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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Importance Of Backing Up - Your Computer!

    I just avoided a catastrophe....barely. I had an old laptop that had a bunch of documents and software on it that need an older version of Windows. I keep it around to program radios and other older devices I still use. A few days ago, I needed to add a channel to a few radios and when I booted up the laptop it warned me that the hard drive was going to fail...soon. I'd never seen that exact message, so I thought backing up would be a prudent thing to do. Boy, was I ever right! Sometimes the universe smiles upon us and the stars align to avoid a major hassle. This was one of those times. I am most grateful!


Since it is an older laptop and I don't have many applications on it, there was only about 43 gigabytes of data on its small internal drive. So I attached an external 500 megabyte USB drive I had around and went to do a backup. This laptop gets some additional attention since it is required to program some devices that won't work with later versions of Windows and REALLY want a regular old-fashioned serial port. Not one of those Serial to USB adapters. The built-in backup tool from Windows XP is awful. I needed something a bit more robust that would allow me to restore the entire drive when the old one finally fails. That's where this adventure begins.

Typical Backup Screen.
Picking the right backup tool is critical. A quick search online for "Free Windows XP (or whatever version you have) backup" will garner MANY results. I narrowed it down to two of them. EaseUS Todo and Macrium Reflect. After researching both the back up AND the restore processes I chose EasUS Todo. Why? Well, because when I really need to get back up and running after a catastrophic failure, I don't want to have any additional stress. It's bad enough to have the hard drive fail. It's another thing to have the restore process cause extra problems. It should go smoothly with the least amount of pain possible.

Now on to the backup process. With EaseUS it was mostly point and click. Download and install the program. Start it up, choose a drive to backup and a destination for the data. Click start. That's it. It will take a while to finish. A lot longer if you have a very large hard drive to backup. I suggest you make an emergency disk or Flash drive in case you need to restore in a...well...emergency! Coincidentally, the following day when I went to boot the laptop to finish the radio reprogramming it wouldn't boot! I had a spare 512gb 2.5" laptop drive so I pulled the failed one and installed the new one. Booted from the emergency disk and restored.

Bingo, I was back up and running in about an hour, with additional hard drive storage space as a bonus. I can't tell you how nice that was. I mean, it's always a hassle when a hard drive fails, but when you plan for it...not so bad. Of course I didn't lose ANY data because I had JUST backed up... but depending upon how often you make a backup, you may lose something. Believe me, it will be better to have the majority of your programs and data available for the restore than none at all!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com




10 comments:

  1. Excellent article on the importance of backing up your computer. I would add that your first decision on backing up your computer is do you want to back it up to a device that you actually own or do you back it up using a service that stores your data off site.
    The advantage of backing up to a device you actually own is that there are no monthly/yearly fees.
    The advantage of paying for offsite backup is that if a fire, theft or disaster strikes you still have your backup

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      For me, there is really no choice. i would never back up to the "cloud." i prefer to have my backup wherever and whenever I need it. Safe and secure in my possession.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
    2. Rich, you'd be wise to backup to both the cloud and locally. What happens if your gear gets stolen, lost or burned? Without a cloud backup, you've got nothing. Also in the case of the encryption type viruses, online backups usually keep 30 days of backups and you can go back to before the infection and recover you data. I'm an I.T. admin and I do both, local backups because it's faster and easier to recover from but the cloud backup is a necessity.

      Delete
    3. Craig,
      I do backup to A cloud, just not THE cloud. I have several off site backup locations so any catastrophe will not be completely fatal. The main difference is, I control access to all of the locations and it is under direct control. Not floating about in cyberspace served by computers owned by huge companies.

      No, I am NOT a conspiracy fanatic. Just a realist.

      I prefer to keep my information private. I'll wager a whole lot of folks do as well.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  2. Great, Your computer is dead, and everything is in the 'cloud.' Now, what?
    Better to have at hand, JMHO.
    Invest in an external hard drive, and do a total mirror of your hard drive. That gives a remove and replace repair.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I do both. I have file backups on USB sticks, and full backups on external drives and cloud. Why? I am the multimedia director for our church, and have had two portable hard drives to fail: one a Toshiba and one a WD. I also have made neoprene cases in which to keep the pocket drives, because they are easy to drop...like cell phones! lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brenda,
      Belt and suspenders approaches work well, but i am still uncomfortable sending all my personal data to be stored on someone else's system.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  4. I have an automatic script on each of my machines that makes backups of my CRITICAL data, compresses it extra-aggressively, encrypts that archive with serious security, and cross-copies it to the other LAN machines as a fully automatic mutual-backup. Periodically, I also clone those shared backups to an external storage off-site for "end of the world" backups against things like whole-office fire.

    One thing to keep in mind is that YOUR data is considerably smaller than the whole system, so depending on your comfort level you can backup just your linux '~' or windows "my documents" or whatever other directories, in full knowledge that you'll reinstall the (bloated?) OS separately if you crash. This makes your backups MUCH smaller, but 2-stage restoration is potentially more complex.

    Regardless of "my data" vs. "whole system" backups, you should use multiple backups (never overwriting your "last" backup, just in case the PC crashes in the middle of backing up...), and Full+Incremental backup practices. Full is a "from scratch" backup that can take hours, while Incremental only backs up what's changed *since* the last backup (usually very small changes) and so only takes minutes. To restore, you point to the last incremental, and it will still rebuild the data just as if you had made full backups every time -- without the several-hour penalty every backup.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wolfe,
      For convenience sake (and because HD space is so inexpensive, I typically take a full image of the drive. that way i can restore it to a new drive as a whole. This allows me to repartition the space as needed. Most of the time, I have larger drives lying around so that comes in quite handy!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete

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