Wednesday, 25 November 2009

TIP - Backup or Synchronise

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Continuing the theme of hunting for a reasonably competent backup tool, and building on the two links I provided in the previous post to some of Gizmo Richards' superb freeware, I have stumbled across a couple more that might be of interest to you. But those will only be revealed to you in the next post.

First, let me put to bed some misconceptions about backups. My whinge in a couple of previous posts was that those dumb-asses at Microsoft appeared to cripple their backup solution by neglecting to backup .EXE, .DLL and .JS files on the grounds that they are executables and that the built-in backup programme is designed to backup only DATA.

Well, yes and no!

Microsoft, in its 'Big Brother' guise chooses to do this, because if you use their built-in proggy that is all you are going to get. Independent manufacturers ALSO choose to do this, for the reasons I shall mention next, but you have a choice of telling the programme that you use (if it isn't a Microsoft offering) that you want EVERYTHING backed-up. An option that would be nice in Windows if M$ allowed the choice!

Here are some reasons why it makes good common sense to exclude 'executables', assuming your installation is a standard one where your C-drive is the one on which you have installed your operating system. And to keep it from getting boring, it is the only drive I shall discuss here ...

  • Drive C:\ has all the Windows system files, 10GB at least. If Windows crashes and has to be reinstalled, all these files will be redone and rewritten by the Windows installer. So it is a pointless exercise backing them up.
  • Drive C:\ has a lot of temporary files, including all the cookies, temp folders, page files, system restore points, prefetch folders and other garbage you've picked up on the Internet. Maybe even some dormant viruses and malware. You want all temporary files to disappear when you reinstall Windows, so backing them up is not only useless, it could be harmful.
  • Boot sector and certain boot-related files ought not to be backed up. Your computer will require the new installation of drivers for its hardware and the old boot files will be of little use.
  • The folder C:\Program Files\ contains executable and graphics files of the programmes you installed. The folders in it are huge and not worth saving, because if you have to reinstall Windows, you have to reinstall all programmes that you installed in the first place (see below).
  • The Registry contains all your programme settings and more. Unfortunately it is a waste of time to back it up either, because the Registry is the first thing that gets irreparably damaged by malware and/or other malfunctions. A Windows reinstall has the specific goal of getting a new uncorrupted Registry.

I have just re-read the preceding 'advice' and I am not surprised that the average user is often confused as to what they should do. Allow me to reiterate: it is pointless backing up the WHOLE of Drive C:\ for the reasons I've laid out above. However, there ARE certain things that are essential to backup on that drive:

  • My Documents
  • My Pictures
  • My Music
  • My Videos
  • e-mail Accounts, Settings and saved Mail

Those are only a few of the things that require your attention, so my advice is to go through Drive C:\, folder by folder, and make sure you manage to identify EVERYTHING on that drive that is of a personal nature that won't be restored by a Windows reinstallation.

If you have more than one drive, or if you have partitioned that large single drive that came with your computer, then it goes without saying that you will need to look at those drives too to ensure you don't forget anything! In the case of multiple drives, the chances are that you needn't worry too much about the drives that don't hold your operating system. On the other hand, if you have partitioned a single drive, please remember that during reinstallation of the OS that there is a very good chance that Windows will require you to reformat the drive, possibly even demanding the deletion of any partitions you may have built. In which case EVERYTHING on that drive will be wiped clean!

There is a great deal more to this subject, but I think that is enough 'first-aid' to get you sorted in case you have to face the inevitable.

Inevitable? Sure!

Take another look at that computer that is sitting quietly by you (some aren't that quiet), and consider this; there are only two or three elements of that computer that are 'mechanical', and the hard drive is one of them. The platters spin at a phenomenal speed, typically 5,400 (desktop) to 10,000 (enterprise) rpm. The two speeds you are most likely to come across are '5400' or '7200'. The latter speed is achieved by using smaller platters, so you can expect the drives to be of a smaller capacity.


Anatomy of a Hard DriveAnatomy of a Hard Drive © Wikipedia 


To achieve the performance demanded of these fragile units they are sealed during manufacture. They all have a filtered 'air hole' to equalise the air pressure when they are spinning at their highest speeds, and the filter is good enough to stop any ingress of dust or debris.


It is when dust, measured in microns, manages to infiltrate the defences that things go dramatically wrong. The most miniscule of particles is capable of dislodging the super-light read/write head resulting in a 'head crash', almost the equivalent of a family car hitting a huge boulder at 100 mph, head-on!

No contest!

The next post will discuss a couple of FREE backup solutions.

Until then, take care ...


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Thumbelina said...

Okaaaayyy, just digested that one (at this time of night!) and so I'll wait for the freebies. Then I can work out what and how to back up (and where to) all at the same time.
I used to have two hard drives in my old pc. I gave the old pc to the Bigun. Forgot I had two hard drives in there and he has spirited them off to his new abode... Hmmm. I might be getting another small hard drive as a second. It would have been handy for the back up! Boys. Hmph.

Fletch said...

Yeah, I know, Cath.

Not everybody's cup of tea, but for years I've never thought it could happen to me.

Then POW!, it does!

Maria was given (by me, who else?) a DaneElec 320GB 2.5" external hard drive to use with her laptop. It never actually gets hot (hardly even warm), and is as silent as the proverbial mouse. Size-wise it is TINY, very light, and it is FAST! But you need two USB ports mounted side-by-side to run it.

Dunno if they're available in your neck of the woods ...

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Good stuff, Terry!!! You explain things so well...We've had to back up several times on an external drive and take our desktop back to factory condition...and the first time I did it, I was terrified... didn't know if I'd backed-up the right stuff...This post brings EVERYTHING together for me!! I have a better understand now of what we've done...and that will help me know what to do next time! Thanks so much!!!! Really looking forward to the next post...All the best to you, my friend!!! Cheers! Janine

Fletch said...

Thanks Janine. That is affirmation enough that I managed to hit the right note.

The problem with tech-experts is that they start from a position of assuming that readers are familiar with the tech workings of a computer, when in reality that is not the case.

I even know a couple of tech-savvy teenage sons who have told their mothers that they shouldn't be using a computer if they don't know what goes on 'under the hood'.

The arrogance of youth!

Shrinky said...

Och, sorry Fletch, I back up from time to time on my separate hard drive, but the thought of doing anything more than that makes my brain bleed. If God had wanted me to be a teckkie, he wouldn't have given me a friend like you to run to, for when it all goes down (wink).

Akelamalu said...

This goes right over my head I'm afraid, I just dropped by to thankyou for identifying the tree. :)

kaycast corporation said...

Good day sir,i was referred to yoi by someone who feels you can help me, i am having problems with my blog, its when you go there you'll see that its blank, what do you think i can do about it sir

kaycast corporation said...

Sir did i hear you say you can duplicate your template for others too, i am very much interested, thanks

Fletch said...

kaycast, you've got me beat!

The FIRST thing you need to do:

1. When you login to your blog, go to 'Customise', 'Layout', 'Pick New Template' and follow the instructions.

The SECOND thing to do is:

2. Go to 'Settings' and carefully go through each of the choices ensuring that you make your blog visible.

If neither of these things works for you, come back here and leave me your email address so that I can contact you direct.

Shrinky said...

Terry, you how I said having a friend like you is what God gave me to run to when all goes wrong on blogger..??

(Pout) It has. I'm emailing you.. please be in!!

Thumbelina said...

"Temporary post used for theme detection..."

Been playing again? ;0)

(Blooger snitches on you.)

Thumbelina said...

Or even, blogger snitches on you, never mind about blooger!

Fletch said...

Good catch, Cath. Even EYE missed it. That was me getting WLW to recognise the new template ...


Thumbelina said...

You will have to tell more on here.

When it's perfect of course. As usual. ;0)