Warning : Back Up Your Files – Right Now

This week was supposed to be really productive and I was intent on getting my massive backlog of web work out the way so I could get out and start doing some proper busking.

Like a lot of p.c users, my laptop is seriously crammed full of stuff, with just about every program you could possibly imagine having been installed at some point over the last two years.

I try and keep it as clean as possible and run it through the usual maintenance routines every couple of weeks, and although it’s also got it’s fair share of dodgy programs hacked from all corners of the internet, I have never once had a serious problem and as yet haven’t been plagued with any nasty viruses or trojans that wipe out years worth of work in seconds.

I spend a fair bit of time fixing mates’ computers aswell and most of the time, although my cheap, bog standard 2 gig Acer is practically bursting at the seems, struggling to cope with hordes of massive programs I cram into its tiny hard drives, apart from the odd ‘Blue Screen of Death’, the over heating and the death rattle of the over stressed fan constantly ‘whirring’, it’s pretty damn reliable and has never failed me.

Until last Wednesday.

It's f*&%$d !

It's f*&%$d !

Like most musician/computer/blogger type ecommerce heads, I have some seriously heavy duty apps on my laptop and sometimes I’ve got so much going on a once, I’m surprised the thing hasn’t melted. But what was the cause of Wednesday’s melt down ?… a 20 gig installation of Adobe’s Master Collection ?.. a Cubase and Reason multitrack rewire recording with simultaneous webcam application ?, just a simple Canon camera disk.

I bought this thing on EBay and I swear it’s jinxed. First I got it with the factory fitted memory card missing so I couldn’t even use it, then when my SD card came through, all my rechargeable batteries were so knackered none of them would power the thing, so I had to buy some more and wait for them to charge.. then after I installed the camera’s software and everything looked o.k, all of a sudden my P.C critically fails to a black screen without warning, not even so much as a nice blue screen of death. That was it, my computer was totally f~@*$d.

Nothing would get it running again, I spent all day trying to fix it, I couldn’t get into safe mode, couldn’t restore anything, couldn’t use the repair modules, nothing… it would even take hours getting into the dos.

I’m reasonably good with computers but not an expert and after trying every possible thing I could think of and scanning the net on my Mrs’ spare for more solutions, I realised the only thing I could do was boot my recovery disk from the hard drive and start again.

At this point I thanked God for me bothering to create a recovery disk when I first got the laptop, and even more for buying another external hard drive a few months ago after my previous one failed. I’m not one for religiously backing my files up all the time but I knew that I’d done a quick system back up a week or so ago, so whatever I’d lost and however much of a pain it was, it could have been much, much worse.


After booting up my recovery disks I got the laptop running again and was greeted by a nice clean install of Vista. I dragged my external hard drive out and restored the rest of my files.

The problem was although all of my files were restored, the hundreds of essential programs I need to run my life were no longer present and although my program files were there, the installs were not, so the next day and a half was spent trawling through old, badly labelled disks and downloading applications needed to get it back up to scratch.

Through the computer related carnage that ensued, trying to get things back to normal as fast as possible, about 4 am Friday night the whole thing went tits up again. This time it was my fault as I was trying to do too many things at once and not taking proper care. Programs were conflicting with each other and basic applications were working but pulling up errors, this led to another fatal crash that I couldn’t recover properly from and eventually I just thought ‘sod it’ and started again from scratch using the recovery discs.

What annoyed me was that I was intent on saving everything I possibly needed to get back on track on a few emergency disks when I’d returned my P.C to normal, but after screwing the task up on Friday night, I lost them all again before I had a chance to save them.

Even the first task of downloading and installing the Vista service pack takes about three hours on my broadband connection, so having to do everything again for the second time was another lesson learned.

This time I took it easy and instead of recovering everything at once, I restored them slowly, saving all new executable apps on external drives as soon as I’d downloaded them and labelling all my old disks properly. I made sure everything worked correctly before moving onto the next mission.

Street Musician 2

After a massive clean up as well as trawling through loads of badly recorded videos containing old chord progressions and riffs that one day I might actually get round to turning into real songs, I’ve finally been left with a well organised laptop, void from the clutter that’s been draining my soul for months. I was pretty hacked off about it all, but now I feel pretty good.

I’ve lost 3 or 4 work days doing the job and am still missing about a weeks worth of notes and emails, but luckily most of the work I had done up until the crash was web based and so the damage was kept to a minimum.

The thing is, I was just about to overhaul my entire accounts which was going to take days, and if I had done that before the crash had happened I would have been in a real mess and wasted loads of important files.

It was only pure chance I had backed my files up a week before and sometimes I’d leave it weeks or even months before doing so. I know it’s bad practice but I risk it purely because I couldn’t be bothered to rig up my external drive and push a few buttons. How lazy is that.

Hard Drive Saved My Life

Listen Carefully

Listen Carefully !

The moral of this story is that I have put my system through some real hell over the years and what ever I’ve thrown at it, I’ve never had a major problem that couldn’t be corrected without needing a new install. I thought it would only happen if I was careless and contracted a virus or pushed it to critical limits, but the one thing that finally knackered my laptop was a simple camera install.

My life, business, music and career are on my computer, and if I hadn’t backed it up on a hard drive I’d have lost everything. It would have taken years to replace and I’d probably top myself.

The fact is, you never know when it’s going to happen, and it could happen to you in 5 minutes time…so for your own sake, go and back your files up right now. It is easily done in one click through the ‘Back Up & Restore Center’ in your control Panel. All you need is an external hard drive.

I only wasted a weeks work, but even that was sloppy. From now on I’m backing my stuff up every two days.

Years ago, external hard drives were expensive, now you can get a 500 gig hard drive for about £50 so there’s no excuse.

Take my advice and do it now – before it’s too late.

Street Musician 2

I forgot to mention there are also some great tools you can get that copy the entire contents of your P.C, including all your drives, operating systems, installed applications, settings and everything else, so you can restore everything in one fell swoop without having to screw about for days on end.

These apps will save you one massive headache.

Check out some of the comments below for some good suggestions.

I’m now using Acronis True Image Home – Cheers John.

4 comments to Warning : Back Up Your Files – Right Now

  • I have been backing up pretty regularly for a while. I use Microsoft Sync toy. It’s free and it does a pretty good job. You just create folder pairs so you have a mirror of whatever folder you want to back up on a separate computer or external hard drive.

  • Cheers for the input Scott.

  • john

    You should use acronis. I use their boot cd (it came legit with a new pc, but since it’s a boot dos cd u could use a copy) to save my entire hard drive image onto an external. Takes about 15minutes to image the whole lot.

    Then to restore it’s quicker, about 10mins.

    So if I buy a new hard drive, no problem – just copy over the old image and off you go.

    Surprisingly few people know it’s possible to image the whole drive, apps, drivers, files and all.

  • Thanks for pointing that out. I used to have a copy of Norton Ghost many years ago but never got round to using it. That images the whole drive aswell. It’s way too much hassle just restoring certain files. I think I’ll add a bit more to my post about imaging tools.

    Thanks John

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