PDQ Library:  Computer Backup

Secure your computer against catastrophy

The following is currently the most cost-effective way I could find to secure computer software and data against failures - from computer viruses, installing software that causes problems, and general disasters.

I had good luck using PartitionMagic and Drive Image by PowerQuest to manage hard drive "partitions" and create backups (images) of a Windows XP system. More recently, I've had good experiences using Acronis True Image to create images (exact copies of a drive). Copying backups to a CD provides addition security in case of hard drive failure. Working files should be backed up daily on external storage. Failure to do this in a business can result in problems and even court cases. (USB Hard drive are very inexpensive. Cloud storage is another option.)

Partitioning a hard drive:

I used PartitionMagic to safely reorganize a 10 MB hard drive from one partition "C" into three partitions named C, D, and E. Partition C (1 GB) contained a Windows 98 operating system (and Internet Explorer which is really part of Windows). Partition D (5 GB) contained applications, Windows Swap File, email folders, browser cache, "My Documents" folder, etc. Partition E (4 GB +) stored the most recent backup "images". All partitions appear in the Explorer utility as separate hard drives.

Note: Windows XP will need at least 5 GB on the C drive. Drive E (backup) should be as big as the "total space used" on C and D if you plan to "image" both drives since backups are about a third of the size of the original.

Drive Image software:

Drive Image creates a backup of an entire partition (my reason for creating 3). Drive Image works outside of your Windows operating system and makes a special, space-efficient sector-for-sector copy of your hard drive - NOT a copy of just the files. It's basically creating a clone of your hard drive and storing it in one large compressed file. When you restore this partition, the partition will look exactly the same. I backup partition C whenever I make a change to the system (the image file for C is 300 MB; D is 900MB).

Preparing for a backup:

Before creating an "image", I do some system maintenance if I have time:

  1. Delete unneeded files (Windows Cleanup, Norton Space Wizard)
  2. Copy important folders from partition D to C (My Documents, Email)
  3. Check the hard drives (Norton Disk Doctor, Windows Scandisk)
  4. Check registry for problems (Norton Win Doctor, Windows SCANREGW)
  5. Run a defragmenter utility (Windows Defrag, Norton Speed Disk)

Creating a backup:

You can run an imaging program (Drive Image, Acronis True Image, Windows 7 imaging program) to create an exact copy of disk C, or a partition (a virtual drive which is part of disk C), and store it in a different partition or drive.

Make an image of your system after everything's set up and working perfectly, so that when your OS becomes unstable or goes belly-up, you can restore your system to that perfect state simply by running running the Restore mode.

The most cost-effective storage is currently an external drive (USB, Firewire). Backing up Windows 7 system requires several DVDs but just another large file on my external hard drive.)

Read Fred Langa's famous Explorer columns and mailing list for terrific information about keeping your Windows PC running smoothly:

Langa List www.langa.com
Search powerquest.com Partition Magic www.powerquest.com

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