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Monday, April 5, 2010

The Day After The Day After The Crash

Well, the good news is that my hard drive is alive and functioning. The bad news is that the computer is shot! The disk controller is built into the mother board and when it goes the whole mother board has to be replaced. I'm tempted to replace the whole thing and install the current drive as the second drive on a new laptop. I've hated the keyboard since the day I bought the computer and this may be my chance to get a new one. I'm waiting for a price on a new motherboard today.

While I have been doing backups regularly, they were not nearly as complete as I thought. The big files like my Quicken data were saved properly but a lot of little detail data was not. All the login data for each bank was gone as I had it in a separate file that was not saved.

What I learned:

  1. Organize your personal data into groups, put them in separate folders and add them to the backup list. Encrypt sensitive data like bank account numbers and passwords with a program such as TrueCrypt. Keep it current!
  2. Backup all the browser bookmarks. I have a lot of obscure links to race parts suppliers and travel places that I wouldn't die for not knowing but would not be happy about losing.
  3. When you install a new program and get an activation key copy it to a file and make sure it's in a folder that's backed up. Just cut & paste it into a file. Do you really want to spend hours on the phone with Microsoft trying to get a new key for Word?
  4. Backup all your email addresses. If you use an online program like gmail it's done for you. If you use Outlook on your computer you're on your own and need to back it up.
  5. Keep all your correspondence, resumes, etc. in a separate folder (NOT a sub-folder of the word processing program and NOT in the MyDocuments folder). The reason is to make it easier to backup and restore.
  6. Do a backup EVERY day. Schedule a time and make it a habit. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to help a friend and finding they haven't backed up for 2-3 months.
    Toshiba 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive HDDR500E04XK (Black)
  7. Use an external drive for backups. It will not help you at all if your backup files are on the same drive that just crashed. They are cheap and most include software that will automatically do the backups for you.
  8. Check that the backups are all getting done as you think they are. Try to restore a test file and make sure you know how to do it and that what you get back is what you think you saved.
#8 may be the most crucial. I thought I was saving more than I really was. Many files that I had taken for granted turned out to be very important. Trying to find my on-line login id for some accounts turned out to be a real pain. Since FireFox remembered all these for me I never bothered to write them down anywhere. Big Oops! 

As they say, "It's not if you crash, it's just when!" Think of all this as helmet and leathers for your computer. I thought I was careful and protected, and I was to a certain extent. Next time I'll be even better prepared.