10 PROVEN TIPS TO SURVIVE A COMPUTER CRASH!
|by Eve Abbott, the Organizer Extraordinaire
|10 PROVEN TIPS TO SURVIVE A COMPUTER CRASH
By Eve Abbott, excerpted from her new book, How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain TM
Do these words strike fear into you? If not, maybe
they should! A computer crash is at best time consuming
and expensive, and at worst a genuine business disaster.
Here are things you can do now to prevent a crash and/or
insure a smooth recovery whether you use your computer at
work or for your personal life-or both, like me!
The first rule in minimizing computer disasters is backup.
The second rule in easier data recovery is BackUp. The
third rule in computer organizing is BACKUP. I am
astounded at the number of people (in large and small
businesses) who do not back up their work regularly.
Without good backups, you risk losing everything if your
hard drive goes belly-up.
Start by setting all of your programs to save
automatically after 2 minutes. This will protect your work
against temporary freeze-ups and unplanned shutdowns.
Second, plug your computer, monitor, and other electronic
equipment into a UPS Battery Backup unit to protect it
from power surges and outages. A unit like this one will
give you 5 minutes to save your work and shut down your
computer normally if the power goes out.
Then-BACK UP! (If you're not sure what the best way to
back up is, keep reading.)
I bought a brand new Hewlett Packard Pavilion XP system
and began to back up weekly. Seven months later, I
returned from making a cup of tea to hear my computer
going click-click-click loudly. My hard drive had just
crashed for no reason at all. As is often the case, I lost
everything on it.
I felt confident because I had my data backed up by
copying my entire working C-drive onto a CD-but even with
backups, and even if your computer is still under
warranty, let's get realistic about how much time and
money a crash can end up costing you.
It took four days for me to get the special shipping box
HP sent me to return the computer. They replaced the hard
drive, and it was returned within 10 business days at no
charge for repair and shipping. This still adds up to
three weeks without my computer.
First, I rented a laptop and spent hours installing the
programs I normally use. Laptop rental cost me $250.00 for
one month, with a $500 refundable deposit. I could have
rented a desktop system for a little less per month, but I
would have had to wait a week to get the computer. It was
great to have the laptop to use until my repaired computer
arrived. But, I had to go through the same restoration
process again when it was returned with a new hard drive.
More time lost and more frustration, too.
Second, I spent hours importing my data from backup CDs. I
still lost almost a week's worth of data (Quicken entries,
Word documents, calendar and contact information) because
that's how long I go between backups.
Third, I spent hours recreating the custom settings on my
software. Fourth, I had to install some smaller programs
that I'd forgotten I would need.
Sometimes data can be recovered from a dead drive,
depending on what has caused the crash. Professional data
recovery services charge from $500 to $1500 to get your
data back, and you have to pay whether or not they recover
You can find more information about data recovery services
I paid $1,000.00 in computer consultant fees to get the
laptop set up, and my computer taken apart and set up
again to get it running A-OK. That's apart from data
recovery costs, which my backups saved me from having to
The grand total: $1,250.00 and 7 days in lost time. Pretty
expensive considering that I had all my current data
backed up onto CDs.
There are many ways to back up information. Diskette, CD,
Zip drive, External hard drive and Web (on-line). I will
not discuss tape drive backups simply because tape media
is unreliable and awkward compared to newer technologies.
If you have more than one computer, you can back up from
one to another via network drives-but that only protects
you in the event that disaster strikes one machine at a
There are four questions you need to ask yourself
regarding your back-ups:
1) How critical is your data? (My business and life are on
my hard drive = critical)
2) Do you add or process high volumes of information?
3) In what time frame do you add enough to make it a real
loss? (day, week, per project)
4) Do you work with very large files of any type?
The more information you process or add to your computer
hard drive, the more often you need to back up. For high
volume or crucial files you need to backup daily.
There is the small file backup onto diskette.
For example, you just entered a lot of Quicken data and
you don't want to take a chance on losing it but you don't
want to do a full back up, or you have a single Word file,
just pop it on a diskette. Remember to label any and all
backup media with contents and date.
ZIP drives and disks:
ZIP drives and disks can work well for back ups
of larger projects. I had a client who was an author and
she kept one ZIP disk for each of her books, which
contained every file related to the book - not just the
text. If you are satisfied using a ZIP drive and disks for
your data storage - don't change to another media. Note:
many more people have CDs than zips, so if you need to
share data you may need to switch to CDs.
In the same way you archive paper every year
after taxes (along with a backup of your accounting
program and data), consider backing up entire projects
onto CD when you're finished. This keeps the data
available and safe, without cluttering your hard drive.
You can file a project closeout CD with the matching
archived paper files. Or keep a variety of backups in a CD
organizer (date labeled) divided up into Projects, Backups
The backup CDs I use are 'data only' to safeguard
important information in case a problem develops in
between system backups. If you are going to archive (e.g.,
taxes) and may not access the backup for a long time - go
with CDs. CDs are more stable, and you are less likely to
run into trouble with irretrievable data. Always use
premium brand-name CDs (or other media). Discount media is
more likely to fail.
For $70 or less, you can back up your entire
drive (operating system, programs and data) using
"disk cloning" software (Norton Ghost, Paragon
Drive Backup, or PowerQuest Drive Image. You can store
this "image" of your drive on removable media
like CDs and ZIP disks, on tape, or on an external hard
You'll still have to spend a lot of time doing the backups
and most people will end up with a set of at least 10 CDs
for each backup, since the copy of your drive will take up
about 50% of the storage space as your drive itself.
(That's not the size of your whole drive, just the part
you have filled up.)
You can get more information about disk cloning software
There are on-line services (e.g., www.connected.com)
which will automatically back up your computer (either
totally or just the changed files). This backup and
restore option is limited only by the speed of your
connection to the internet. Some people leave their
computer on all night to do the backups. The reverse
process will be more complicated, because you cannot
restore directly from the web. Many information technology
and graphics professionals use web services because of the
massive files they process each day.
Your backup files are stored on their server. This is good
because it is off-site in case of disaster recovery.
Unfortunately, your data is only as secure as the server
it is on. I don't use this option, because I don't think
there is any function on the internet that is as secure as
doing it myself and keeping control over all the data at
all times. If you don't use massive files, you don't need
External Hard Drive (XHD):
I chose this option after my crash disaster
because I can recreate my entire system without the wasted
time of restoring my operating system and settings,
downloading programs and data from backups, and resetting
application customizations, etc.
An external hard drive ($200) with 'disk cloning' software
lets you put your entire drive onto your backups. If you
don't use the ghosting software you can only put programs,
and data backups onto the external hard drive, not the
operating system itself. The ghosting software will enable
you to make a 'boot disk' just for restoring from the
external hard drive to your main computer.
This option will allow you to completely restore your
computer, if necessary (with no hard drive damage). Or,
install a new hard drive on your computer and then restore
Just plug the external hard drive into the computer and
start the backup, which verifies the data. Then, you
unplug the external hard drive. This takes about fifteen
minutes total for my backups. After backing up, I store
the XHD in the trunk of my car (in a laptop case for
protection). Even if the house burns down I still have my
entire computer capability just outside in my car.
First, put an XHD ghost of just your operating system and
programs with all the custom settings. Second, do a ghost
of your entire system (operating system, programs and
data). Third, do regular working drive data backups. Make
sure any programs you ever use are in the second XHD
backup, and/or in your working hard drive for your
'regular maintenance' backups.
I can get a new computer, copy everything I need and get
to work. One possible downside to this; if you have to
'recover' on a new computer with a new system (different
configuration and drivers), you will have trouble using
the restored system until you reload the correct drivers
and eliminate the 'old' ones.
Backup, BackUp, BACKUP!
So, how can you combine these different backup choices
to work in your particular situation?
Take the simplest method that will safeguard your
information. If all you need is a diskette file box for
backups - great!
I use the XHD once a week for a programs and data backup.
In between I use diskettes or CDs, depending on the size
of the files and how long I want to maintain them. There
is enough room on my XHD to put 4 total
system-program-data backups of my entire XP system into
it. Once, you've done an operating system backup, unless
you change your configurations or programs, you don't need
to do it again. For regular maintenance, do your working
If you do nothing, you are guaranteed to have a disaster
sooner or later. Choose what works best for you and set a
reminder to BACKUP as often as you need to stay sane when
it does happen.
For more time saving tips go to http://www.organize.com
Copyright 2005 Eve Abbott. All rights reserved.
the Author: Copyright, Eve Abbott All Rights Reserved. The
Organizer Extraordinaire's new book "How to Do Space
Age Work with a Stone Age Brain" TM is available
online at http://www.organize.com
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