Jan 042010
 

by Chris Guld, www.geeksontour.com

Has this ever happened to you?

Your computer crashes and you take it to a techie who gets it working again but needs to reformat (erase) the hard drive.  You get your computer back with nothing on it.  No problem you think, you have a backup of your important data on Disk, either CD/DVDs or a USB hard drive.  But when you try to restore you find:

  1. there is something wrong with the backup disks, either the data is corrupted or there simply is no data on the disk(s)
    or:
  2. the backup was made with software that you don’t remember or don’t have.  You need that software in order to restore.

If you can’t restore … your backups are worthless.

To prevent this happening to you, here are a few suggestions.

  1. When you do your backups, *always* check the results
    If you backup to CD/DVD, take that disk to another computer, put it in the drive and see what happens.  Does it come up to a ‘Do you want to restore’ prompt?  Are the files on the disk that you expect?  If you backup to a USB external hard drive, explore the results.  Are the files where you expect them to be?  Do you know how to restore them?
  2. Periodically test your restore capability
    Pretend to lose a file that you want to recover from your backups.  The easiest way to do this is to rename it.  For example, let’s say you have an Excel spreadsheet called TaxRecords.xls.  Rename that file to zzzTaxRecords.xls.  That way you still have the file, but your computer sees that the file TaxRecords.xls is gone.  Now try to restore that file from your backups.  For an example of this, see the Geeks on Tour Show Me Video on Backup to an External Hard Drive.
    backup
  3. Use a backup procedure that creates file by file copies of your data rather than backup ‘packages.’ 
    There are dozens, maybe even hundreds of different ways to make backups.  Every USB hard drive comes with software to make backups, there are lots of free backup programs you can download, and there are many backup programs you can buy. They all work a little differently.  I like the ones that result in file copies rather than backup ‘packages.’  If I can see a file, I can copy it.  If I only see a backup ‘package’ I need the original software to restore it.

I am currently using Windows 7 backup utility to backup my entire computer to a USB hard drive.  When I look a the USB drive, I see a folder labeled with the name of my computer.  When I click, I get options to Restore (and it works just fine), but I can’t look inside and see all the files.  All I see is this one ‘package’ that somehow contains all my files.  What if I changed computers and no longer had Windows 7?  How would I get my files?  I don’t know.

I am also trying out the online backup service called Carbonite.  If I want to restore a file, I can browse all my online backed up files and pick the one I want.  True, this is using the Carbonite software, but it’s a service … with support … that I’m paying $50/year for.  I can trust that when I want to restore files to any computer in the future – I can.

My favorite backup program is still a freeware package called Karen’s Replicator.  You can set it up to copy whatever folders/files you want on any schedule you want, and you can see the results.  You will see the actual files – not a backup ‘package.’  For more information on this program see this past Geeks on Tour Newsletter.

Use Picasa to backup your photos.
Picasa gives you the best of both worlds.  First of all, it is SO simple to make backups of your pictures to CD/DVD – Picasa even burns the disk.  It will backup all the special Picasa features (edits, albums, face recognition) along with your pictures so you can restore to another computer, but it also is making file by file copies of your photos.  You don’t have to use the Picasa restore process to get your pictures back.  I have 10 years worth of photos backed up with Picasa.  I have no intention of using the restore feature to put all those on another computer.  But I know that, if I want a particular picture from 2002, I can find it on my backup CD.  Here’s a Geeks on Tour Show Me Video on How to restore a single picture from a Picasa Backup.

picasarestore

A Happy computer user has good backups that they know how to restore.

BACKUP!  BACKUP! BACKUP!

Happy Computing!
Chris Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com
Computer Education for Travelers

MrsGeek

Traveling the country in an RV with her husband, Jim. We present seminars at RV rallies and computer clubs all over the country.
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