Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Like Clockwork

By no means am I the hardest working man in the tech blog business, (IMHO that title belongs to Bill Mullins) but I have been posting daily computer tips & tricks & and How To’s for over two years now — just a hair shy of 800 articles . I have answered reader questions, and I have tried to raise public awareness of how the cybercriminals are ruining the Internet, as well as offered advice on protecting your computers from their malware.

Loyal friends of this site will be able to tell you that I have a couple of “pet” topics which I return to, and will remember that once a month, like clockwork, I would run an article on the Windows disk cleanup and defrag tools, (such as, Revitalize Your PC With Windows’ Utilities*) and say that this is the proper way to “speed up your PC” and make it run like it did when it was new. (Or, add RAM.)

Sad Also once a month – like clockwork – I would polish up and re-post some article describing how many fewer unpleasant conversations I would have as a computer tech (my real job) if – repeat, IF – the person had made a backup copy of their files.

Once a month, I would remind people that perfectly good hard drives will occasionally up and die for no apparent reason.

Once a month, I would remind people that some of the “infections” they can get hit with are now so nasty that the only trustworthy “cure” for them is to erase the hard disk and start fresh (called a “reformat”) which is much less of a big deal when you have a clean backup copy of your stuff.

But about six months ago, or so, I gave up that monthly reminding.

Those articles didn’t get reads – real ratings bombs, they were – and… well, let me put it this way: about a year ago I mentioned that in all the while I’ve been running Aplus Computer Aid, only one client had answered “yes” when I asked if they had a backup.
Yesterday I finally had a second. But he is a noted Computer Security expert, and I would have been !!shocked!! if he hadn’t.

Once a month, like clockwork, I used to ask people if they didn’t have irreplaceable photographs, music they had paid for, tax records, etc., on their machines, and that was their only copy? Hard disks die, you know!

Sometimes I think I managed to write so convincingly that at least two readers said to themselves, “he’s right. I really need to burn some CD’s”.

But did they actually ever get around to it? I don’t know. I wouldn’t bet on it.

So, folks, what about it. Have you made a backup copy of your hard disk in the last .. oh.. say, two weeks? Two months?
Yeah. I know. There aren’t enough hours in the day…

Maybe these articles will help.
* How To Use Windows Backup Tool
* Enable ShadowCopy On Home Editions / XP
* Save Thousands With a Free Tool (You Already Have)
* Backup, Backup, Backup With Free DriveImage XML

Because, perfectly good hard drives will occasionally up and die for no apparent reason, and you may surf to the wrong site and have to do a reformat.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 1, 2009 - Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, file system, how to | , , ,


  1. TechPaul,

    I couldn’t agree more – hard drives fail on even a techie’s machine. Maybe, especially on a techies machine.

    The failure to have a current, reliable backup, is akin to boating without a life vest. What sensible person would do that?

    A hard drive failure without having a backup is often a devastating experience. An experience that most people will NEVER forget.

    Thanks for the reminder.



    Comment by Bill Mullins | September 1, 2009 | Reply

  2. Mr. Mullins,
    I have heard backups described as “insurance policies”, and “parachutes”, and even “trampolines” (they help you ‘bounce back’) but I must confess I just love “boating without a life vest”.
    I may have to permanently “borrow” that one!

    Hard drives (aka “disks”) are strange creatures.. I have one still going strong that dates way way way back to 1998; and in a rare instance, I had one die within hours of coming out of the box.

    Another thing I have found that the average person doesn’t quite “get” is that Flash memory devices (like, thumb drives) “wear out” too, after a certain number of read/writes (I’ve heard 1,000).

    I thank you for your support.


    Comment by techpaul | September 1, 2009 | Reply

  3. And it’s not just hard drive failure you need to protect yourself from, as a client found out today when one of his employees ran the restore function on one of his SQL database driven applications, she restored a backup that was over a year old, and here comes the killer, that was his most recent backup, they have allot of rebuild work ahead of them.


    Comment by Dave Brooks | September 1, 2009 | Reply

    • Dave Brooks,
      Ow! That hurts me to even think about…


      Comment by techpaul | September 1, 2009 | Reply

  4. TechPaul,

    I have actually witnessed people who have cried as a result of losing important personal data on their hard drives. I think the big thing people “do not know” is “how to” actually setup that backup routine. To you, me, Bill and others in our world, it is a “give me”; but to the everyday computer user it is difficult to understand (especially when you start talking terms likeimages, mirroring, incremental, differential, etc…).



    Comment by Ramblinrick | September 2, 2009 | Reply

    • Rick,
      I absolutely concur with your observation, and for those folks, I wrote the first (suggested) article – How To Use Windows Backup. It is illustrated, step-by-step, and it is design for the “average computer user”.

      And for those folks on the verge of tears, there may be hope in the terms in a data recovery service. These make use of specialized equipment in a “clean room” environment, and are quite effective, albeit pricey.

      Also, folks, you can drag your “My Documents” folder to your CD/DVD drive – insert a blank disc – and click “Burn selected files”. Simple.

      If you realize you should make a backup, but simply cannot be hassled with the steps, most techs (I certainly do) can come to your home/office and set you up for a nominal fee.

      An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.. especially when sometimes there is no cure (like.. a fire/flood).


      Comment by techpaul | September 2, 2009 | Reply

  5. TechPaul,

    Rick makes an excellent point. One with which I completely agree.

    Disk images, mirroring, incremental and differential backups, etc., are just jargon to ordinary folks.

    I’m not sure what the answer is. Maybe a RAID array should be SOP for all new computers sold, or does that just open up a new set of problems???



    Comment by Bill Mullins | September 2, 2009 | Reply

    • Mr. Mullins,
      I am intrigued by your idea, and properly implemented, a RAID 1 setup from the factory would certainly do a nice job.. but it would raise the overall price, and I think many (most? all?) would buy the cheaper (non-RAID) unit, so you’re right — the manufacturer’s would have to all “get onboard”.

      I am a real fan of the USB attached “storage” devices that offer “one touch backup”.. but to be truly a great solution, these should be unplugged when not in use. They are quite affordable and readily available in most stores that sell digital gadgets.

      I guess.. my bottom line? I don’t care how you get backup copies made (one of the D-I-Y methods, or pay a setup fee, or hire an online service) just get it done; and store one set “offsite” (like in a Deposit box, or friend’s house).
      Because it’s like both you and Rick have said: when the day comes that you need that copy, and you don’t have it? The feelings you may/will feel, will be unpleasant and unforgettable.


      Comment by techpaul | September 2, 2009 | Reply

  6. thanks for sharing…


    Comment by arnold | September 10, 2009 | Reply

  7. The main issue I have with clients that learn about a mirrored array is getting them to understand what it is and what it does for them. A mirrored array protects you against a single issue, hard drive failure, that’s it, done. I’m constantly trying to explain to people that a mirrored array does not negate the need for a good backup routine. If the system gets a virus, both drives are infected, if Windows crashes, both drives are in the same non bootable state. It’s an EXACT copy. If one drive gets taken out by a power surge, it’s likely the other one will go with it. You canot use it to recover deleted files or recover from a bad Windows update, you still must have a current off PC backup to be safe.


    Comment by Dave Brooks | September 11, 2009 | Reply

    • Dave,
      I wish you the best of luck in your efforts to “get people to understand”. It is an admirable endeavor.

      I have simply given up. Totally. And now I merely tell them that if they’re wise, they will get hooked up to one of the online services.
      Take the time to burn discs?
      Un-plug the USB drive?
      … those things are just not going to happen. Or… maybe they’ll happen once.


      Comment by techpaul | September 11, 2009 | Reply

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