Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Articles covering computer maintenance and data backup and restore.
Windows 7 includes an improved backup utility, but I find it confusing and difficult to understand compared to other alternatives.
There's a new class of online storage available for free that can be used for remote backups. Should you use them? As part of a larger strategy, maybe.
It's tempting to backup to a separate partition because it's somewhat like another disk. The problem is that it's not. You could be risking your data.
It's quite possible to backup multiple machines to a single external hard drive. I'll review two approaches: the annoying, yet easy way and the right way.
With multiple machines connected to a local area network, it's often reasonable to have some of them backup over the network to a shared backup drive.
Backing up to a second physical internal drive can be a surprisingly reasonable tool in your backup arsenal as long as you understand its limitations.
There's nothing that says you have to use what's on that hard disk. Either ignore it or delete it and use Macrium.
Backing up to a service or server across the internet can be a useful part of a larger backup strategy, but the technique does have important limits.
It's possible to place the backups for multiple machines onto a single external hard drive; I'll look at the issues and why you might not want to do this.
Formatting a hard disk erases everything on it. Depending on how the hard disk was formatted, it might be possible to recover data. Or not.
Depending on the way your imaging software is written, this could be a difficult to impossible task. There are a couple of hoops you may have to jump through to get it to work. But that's not the real problem!
Restoring a backup to a larger drive is not a problem. You may end up needing to do some partition management.
Restoring the registry is similar to the way System Restore works. The results as a backup strategy may be unreliable.
The concept seems simple: take a system image of one machine, restore it to another, and avoid lengthy setup time. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
Backup and encryption can go together depending on your needs. There are options, beginning with which comes first: the backup or the encryption?
It's possible for malware to become part of a backup if your machine is infected at the time of the backup. It's not the end of the world.
It's tempting to just use file copy tools to backup what you think you need. But if you're not careful, you could easily miss something very important.
Restoring a backup doesn't technically reformat the drive, but the results are often similar. I'll look at the differences and when they might matter.
Old machines and old hard disks have a way of accumulating over time. We'll look at a few ways to keep the contents without keeping the entire machine.
I'll look at a couple of ways to back up to a computer located elsewhere, such as on a friend's or family member's computer, and discuss some of the issues of doing this.
Reinstalling Windows erases and overwrites the data on your machine. Recovering it is difficult, if not impossible.
Data recovery from flash drives is problematic enough, but recovering encrypted data from a failing flash drive might be nearly impossible.
I took technology with me on my three week vacation, as most of us do. It was an opportunity to think through how best to prepare for the worst.
Backing up is important not only for your PC but for your digital book purchases as well. I'll look at whether you need to and how.
Backing up installed software often happens with system backups, but it's not enough. You need additional steps to properly backup installed software.
Backing up a large number of machines over a network has a number of challenges. PST files are only one aspect of the issue.
"First backup the registry" is a common instruction when troubleshooting other problems. We look at three different ways to backup the registry.
When re-using a hard drive, erasing the old system information is certainly a good idea. The best approach might be to backup and reformat.
DriveImage XML is a free (for home use) backup and imaging program. I'll walk through the steps of creating a complete hard drive backup image.
The problem with expanding the size of partitions is that they can only be expanded from the back – but that's not your biggest problem – backing up to a partition isn't safe!
Recovering lost files and folders is easy if they were backed up. If not, it's going to be a long process and your technician will need to know all the details about how the files were lost.
Computer maintenance need not be a huge burden. Setting a few utilities up to run automatically can reduce the amount of manual work dramatically.
It's not uncommon for uninstallers to leave behind "leftovers" after they complete. Sometimes intentional, sometimes not. How to deal with leftovers.
The approach that I'm going to suggest is quite practical and I think it kills two birds with one stone.
BitLocker is Microsoft's encryption technology available in some versions of Windows. I'll explain why I don't use it and don't recommend it for backups.
Restoring to a smaller drive is, unfortunately, difficult to do with most backup software. I list the steps necessary to get the job done.
You've been good and you've been making sure your machine is backed up regularly. Now I'll cover what happens should you need to restore from a backup.
Once your machine is infected, system backups are likely to include the infection as well. I'll look at what steps to take when that happens.
When sending your computer out for repair, you're handing over everything on it, including your data. Options for remaining secure are limited.
Making regular backups is critical, but once you've got that set up, how do you know what you have will in fact work when you need it? I'll look at a couple of approaches.
Transferring to a replacement drive needn't be difficult. In fact, prepping for a transfer can be as simple as a side effect of backing up regularly.
It's wise to be prepared to use your backups to fully reinstall your machine in the event of a hard drive failure.
When you have a serious or semi-serious problem with your machine, you're faced with several options for recovery. I'll explain and compare a few.
Backing up data to a drive encrypted using Truecrypt is really no different than backing up to any other drive. I'll review why that is and some of the variations of backing up with TrueCrypt.
How long to keep backups depends on your needs and storage capacity. Get a quick look into how I do it.
Having a regular backup in place is critical, but then what? We'll look at how long you might want to keep those backups and why.
After experiencing another hard drive failure, I realize why you should be scared, and want to share yet more reasons that backups are so critical.
Out of the box, Windows XP does not come with a backup software that will make upgrading easy. I suggest a stand-alone program to help with the process.
Backing up to an external drive is an easy way to make sure you're covered in event of failure. But how should that external drive be configured?
Natural disasters remind us that are computers, among other things, are at risk. I'll look at protecting your computer and more importantly, your data.
Reformatting a computer erases everything on the primary hard drive, so it's important to save your data first. Backup solutions are often best.
Deleting large amounts of data from a hard drive by accident can be devastating. Recovery can be hard to impossible. Or easy, if you're prepared.
Reformatting erases everything on your disk. Recovering from an accidental reformat is unlikely unless you've prepared.
Old backups typically will have all of the files that were on your machine at the time the backup was taken.
Having a device on which to backup data is only half the battle. If you want it to be able to restore your entire machine, additional steps are needed.
Even if you use your computer as nothing more than a gateway to the internet it's likely that you still need to take care to back up important data.
If you've received a new machine without installation media, and you can't get installation media, an immediate full backup can be an alternative.
While image backups are optimized for restoring back to the original hardware, they remain critically useful in other scenarios as well.
Backing up data using an online backup service is lucrative, and can be an important part of an overall strategy - within limits.
Cloud backup vs. backing up to an external drive isn't really a debate. You may want to do both!
An image backup can serve as a great checkpoint to restore to in the event of failure, and can even help avoid needing to reformat and reinstall.
Set up your own system and backed up files will be kept as long as you keep them. It's totally in your control.
It might or might not be possible to stop programs from automatically updating themselves. Most of the time, though, you don't want to interfere.
Macrium Reflect is a full-featured backup program that supports everything that I consider critical to keeping your important data safely backed up.
Sooner or later you'll lose something that you're working on due to a crash or other failure. There are habits you can develop to minimize the impact.
If your machine won't boot for some reason, there are several approaches to try to get the data off of its hard drive. I'll examine a few.
During a recent webinar, there were several good questions about backing up that I've collected into a single video & transcript.
Most backup programs offer the options to compress and/or encrypt the data being backed up. I'll look at the pros and cons.
It depends on how long you want to keep them. If you're simply combining out of convenience either will probably do.
It's best to use a backup program that you are sure will do the job: a program with a good reputation and recommendations.
Backing up is, of course, incredibly important. Knowing what to backup, where to backup and how often to backup are just as important.
A few steps immediately after you get your new computer can save you a lot of time, effort and loss of data later. I'll review my recommendations.
The options are to replace or repair. How to do that conveniently is the big question.
Uninstallers are notorious for leaving things behind. The question is why, and what you can do about it. The answer: various reasons, and not much.
If you're backing up regularly to an external drive chances are you're accumulating lots of data. We'll look at how to organize and what to keep.
Image backups are great ways to backup absolutely everything on a hard disk. They're also good for retrieving most anything, including individual files.
Taking a system image immediately after getting or setting up a new machine is good practice. What happens next ... isn't the initial system image.
You should always get installation media with a new machine. Period. If you can't, or it's too late, we'll look at one partial alternative.
Regular maintenance of your computer can help keep it performing well, but some things like software rot, can only be delayed not avoided entirely.
We all hear about anti-malware solutions we should be implementing, but what other things should we be doing to keep our PCs running smooth?
Backing up is important, but terms like "full", "incremental" and even "differential" can easily confuse. We'll look at what these terms mean.
Once you start running out of disk space, it's time to look at options. We'll cover a couple of approaches to dealing with a full hard drive.
The word "imaging" when applied to disks is often misused and subject to some interpretation. Imaging can mean different things to different programs.
Manufacturers don't like to ship full Window's installation media, so many of them offer a way for you to make your own restore or repair disc. But these restore discs might not be as useful as you think.
Backing up important documents securely is easily overlooked, and yet very important. I'll look at how to backup important documents safely.
Backing up properly can take up a fair amount of space. Exactly how much space a backup will take depends on several factors.
System Restore discs allow you to reset your system to the state it was in when delivered from the manufacturer. That is, when they work. Because of that uncertainty, I much prefer a different approach.
When backing up large amounts of data the filesystem used on the backup media matters. FAT32 often can't handle the way that many backup programs work.
There's much confusion about what System Restore actually is and is not. In a nutshell, it's safest not to rely on it to restore your system.
I recently described rebuilding a machine from scratch. I'll look at alternatives, one of which some people expected me to use.
That's a lot of CDs to juggle! Backing up to that many discs can easily fail from the mechanics of handling those CDs, or from using backup software that isn't reliable.
Some research reveals that this may be the result of malware infecting the machine. Up-to-date virus tools should solve the problem.
When using Truecrypt containers you need to check one of Truecrypt's options - the default setting may interfere with backing up your container.
Installing Beta or pre-release software is, in effect, asking for trouble. One simple precaution can prevent disastrous data loss.
Sectors can go bad on hard drives, but that should have no impact on your ability to restore a successfully created backup image to another hard drive.