Whole computer backup

The first rule of computing is backing up you data.  This means keeping a copy of your data in a place where you can recover it. I’ve dealt with backup strategies before.

So,  this blog is not about that. I’m talking computer backup. This is the software that runs the  whole computer and anything that has been installed. This is nothing new of course. Backing up the whole computer is a good thing to do

  1. in case your computer gets stolen,
  2. it gets damaged physically and needs a new hard drive, or
  3. the operating system gets very slow – as tends to happen to heavily used computers running W7 and W8. Bill Gates knows why – go harass him, for Pete’s sake.
  4. something stops working right and you can’t figure out what to do.
  5. peripherals stop working well.

Some stupid people who don’t have the intelligence to do any of this, will obviously have to pay somebody like PC World to sort out their computer. They’ll say this and that but the likes of big computer shops will press two or three buttons and restore the computer to factory settings in most instances – after bleeding you between £30 and £100.  That means all the software you had installed will need reinstalling and all your data will be gone – if you’re silly enough to leave data on a computer you give to them. Serves you right, I say!

BTW – this is not an idiot’s guide – if you don’t know about computers and you try any of this, you risk messing up your computer permanently. Sue yourself, not me.

Computer backup is different, because it’s better than ‘system restore’ in Microsoft Windows. Restoring a computer backup gets you to the last point where you left your computer working well. It can still wipe all your data but not if you know what to do.

Phase 1 – getting all essential or regularly used software installed.

  1. Ensure that you have a clean install of Windows OS. The current latest version is Windows 8 (W8). W8.1 – the latest version –  is coming out sometime in October 2013, but many people are not going for it – for various reasons.
  2. Carry out all updates from Microsoft and the umpteen restarts you need to do.
  3. If you don’t have a clean install you can do a Windows Refresh in W8 – this will normally preserve your data but you can’t be 100% certain about that. It’s best to transfer all precious data off the computer before  a refresh.
  4. Install all your best software – and do all the restarting etc. Update them as necessary.
  5. Early on ensure that all your peripherals are working on USB or Wireless connections i.e. don’t wait until you’ve installed 20 apps and then find out that and external hard drive does not connect.
  6. Ensure all is working nicely.
  7. Be careful not to use software that guarantees to update all your drivers. I’ve tried two of them and they have both messed up the computer. With W8 you really don’t have to install too many special drivers unless a motherboard really needs it.

Phase 2 – whole computer backup.

  1. A fully updated W8,  loaded with a word processor, Skype, Adobe, video editing software, OCR, speech recognition, scanner software – may occupy about 40 GB. You will need an external hard drive that is of good quality and reliability to take the backup – it should have about 60GB of free space. That external drive should have been recently fully formatted.
  2. Don’t forget to do a system cleanup to remove all traces of previous computer installation left by say a W8 refresh.
  3. Acronis – this is a wicked piece of software that you can find on by a Google search. YouTube is the fountain of knowledge on how to use it.
  4. Acronis will backup your new installation (from any size disk) to the external hard disk, on which the backup will be about half the size. [An internal disk could be used as well, for a back up destination.]
  5. Acronis will give two main options – to reboot and install from that drive or to create a backup that is not bootable. That requires separate study about what’s best for your needs.

So – when your computer decides to slow down or behave badly all you do is use Acronis to restore from the backup. That means you’re back in business and ready to go in about 30 mins. That’s assuming you know where you hid your external hard drive with the backup copy.

It’s best to keep data on a separate partition so that restoring does not risk data being wiped on the partition that will run W8.

That’s it. You know I’m not into spoon-feeding. Now bugger off and check Google and YouTube if you want to learn more.

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