Listen to your mother-- back up your hard drive
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1999. First
published in Vancouver Computes,
Admit it?a lot of you aren?t backing up your computer
It?s the old dentist analogy. We all know we?re
supposed to go in for
regular checkups, but it?s easier to put them off then to do them.
But like going to the dentist, if you regularly ignore
you?ll eventually regret it. There will come a time when the pain right
now is much greater than the inconvenience and hassle of taking care of
things in an ongoing manner.
Okay?maybe a few of you really don?t need to backup
your system. If
all you use your computer for is playing games, and you have all the
game CDs and floppies, along with your operating system software,
the worst that can happen?
But most of us create documents, and customize the
and our applications. And many of us rely on our PC for our day-to-day
work or studies. If its contents should vanish, it could be anything
a minor irritation to a major time and money-losing disaster.
And there are a whole range of scenarios where that
disaster can strike.
You could come home and find the computer stolen. Or have it (and the
house or apartment) literally go up in smoke. Or less spectacularly,
a hardware or software-based meltdown.
In the past few months, I?ve had to work through both
a hardware and
a software disaster. First, the software-meltdown.
I had installed a game demo from a reputable company,
the Net. I?d tried it out, found I really didn?t care for it, and ran
game?s uninstall utility. Perhaps because I?d chosen to install the
in a folder different from it?s default, it didn?t just uninstall the
watched with amazement, as it seemed to delete files at random, from
over my hard drive.
Suddenly, most of the applications on my computer no
(?What was this evil program?? I hear you ask.
Okay?I?ll give you the
name? they deserve the bad publicity; I?m not the only one damaged in
way. It was Sierra?s Caesar III).
More recently, I suffered a hardware meltdown. For no
good reason, the
hard drive on my notebook crashed. Yes, drives crash? less often then
used to, but often enough so that you should take precautions. Simply
it stopped working. The computer would no longer boot?instead of the
and purr of a normally working drive, all I heard was ker-chunk,
as the drive heads repeatedly tried to move over the same spot on the
Luckily, I had recently replaced the drive, and still
had the old smaller,
but still usable drive sitting on a shelf.
In both cases, as well, I had a recent backup. In the
case of the hard
drive crash, I?d made it only two days prior to the disaster.
Some people prefer to just back up their documents,
prefering to re-install
operating system and applications from scratch, if needed. In that
they may be able to use something like a 100 meg zip disk for storing
backups. I prefer to back up my whole system? that way, I can simply
the whole thing with a single click.
For that, zip disks are too expensive. At $15 each,
backing up a single
gig of files requires over $100 in media. As well, I don?t want to have
to baby-sit my backup, feeding it disk after disk after disk.
Instead, I purchased a parallel port tape drive. The
drive cost about
$250, but I can use it with multiple computers (internal models are
and cheaper, but limited to one machine). Tapes hold several gigs of
and cost about $30 each. Because backing up and verifying a drive can
4 hours or more, I tend to start it at night, and let it run while I?m
I?ve replaced the software that came with the drive
with Seagate Software?s
Backup Exec Desktop 98. This well-written product has a couple of
over the typical freebies that ship with Windows 9x or with hardware
my tape drive.
? It works with a wide range of hardware. It can be
used to backup to
zip drive, tape, CD-R, or even to another partition on your hard drive
(though this is not very helpful if the computer gets stolen or the
? Best of all, it can be used to create a one-floppy emergency disk.
I used this in both of my recent disasters and it is a real time-saver.
In the case of my drive crash, for example, if I?d used a freebie
program, I would have had to install the new hard drive, install the
system, and install the backup program. Only then, after an hour or
of work, would I be ready to restore my backup.
Instead, I simply booted to the emergency floppy,
formatted the drive,
and typed Restore at the DOS prompt. Instructions to do this even
on screen when I booted! The DOS-based restore program located my tape
drive and restored the contents of the hard drive?including the long
names and Windows System Registry that are often mangled by DOS-based
and restore programs.
In both these cases, absolute disasters were turned
into minor irritations.
Your mother was right?go to the dentist every six
months. And backup
your precious data much more frequently then that? though backing up as
often as you brush your teeth may be overkill!