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Keep A Diary Of Your Computer

Written By: Grant McNamara

Keeping a diary of your computer can be a valuable asset if
something goes wrong. Imagine for a moment the consequences
if your hard drive failed or worse, someone stole your
computer. And whilst having a reliable and recent backup is
an essential step on your way to recovery, having a diary
is a major advantage.

If you use a computer for your business then like me your
computer has probably become a tool that you rely on. I am
in the internet business and frankly without my computer I
am out of business. Picture the consequences to your
business and your livelihood if suddenly you arrived home
to find the place on your desk where your computer was a
blank space.

Thieves love computers. They are reasonably portable, and
readily salable. If the owner stores all their CDs in an
attractive rack close by, that’s easy to carry away too,
and all the better the price.

So why would you keep a diary, what is a diary, what does
it contain?

Why keep a diary?

Let’s assume worse case; you’re computer is stolen. Replacing
it is reasonably simple; a visit to the local PC shop and in
all likelihood a far better (and cheaper) machine than you
had before. But now you have the new computer home, how are
you going to set it up so that you can have all of the things
you had before? Your email messages for example, that proposal
you were writing for Monday’s deadline, and that E-Book
that you’re halfway through and will make a fortune in
six months time.

You’ll have probably had a dozen or more projects in
progress (can you remember what they all were?). What about
your web site and the software you use to make changes to it?
And there may be accounting records for debtors, inventory
and purchases.

Most backups don’t include software. Backups are almost
invariably copies of the data files. My message is that
as well as restoring all of your data, you also need to
restore your ‘software environment’. Without this you
can’t work with your data.

So the purpose of a diary is to keep a track of what your
software and hardware environment is made up of.

What is a diary and what does it contain?

I have a simple notebook in which I enter changes that are
made to the physical computer (it’s hardware) and but
especially changes or additions to the software. There
is a single page for each component (software and hardware
of the machine).

For example if you needed to install a new software program
then you would create a new page heading and make a diary
entry of the purchase. This would include the name of the
software product, version, and where it was sourced, date
and payment method. Some software has a serial number so
this should also be recorded. And if you register the
software also keep a note of the date and method
of registration.

The source of software might have been the purchase of a CD
from a shop in which case recovery is a simple matter
(assuming you’ve kept the CD somewhere safe). But if you
download software, or the CD was stolen with your computer,
then getting another copy and reinstalling can be difficult
and frustrating.

If you downloaded the software then you at least need the
URL where you purchased the software from.

If you have a record of the software’s acquisition then you
can prove to the original supplier the fact of your purchase
and most suppliers will provide a copy (perhaps with a small
handling charge). Obviously if you can’t prove your purchase
then bad luck you’re going to have to buy it again!

As an aside, whenever possible make a backup copy of all
software you purchase before you install it. Most software
is readily copyable, both technically and legally. Every
software license agreement I have ever seen allows the
software to be copied for a legitimate backup purpose. And
as with any backup, it should kept at a different location
than the computer.

In addition, if you make any upgrades to the software then
full details of these should also be recorded.

Similar records should be maintained of your hardware. As a
minimum, record serial numbers of all hardware items, along
with cost, date and where purchased. For an insurance claim
or Police report these are vital facts.

I also find it useful to keep a page devoted to my internet
connection. This includes all the details needed to connect
such as TCP/IP address (or phone number if on dial-up),
sign-in and email address and passwords, server details such
as pop and smtp names and any security options you’ve
selected. Whilst all of this information is relatively simple
to setup again, without the details it can be very
time consuming.

Another page should be devoted to the operating system. My
current computer was purchased about 18 months ago and came
with a copy of Windows 98. I subsequently upgraded to
Windows 98 SE, then earlier last year I bought an upgrade
copy of Windows XP. And so to rebuild the software environment
I’d need to reinstall Windows 98, perform the upgrade to SE
and then perform the upgrade to Windows XP. Without a few
notes in my diary I’d probably not remember the sequence of
events. Likely my new computer would have a copy of Windows
with it and so this page would be unnecessary. But if you’re
only replacing a failed hard drive then this information
is necessary.

Perhaps you think hard drives don’t fail. I live in a small
town with a population of 30,000 people. A good friend owns
the only computer shop. He advises that not a day goes by
when at least one person doesn’t come in with a broken
hard drive.

One last thought, throughout your diary make notes of any
special options or features that you install or set.

About the Author

About the Author:
Grant McNamara has over 20 years experience in IT,and specializes
in multi-lingual web site and software development and training.
His web sites are http://www.selling-it.com/ and
http://www.translateme.co.nz/ mailto:grant.mcnamara@selling-it.com

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