The computer helper: Preparing for disaster
Jan 5, 2008, 9:39 GMT
Washington - Sooner or later, you'll lose data through a mishap or a computer meltdown. The question is whether you'll be ready to recover from the disaster. Read on for some strategies.
Q: If I need to reinstall my operating system and applications from scratch, which files will I need to make the job as quick and painless as possible? Will Windows XP or Vista recognise all the hardware in my computer automatically?
A: You're wise to think about what's required to reinstall your operating system, since many people need to perform this task with a PC - and often it's required when you have the least amount of time to get the job done. And it's indeed rare when either XP or Vista will have all of the drivers necessary to get all of the hardware in your computer running.
So do yourself a huge favour and create a folder on your computer called, for example, My PC. In that folder, create separate subfolders called Audio, LAN, Chipset, Video, and Documentation. Now find out which drivers would be necessary to rebuild your computer from scratch, and copy those drivers in the appropriate folders.
If you have a video card based on NVIDIA's 7600-series chipset, for instance, visit the NVIDIA Web site and download the latest drivers, placing them in the Video subfolder you created.
If you purchased your PC from a large manufacturer such as Dell or HP, you could just visit the Web site of the computer maker and download all of the drivers and software necessary to get your computer up and running quickly. Also make sure that you have the original operating system disk and that it's bootable.
Once you have populated all of those subfolders in My PC with installation files, copy the entire My PC folder to an external hard drive, USB drive, or CD, and set that aside for safe-keeping. Then, when you have to reinstall Windows, you'll have all of the drivers handy, and the entire process will proceed as quickly as possible.
If you have an external hard drive with sufficient space, you might also consider creating a folder called Software, and copy into subfolders all of the installation files for the software programs upon which you rely.
If you cannot use your PC without Office 2007, for instance, you could create a folder called Office 2007 and copy into it the entire installation DVD that you received from Microsoft. Installing software directly from a hard drive is much faster than from CDs or DVDs.
Q: I use the backup utility in Windows XP to back up my computer to an external drive. If I have to restore everything from that drive, what will be the procedure?
A: The backup tool that comes with Windows XP is a Windows-only utility. That means that in order to use it to restore a system that has experienced a fatal error involving the main drive (on which your operating system is stored), you must first reinstall Windows from the original disk.
Make sure you unplug your external hard drive when you're reinstalling Windows; if you do not, Windows might get confused with the presence of an extra drive and attempt to assign your boot drive a letter other than C, which will cause problems later.
Once Windows is reinstalled, plug in your external hard drive, and make sure Windows recognises it. A typical external drive connects via a USB port, so the drive should be recognised automatically, without installing any additional drivers. If that's not the case, locate the drivers for the drive, and install them.
You launch the backup utility by opening the Start menu and selecting All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Backup. When the backup tool opens, click the Restore Wizard (Advanced) button. Work through the wizard, using the Browse button on the What to Restore panel to select the backup file from your external hard drive.
Once the file has been located and indexed, you will have the opportunity to select both the main partition (C) and the System State. You'll want to select both, and then click Start Restore.
Your computer will be restored to the state it was in when you last performed a full backup. After the restoration is complete, you will need to restart your computer.
Q: I use Acronis True Image 9 to create an image of my Windows XP computer. I'm considering moving to Vista. Can I use Acronis to image Vista as well?
A: You can, but not with version 9. You would need to make sure that any imaging software you use with Vista is Vista-aware. In the case of Acronis True Image, you would want to upgrade to version 11.
Imaging the main drive in your PC is a good idea, since with an image you could restore everything on your PC - operating system, applications, files, and settings - at one time, with no need to reconfigure anything once the restoration is complete.
Restoring Vista from an image, however, will require one additional step over XP. Once the image has been restored, start Vista from the original operating system disk, and choose the Repair option on the opening installation screen. In a few seconds, the repair should be complete, and you can remove the Vista CD and boot normally.
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