Repost of from before wipe and re-install. Originally published on January 18, 2004. Wow, how things have changed. CDs! LMAO
“I f#$ked up and had to reinstall my OS by format last night, losing all my mail, favorites, and another 20 GB of files”
I heard just that the other night as I typed away in a chat room. The reality is that, in one, way, shape or form, we all have heard it 1000 times.
Keeping consistent with my obsessive-compulsive nature and my general tendency of consistent excess, I shall ramble to you the 1001st. Admit it, at one point or another, we have all lost at least one file. I can’t count how many times I have heard stories of people losing entire hard drives and not having backed up!
Furthermore, in keeping with Lumpy’s tradition of putting his foot in his mouth, I demonstrate by thrusting 2 size 10 and a half EEEs ankle deep. The day after my friend and I spoke, I managed to fry my USB RAM Drive!
Fortunately, I only lost two files. Everything else was backed-up. However, they were also the two files I had been working on for the better part of the week.
It could have been worse. Like I said, you hear about it all the time, I could have lost everything. I usually back up data every week. Likely a factor in why I have never lost “everything”.
I have lost hard drives. I have somehow managed to convert them to a device that no bit would ever recognize and not one resident bit could ever be recovered. In short, trashed, history, kapootz, dead, or however else you wish to put it. Lumpy Diskslayer, came played with FDISK and all that remains are human memories of anything resembling functioning data. I have done this so often that I have fully replicated Dodge City’s “Boot Hill” using my booty of deceased hard drives as headstones. I have still always managed to recover all but a few files.
I have also witnessed the carnivorous binary wraiths of Windows ME. I do, at times, consider this most unstable of the unstable and to be short for Multi-tasking Excluded. In all honesty, it works quite well most of the time but there have been days where I have witnessed a headless horseman gallop out from the inner workings of my PC, make a sharp right, and continue off to Sleepy Hallow with much-needed files and entries for my operating system. Despite living directly over a PC poltergeist epicenter I have yet to lose everything.
I have also seen viruses. They can get by even the most religiously updated top-of-the-line software, every once in a while one will get through even the best protection. And when they do, it is rivaled only by Lumpy’s digital touch of destruction. Still, I have yet to lose everything.
On occasion, I feel brave and edit the registry… This can also make things ugly… Then add my talents. And guess what? I have still not lost everything.
The above examples should illustrate the following;
- There are many ways to lose your entire system or “everything”. (And I didn’t even mention some of the more interesting ones such as testing your new sprinkler system which was originally supposed to be a CPU water cooling system.)
- Lumpy has a certain “way” with those ways. I can make a MBR vanish quicker than Houdini could untie a shoelace. I am not only expedient but thorough and complete, if Nixon and Watergate were now, I would be a Cabinet Member and the State would have no case.
- I don’t remember if I said this or not… But it is important… I have never lost “everything” (One poker game in Vegas with a bunch of showgirls excluded but, then again, in that situation, it was the goal.)
Take the above into account and one can conclude that I come up with some system that can even protect itself from me. One would logically ask “how is that possible?” and this is a just and fair question. After all, I can turn a motherboard into a salvage part simply by breathing on it.
The answer is I have a system. It is not the way everyone backs up but it is a good one and certainly worth a mention. First, I back up weekly. This assures minimal loss. There are many aspects important to backing up but, in my opinion, there are two that are vital.
The first is to make it a habit. In my case, weekly works for now. If I were a professional in the field though, daily would likely be the minimum but it could be very likely that hourly might even be the best choice. This minimizes damage when it hits. This will be just as true for Lumpy’s digital touch of death, a virus or an OS upgrade. The more often you back up the more you will be able to recover.
The second is, also in my opinion, more important. How you organize your files for backup is more important. There are three things I do which i feel matter in the relevance of this subject…
- You must put everything which is data in one folder so that it is easy to backup and you can not forget to do include it. By data, I mean any file which you are working or have worked on. This includes Word Documents, text files, e-mails, the picture of your Xgf that you used photoshop to put horns on her, that 5378 lines of code for you programing class, your bookmarks, and ANYTHING else you can possibly think of. This is a matter in which overkill is prudent.
- Make sure to categorize everything by importance and back up the more important more frequently and, more importantly, redundantly. By this, I mean in at least two locations for the important stuff. I actually have “My Documents” on two hard drives and every night before I go to bed I recopy the working one to the second.
- Keep multiple back ups. It is the only way to assure everything is going to be accessible. This can especially matter with certain viruses.
Now let me describe my system of protection from myself.
- I start on Day one. Many years back I bought a rather expensive program called Cakewalks for recording my digital music. Being the impatient imp I am I installed it right away. It was great. I played, recorded, and loved it. Then about a year later, I upgraded. I tried to install it but my CD ROM was bad. From that day on I changed my habits. I no longer EVER use the original CD ROM. I make myself a copy and store the Original in an old army ammunition case. RULE ONE – Original CDs are meant to be stored. Copies are to be used.
- I store EVERYTHING that is data in one location only. I use “My documents”. I never let the software store it in its default location. This assures I know where everything is that I wish to back up.
- Anything else I wish to save I put in a hard drive named “File Cabinet”. I use two locations because I like to download and experiment with all kinds of shareware. I back these up in a different place and it is just a convenience.
- Largely because I have no life whatsoever, I back up EVERY Friday. At the worst, I put it off til Saturday. This assures me that I can only lose things over the course of one week.
That ends my system which is basically how I organize where I file things. Next is the method in which I actually back up;
First I pull the mobile rack off my shelf. I have three extra hard drives all pre-rigged in their plastic cases as a convenience. Now at first, this may seem a bit odd but there is a method to my madness. I originally bought these nifty gadgets so I could easily swap out drives and use it to make a Linux machine and still be able to rather easily change over to windows. I also had a good source for small hard drives at the time and could get them for eight dollars apiece. Currently, I can still find them for about 12 bucks.
I know the idea of backing up to a hard drive might seem a bit ridiculous at but it really works quite well. The cheap small drives I bought hold between 3 and 4 CD ROMS worth of data. It is a lot easier to drag “My Documents” to another drive than burning three CDs (and, yes it takes that many). Now back to the method…
I mentioned above that I have three of these neat mobile racks. I always use the oldest backup and keep them sorted so I know which one to use any given Friday. I then shut down my beast, pull out the previous week’s swappable drive, put its 3.5 gigs of data files on the shelf, insert the next weeks, reboot, stop of in my BIOS, have BIOS auto-detect the swapped drive, and happily go on.
Again this may seem like a tad bit of work but, to me, it is a real time saver. And yes, all you IDE users will have to make sure your BIOS knows about the swap but it still takes less human time than burning. (Don’t ask me about SCSI or whatever “scuzzy” is abbreviated as it is too expensive for me and I do not know.) I delete or archive to CD all the three-week-old files, drag over the next backup set, and am done. No deciding on what to put on what CD, or labeling the CD or waiting for the first one to burn before I burn the second, etc.,
But yes, I do still burn CDs. I mentioned above that I keep stuff to back up in two places. I do this because I am an avid downloader of shareware and trialware. I keep all of this type of stuff in on the drive I labeled “File Cabinet”. What I typically do as my second step is to burn all the stuff I wish to archive to a CD and delete what I archived from the hard drive. I usually use a folder named “Backup to CD” to simplify this process.
So it is just that simple. This is how this monster of data destruction saves himself from himself. And for the record, it was not my RAM Drive. It was a loose wire. I lost nothing. heh…