July 16, 2006

Backup that data!

This article describes everything that you should do before installing a new OS. Of course, I think that it's great advice, period. Excerpt:

So, you want to try out a new operating system. Good for you! But, before you pop in that CD or DVD, there are a couple of things you need to know. Some of these may sound like an unnecessary pain. Trust me.

There may be some people out there who've installed more different kinds of operating systems on most computers than yours truly, but I haven't met them.

First, back up your data. OK, everyone tells you that. Let me take it one step further: Make certain you can restore your data.

While it's not as big a problem as it used to be for PCs, when backups usually meant tape rather than CDs or DVDs, it's still a heck of a mess when you try to restore your system and you find that your backup disk contains unreadable garbage.

If you're making a big change, say Windows to Linux, and you think you may want to go back again, you should move up from a simple backup program to a system restore program.

These programs essentially take a photograph, an image, of your hard drive. With them, you can restore your entire system even if the new operating system doesn't leave a trace of your old system. For Windows users, the programs I recommend are Acronis True Image 9.0 Home and Norton Ghost 10. For Linux, I like Ghost for Linux.

The Linux option isn't as easy to use as the Windows-based tools, but Sanjay Majumder has written a handy guide to using Ghost for Linux. With it at hand, you shouldn't have any problem mirroring your system.

I spent the better part of a Saturday helping a friend recover data from a crashed/corrupted Windows XP hard drive. He actually backs up his data on a regular basis, but this time, he'd neglected the task for about a month. No biggie, of course, since we were able to recover the data, which is a story that I plan to tell soon, as it proved quite instructive to me. Short version: I used a Knoppix Livd-CD to recover the data because every Windows based OS failed to recognize the drive.

I know that I belabor the benefits of Linux around here, but I don't actually care which operating system you use. What I do care about, and beat my students over the head about, is backing up your frigging data. DVD burners cost less than $50-if you look hard enough- and external 160 Gb USB 2.0 hard drives can be had for around $105. You have no excuse for not backing up your data.

Posted by Physics Geek at July 16, 2006 04:05 PM | TrackBack StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!
Comments

Backup, backup, backup. I was doing a monthly backup and quit when we moved. Missed it for 4 months. And then I burned up my laptop. Darn fan on the bottom. ;-)

Posted by: vw bug at July 16, 2006 06:20 PM

I was brought up by belt and suspenders folks. One asked, "What if your backup device fails?" As a result:

I make full (then incremental) disk copies to an 80 Gb USB disk.

I do the same to two smaller SCSI drives. (The SCSI drives have the advantage that the card updates the BIOS to show the drive. You can access the drive even from a DOS floppy.)

And I also burn critical stuff, (Tax Returns, etc) to a CD and to Sparq and/or Zip drives.

Just like the market, the key is to diversify.

Posted by: Frank Borger at July 17, 2006 09:07 AM

Good plan, Frank. I could have expounded at length about data backup, but it gets quite tedious to some people. Here's my approach to critical data:

1) backup to disc #1

2) subsequent back to disc #2

3) alternate each backup between each device/drive/etc.

This should guarantee that you're never more than one backup away from your data. The scheduling is up to you.

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