Backing Up Your Stuff Part 4: Preparing For Disaster

Written By: Richard Lowe

Okay, picture this … your computer system has been destroyed by the most
recent outbreak of the dreaded typhoid Mary virus. You never knew what hit
you. One minute the system was fine. You received a nice email with an
attachment which you opened, and boom, your system crashed. You rebooted but
it got an error. Now what?

Or you could have mice (the animals) in your house. Mice love to create
nests in warm places, and your computer is pretty warm. Just imagine all
those little teeth gnawing away on all of the wires …

Worse yet, imagine it rains and a leak appears directly over your hard drive
… or your “friend” spills coffee on the CPU cabinet. I could go on and on
about what could happen to your computer.

I don’t know about you, but I spend more time on my home computer than I do
watching television, reading, eating or anything else except possibly
working at my day job. When my computer has a problem, especially one that
results in a boot failure, I get extremely angry. I feel like I have been
betrayed by my best friend. If the system gets damaged, I feel just as much
pain as if a good friend went into the hospital.

The thing to do is to make sure you are prepared for the worst possible
thing that can happen … total system failure. This is a very difficult
task to write about as there are many different ways that a computer can eat
itself or be eaten – perhaps as many ways as there are computers.

It is beyond the scope of this article to go into great detail on how to
make your system totally recoverable. There are many other great resources
on the internet and in the documentation that originally came with your
computer which will help you prepare.

Briefly, though, what you need are the following:

- The CD ROM containing the operating system installation files. This
virtually always comes with a new system. It will be labeled something like
“Windows 95″ or “Windows 2000″.

- Any other kind of recovery CD that came with your system.

- A bootable media. Sometimes the CD ROM itself is bootable. More often, you
will get one or more floppy diskettes with your system. Keep these in a safe

- An emergency repair disk. This is usually one (sometimes more) diskettes
which contain all of the configuration options for your operating system.
You need to create these occasionally (they are not automatic) – usually
whenever you make a major change.

- Copies of all of the updates and patches that have applied to the
operating system. What I do is maintain a writeable CD with a copy of each
service pack and hot fix that I’ve installed. It is also a good idea to keep
a text file (one the writeable CD itself) with a list of what needs to be
installed in the correct order.

- Copies of each of the applications that have been installed on the
computer. If your applications came on CD, then keep those in a safe place.
If you downloaded the applications, then store a copy on a writeable CD. In
addition, you will need to keep copies of any patches or updates to these
applications on writeable CDs.

I like to keep a box with all of the above items in a safe place. I call the
box my “crash cart”, as it contains everything that I need to restore my
system to health in the event of a software error.

In addition it’s a good idea to keep the following in the crash cart:

- A sheet of paper with a list of people and companies you can call for help
in the event of disaster. This may include technical support numbers of the
computer manufacturer, the operating system company and any applications

- A log of all of the changes and installations that were made to the
computer system. This will be invaluable to determine what to recover in
what order.

- All of the documentation that came with the system in the original box.

- Another sheet of paper with network information (TCP/IP addresses and
such), modem settings and other control panel values. This will be important
if you ever have to type it all back in. Some of the most important
information is any settings or values provided by your ISP which allow your
computer to get on the internet.

When you have a few spare minutes, when it is raining out and the television
is showing nothing good at all, when the kids are in bed and the husband or
wife is asleep, when you are totally bored out of your mind … then recover
those manuals that came with the system. You know which ones I’m talking
about … the ones you have buried in your closet under five feet of clothes
behind the Christmas tree.

Now, open the books and read them. They will usually have some instructions
on how to recover your system in the event of failure. This is the
information that you need to understand, and it’s better to spend the couple
of hours up front reading than it is trying desperately to figure it out one
evening – the day before that term paper is due, of course.

And in the worst case, if you have all or most of the above items you will
have the materials that the computer geek in the house down the street will
need when you come begging for help at his door…

About the Author

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets. This
website includes over 1,000 free articles to improve your internet
profits, enjoyment and knowledge.
Web Site Address: http://www.internet-tips.net
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Daily Tips: mailto:internet-tips@GetResponse.com

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