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Backup Specifications For Your Home or Office Computer

Recovering from the accidental loss of valuable documents or data, whether due to a disk failure or accidental deletion, can be accomplished quickly and completely if regularly scheduled backups are done correctly. The question to be answered is "what exactly needs to be backed up and when and how?" Unfortunately, a complete treatment of this issue has been unavailable to the average PC user. All PC documentation, whether it is the literature that accompanies a new PC or a PC help book bought off the shelf, state quite emphatically that backups are important, but they never say exactly what they leave it up to you to figure out the specifics. The staff at www.allaboutyourownwebsite.com now provides you with these exact specifications. It is sufficiently detailed to serve the purposes of even the novice user and, if followed, assures rapid and complete recovery from any loss of data including, but not limited to, the complete recovery from a fatal hard disk crash. In fact, if you follow these guidelines, you can replace your entire PC with a new one and have it installed and operational with all of the same mail messages, documents, browser favorites, desktop appearances, start menu, etc., as last existed on your previous machine.

Why?

Backups allow you to restore your files if either:
  • Your hard drive crashes and everything on it is lost. This CAN happen and probably will, at least once every couple of years. When this occurs you have to do a FULL SYSTEM RESTORE (see below) which involves using the most recent regularly scheduled backup. If you do the backups as prescribed below AND the full system restores in the order specified, you are assured that when you are finished with the restore your system will be EXACTLY as it was before the crash. The whole process takes less than three (3) hours. It is important to understand that the ability to restore a system to exactly the way it was before a crash in the least amount of time is your objective. The backup and restore strategies that All About Your Own Website.com defines here satisfy this goal.
  • You've accidentally deleted or corrupted an important file. When this happens you have to restore the file from the most recently regular scheduled backup set.
  • You need to re-install software that you have previously downloaded and paid for. When this happens you have to restore the original download file from either the CD or floppy diskette you saved when the software was originally downloaded.
When?
  • REGULARLY SCHEDULED BACKUPS should be done as often as is practical. A good measure is every eight (8) hours of computer use if you enter a lot of data on a daily basis or work on documents every day. Backups are your insurance policy against the loss of these valuable data and/or files.
  • SPECIAL ONE-TIME BACKUPS should be done for any software that was paid for and downloaded. Put them onto a separate backup disk and label them with any account or registration identification. This makes it possible to re-install it in the future.
What?

The good news is that very few files need to be backed up on a regular basis. Only application data and environment settings need to be regularly backed up. You do not have to backup your entire hard drive or anything close to that. The operating system (Windows 95/98/Me) does not need to be backed up nor does any of the other software, or programs, that you may have installed from CDs or elsewhere - if these need to be restored you simply re-install the software.

We recommend the following files for regularly scheduled backup. This selection satisfies the requirement that if a full system recovery is necessary, and the recovery steps are followed in the sequence listed (see Full System Recovery below), your system will be restored accurately and entirely to it's pre-crash condition.
  • C:\MyDocuments\ (entire tree):
Applications usually ask you where you want to keep the things that you create (eg. WORD documents, spreadsheets, graphics creations, photos, MS Access databases, FileMaker Pro databases, etc.). Save them somewhere in the "C:\My Documents\..." folder tree. This makes it extremely easy to keep all of it successfully backed up because everything in this folder tree is being regularly backed up. You may also create sub-folders within the "My Documents" folder tree to keep things organized by application.
  • Windows Settings and IE Browser Favorites:
    • C:\Windows\Desktop folder
    • C:\Windows\StartMenu folder
    • C:\Windows\Favorites folder
    • C:\Windows\SendTo folder
    • C:\Windows\AllUsers folder
    • C:\Windows\OfflineWebPages folder
  • Netscape Bookmarks (Netscape users only):
    • C:\ProgramFiles\Netscape\Users folder (entire tree).
  • Windows Application Data Area:
    • C:\Windows\ApplicationData\ folder (entire tree). Windows keeps volatile data and settings information in this area, as do many other applications such as Outlook Express.
  • Application Specific Data Areas:

    • example: IOMEGA 1-step backup software lets you specify what files to be backed up each time and it keeps these settings in its own folder

      (C:\Program Files\Iomega\Iomega Backup\).

      It doesn't give you the choice of putting it in the MyDocuments area or anywhere else. Hence, if you are using IOMEGA 1-step backup software you will want to include this folder as part of your backup. We back it up and, sure enough, every time we do a full system restore (see below) all of our IOMEGA 1-step backup settings are restored and ready to go - no need to re-think the file selections.
    • example: the EUDORA mail program keeps your mail messages and other mail account settings in its own area

      (C:\Program Files\Qualcomm\Eudora\...).

      It doesn't give you the choice of putting it in the MyDocuments area. Hence, if you are using EUDORA you will want to include these data files as part of your backup. The HELP documentation tells you exactly which files to backup

      - C:\Program Files\Qualcomm\Eudora\

      Filters, Sigs, Nicknames, & Stationary. We back these up and, sure enough, every time we do a full system restore (see below) all of our mail messages and mail account settings are all restored successfully.

How?

Three different types of storage media may be used for backup safekeeping. You can determine how much backup storage you will need by right-clicking on the folders/files listed above and selecting "properties" to see the "Size" of these folders/files. Once you know approximately how much data you have to backup you will know how many disks (depending on the backup media you are using) will be required:

Backing Up to Floppy Disks

Suitable for 4 Mb or less of data (about 4 floppies). More than 4 Mb of data prolongs the backup process and requires too many floppy disks. You need about one (1) floppy for each one (1) Mb of data. Run the Windows backup program:

"START/PROGRAMS/ACCESSORIES/SYSTEM TOOLS/Backup"

and select just those folders or files listed above for the backup. Read the backup program's documentation about how to "select" those files you wish to backup and how to "save" the selection for future backup use. Be sure to label and date the floppies when finished. They can be reused and re-labeled for future backups. Keep at least two floppies in a rotation. Reuse and re-label the oldest one each time. Pros: No purchase required (software and hardware already built-in to every Windows system). Disks are inexpensive.
Cons: Slow and cumbersome for more than 4Mb of data.

Backing Up to ZIP Drives

Each zip disk holds 100 Mb (or 250 Mb or more depending on what drive you buy) and the backup process is very fast. Run the backup program that came with ZIP drive. Read the backup program's documentation about how to "select' which files are to be backed up and how to "save"' the selection for future backup use. Be sure to label and date the disk when finished. They can be reused and re-labeled for future backups. Keep at least two disks in a rotation. Reuse and re-label the oldest one each time. Pros: Faster than floppies and requires fewer disks (each disk equals 100 or more floppies).
Cons: Requires purchase (refer to CNET for current prices). Disks are expensive - approximately $10 each.

Backing Up Your Data to CD-RW Disks

Each CD-RW disk holds 600 Mb (or more depending on what drive you buy). This backup process is the fastest of your three options. Run the backup program that accompanies the CD-RW drive. Follow the backup program's documentation about how to "select"' which files are to be backed up and how to "save" the selection so that you can re-use it every time without having to re-think the file selection. Be sure to label and date the disks when finished. They can be reused and re-labeled for future backups. Keep at least two disks in a rotation. Reuse and re-label the oldest one each time.

Pros: Faster than ZIP and requires fewer disks (each disk equals 600 or more floppies). Disks are inexpensive approximately $1 each.
Cons: May require purchase (refer to CNET for current prices).

Full System Recovery

In the event of a hard drive failure or a fatal virus attack, it is possible to restore your PC to exactly the way it was when your last regularly scheduled backup was done. Not only your data files, but your desktop settings, start menu, programs menu, browser settings, etc. will be perfectly restored. This is only possible IF you performed the backup according to our instructions above. If so, proceed as follows in the sequence specified:
  1. Replace your hard drive, or have it repaired. It will now be empty.
  2. Setup your computer to its original factory configuration. Call the vendor for assistance. Usually new computers arrive with a special CD for restoring your computer to its original factory settings.
  3. Re-install any additional software from the CDs that you have added since the computer was purchased.
  4. Restore and re-install any software that you paid to download. The original download file should have been backed up when it was first installed (see "Adding Software" above). You can now restore these as single files into the "My Downloads" folder and then install them (i.e., open them). This is done by running the same program you used to create the backup in the first place, except now you choose the RESTORE option.
  5. Restore everything (full restore) from your most recent regularly scheduled backup. This is done by running the same program you used to create the backup in the first place, except now you choose the RESTORE option and opt to restore everything to its original location.
  6. Re-download and re-install the software that you had downloaded for free. The web sites should have been bookmarked when you did the initial download (see "Adding Software" above) and these bookmarks have now been restored in step 5 (above).
  7. Perform the WEEKLY, MONTHLY and QUARTERLY maintenance requirements (see Required Routine Maintenance above).
  8. Re-create your anti-virus emergency diskettes. Now your computer is exactly the way it was before the crash.


About the Authors:

John Dalton & Nancy Baer own and maintain www.AllAboutYourOwnWebsite.com, a "Complete Guide to Creating and Managing Websites" - Visit our website any time to learn about the seven (7) steps involved with website design and development.


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11/21/17
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