several other drives. The information I only had on one of the crashed drives? Well, that was my fault for not backing it up. One of those three drives was “killed” when my cat walked behind my computer, grabbed the power cord in his mouth, and yanked, causing the drive to come crashing to the ground. Yes, citing emotional pain and anguish, I was sorely tempted to initiate legal proceedings against my cat, but my lawyer advised me that juries always side with the cat, so I refrained.

            Maybe this guy will make multiple backups of his second kid being born.

        2. And there is a difference between a backup and an archive.
          he should have been “archiving” valued data, regardless of what the content, to a more permanent format such as a dvd.
          Using the cloud is great and convenient but i wouldn’t feel comfortable if i didn’t also put something that was personally important to me on a dvd too.

      2. The problem is with the lack of redundancy in the Time Capsule. It doesn’t matter if they make one that’s a billion terabytes, when it fails, it fails, and you have no built in redundancy. That’s why I haven’t bought a Time Capsule as much as I love the products. I have a Western Digital MyBook with a two-disk RAID set up so that when one drive fails, as it will inevitably do, I can still recover.
        I wish Apple would make a 2-drive Time Capsule.

        1. The solution is to have two devices (at least). One at home and one at your office or trusted friend/family member’s house.

          A Time Capsule with two drives does you no good when it’s been stolen or destroyed.

    2. “Backup” doesn’t mean “only copy in the world”

      EXACTLY!
      Giant DUH Factor Mr. Tung ! ! !
      You FAIL.
      (o_0)

      The Number 1 Rule of Computing IS…
      (chant along with me kids)…
      Make A Backup!

      What is a BACKUP?

      1) You keep your ORIGINAL where it is.
      2) You make the FIRST backup locally where it is easily accessible.
      3) You make the SECOND backup OFF SITE so you always have the data in case your location is burned to the ground.
      4) There is no #4.

      This guy merely MOVED everything over to the Time Capsule. Therefore, the BIG QUESTION IS…

      Did he make a backup?

      NOOOO!
      He did NOT make a backup!
      *FAIL*FAIL*FAIL*

      Save your lawyer fees and get along home. Do better in the future.

  2. Begging your pardon, MDN, but isn’t Apple somewhat responsible for their products functioning as advertised? Yes, the responsibility for backing up rests with the user, but if there have been multiple instances of Time Capsule failures that can be traced to a design flaw in the device, then isn’t that something that Apple is responsible for?

      1. “Tung, who is a lawyer, says he’s since learned of many other Time Capsule failures…”

        While all hard drives fail eventually, this statement seems to indicate to me that the Time Capsule hard drive failures were outside the norm.

        1. Ok, so I could say that about ANY external hard drive enclosure. If I go online, I can find failures for every make and model of external HDD based storage device out there. Does that mean that there is some material problem with the devices? Or does it just mean that they have hard drives in them?

          He bought the thing in 2009 – there are plenty of variables that go into MTBF on a hard drive. Who knows what temps it was operating in, if his two year old knocked it off the shelf a few times, etc. Who knows? To say that Apple is responsible because other people’s Time Capsules have also failed is a leap… He even made it out of the warranty period.

          And having a single backup is still user error.

          1. I’m with you there that we don’t know all the circumstances under which this user was using his device, or the other users whose devices failed, for that matter. I suspect all of those facts will come up in court to determine what really happened and who is really responsible. (After all, that’s what courts are for. 🙂 )

          2. “…And having a single backup is still user error.”

            Yes, but how many “typical average” (computer semi-illiterate) users know this?

            Most of those who post here or at any technology site are fully aware of this, but I doubt many of these “typical average” users are even aware of the necessity to backup, at all… let alone have any redundant back-up. And let’s be honest, no PC maker is promoting back-up redundancy to these average users.

        2. All hard drives fail given enough time. The failure rate is very predictable (a long bell curve over a span of maybe about 10-20 years, with a few failing weeks after being built, and a precious few lasting seemingly forever), but when any one drive will fail is impossible to predict.

          In the last several years millions of Time Capsules have been sold. Therefore at least tens of thousands have already failed.

          Literally millions of Ford automobiles have “failed” since 1908, and are now out of service. (Ford jokes aside) does that automatically mean Ford has a failure rate outside the norm?

          1. Right, so that’s the question – is the Time Capsule failure rate outside the norm? If it is, or it beats the curve, then this man loses the case. If, however, the failure rate is behind the curve, then Apple does bear some responsibility (note I said some, not all).

      2. I love my Apple tech, but even Apple can get things wrong, especially with marketing ‘untruths’: Apple did advertise TM as having ‘server grade hard drives installed’ which were later found to be standard desktop SATA drives installed.

        Using server grade implies better longevity of the part, even although server grade tech can fail at any time.

        If his claim is for misrepresentation of goods, he may have a case.

        1. Apple actually had a design flaw in one of their early time capsule designs circa 2009 and quietly issued a recall for service on certain serial numbers. Some people just got replacements. You can read about it on the Apple forums. It’ll all come out in court.

    1. If he used the product as advertised then there would be no problem. If he had used Time Capsule as a BACKUP, which is what is is ADVERTISED as, then his photos would still be on his computer. Time Capsule is not advertised as extra storage to offload from your computer

      1. Exactly. Let’s look at some realities:

        1. Hardware fails. This is inevitable
        2. One hard drive has exactly the same chance of failing as any other hard drive.

        The point of time machine is that it backs up files you have in TWO PLACES because the PROBABILITY of BOTH your Internal Drive and the Time Machine Drive failing AT THE EXACT SAME TIME is astronomically low!

        This way, if something happens to one of the drives, you immediately go and get another drive, and either restore from a time machine backup, or create a new time machine backup on the next drive.

        YOU CAN NOT offload stuff onto a Time Machine Disk and expct it to be okay!?

        Also, time machine deletes older files when space fills up, so if you want to keep a file, you have to have it on both your mac and your time machine backup.

        Basically, if he moved them off manually, they wouldn’t be included in the time machine backup, AND WOULD STILL be deleted when the disk was full (from his backups)

        Additional data added to the disks will remain there as long as the disk lives.

    2. They took responsibility for the problem and it was a very short window, this guy had a 3 year old unit that was a second gen that doesn’t have the problems, also he was offered a replacement and refused. The unit was out of warranty by over 2 years, and since no device is marketed to be fail proof he already has lost.

      Big diffrence from a archival storage solution, Backup devices are NOT the same.

      Archival drives are for this, Backup drives like Time Capsule are for short term use only, and Apple is very specific about that.

  3. If he lost the photos and videos, then he lost at least both copies — the original and the backup. From the story, it appears that he was treating the Time Capsule as the place to store originals without a backup. Can you say operator error?

    1. Exactly. Either this, or he tried to manually copy his precious photos to the time machine drive, and then removed them from his computer. He did not use it the way it was meant to be used

  4. So, he deleted the pictures from his MacBook (the source of the backups), leaving a single copy of the pictures on his Time Capsule, and he thinks that Apple is responsible? Ok.

    And this guy has never thought to get prints made of his precious photos?

  5. But TimeMachine is the BACKUP, what did he do with the original? I know you might find your original gone, and then realize TM data to be screwed, but it is the second instance.

    1. +1

      Time machine is a BACKUP, not an ARCHIVE. The dumbass should have used the Cloud or hard media like CD/DVD’s or as an archive. If he had them printed and his house caught on fire, would he sue the fire department because they didn’t save his pictures? That’s their job right, to stop the fire right?! Problem with that is it’s not their job to prevent the fire or protect stupid people from themselves.

  6. So what happened to the originals? Time Capsule is a backup strategy and as MDN points out, if you don’t have more than one, you’re asking for data loss. I hope Apple wins and sues him for court costs. It might not have been responsible for ruining the memories of his child’s birth, but maybe it can help assure that he doesn’t have the money to put his progeny through law school.

  7. Yeah, I would consider better securing super value moments to more than one device like, (burn on a CD, copy to a USB drive). However, I doubt that the hard drive would be completely “unrecoverable” because there are a lot data recovery businesses and software.

      1. Backing up to disc is fine as long as it is one of several backups. But you are correct that CD/DVDs degrade over time. A recordable disc can’t be counted on to work after 10 years.

  8. You should only need the original file and a backup file. Anymore and its overkill in my opinion. So….the article didn’t state what happened to his original file.

    But what MDN suggests is overkill. Should a database company holding people’s documents…then yes.

    1. Hey, if you don’t value your data, then fine. At a minimum, everyone should have a backup (using Time Machine, or something else) and an offsite backup. What happens if your place goes up in flames? All your data is gone.

      I use Time Machine for my local backups, and CrashPlan. I also do a CCC of my system to another external weekly, but I REALLY like my data.

      To say that only enterprise databases should have backup redundancy is just asking to be in this guy’s situation one day.

    1. … a fully skilled and properly paranoid IT guy?
      Apple has been marketing these things as if the user base would consist of people who know what they are doing, and why. Tung does not qualify. Most of Apple’s user base does not qualify. These folks have just recently learned about “backup” and STILL have not learned about “archive”. If he had truly known the essentials of “backup”, would he have deleted his original files in the first place? Not if he were an IT guy.
      Being under-informed or under-educated does not mean you are a “moron”. Or that he is. I fully expect he could ask you a dozen questions each beyond your experience but within his own, would that make YOU the moron? I wouldn’t think that.

      1. I’m hoping that some of these posters will understand what you and I have been trying to get across, OrPerhaps. Very frustrating to see these attitudes of people thinking all others should know as much as they do, or else they can justify their calling those less knowledgeable “morons.”

  9. I understand the man’s frustration, pain and loss, we had a important data lost & its heartbreaking. I had over 28,000 sounds in my iTunes library and over the process of backing up, restoring & upgrading iTunes and hard drives… Somehow I lost all that music. iTunes said I still had 28,000 songs yet when I went to play them, nearly all were missing.

    I never once thought it was Apple’s fault, or the software itself. I’m sure I did something, at one time, and lost it from not being diligent enough to protect myself from the loss.

    I’m not sure, but wonder, if perhaps its his wife that’s making the most fuss & Apple is being used as the convenience of a scapegoat for his own hide.

  10. The design of the Time Capsule of mashing a hard drive and a wireless transmitter together in a slim form rectangle that is inadequately ventilated is prone to failure. Particularly when you have an embedded antenna in a planar array within the body of the device itself. Radio waves generate heat. This is unavoidable.

    It’s always best to have a properly ventilated hard drive enclosure attached to a wireless transmitter as it removes the hard drive from the heat source. Further, the hard drive itself by virtue of spinning disks generates heat which combined by heat generated by radio waves makes the surface of the hard drive’s platters susceptible to warping.

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