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Data Recovery Article

PC Operations and Maintenance Essentials

Minimizing the risk of disk failures, virus infections, or the accidental loss of valuable documents or data can be accomplished quite easily by following simple procedures in the areas of PC setup, routine disk maintenance, virus updates and regularly scheduled backups. When done correctly, the ability to recover quickly and fully from any of the previously mentioned disasters is assured and your PC, as a consequence, will perform optimally at all times.

Unfortunately, a complete, or even concise, treatment of this issue has been unavailable to the average PC user. The documentation that accompanies a new PC, whether it is the Windows booklet or the PC vendor's hardware guide, doesn't say everything it should about each and every required procedure. And it certainly doesn't put it all in one convenient user-friendly place!

The staff at www.allaboutyourownwebsite.com has solved that problem. Here, for the first time, is a concise guide to essential PC operation and maintenance. It is sufficiently detailed to serve the purposes of even the novice user and, if followed, assures rapid and complete recovery from any PC disaster, while requiring very little of your time. In fact, if you follow these recommendations, you can replace your entire PC with a new one and have it installed and operational with all of the same software, appearances, and data in the same amount of time that it takes to complete any ordinary new PC installation.

Data Recovery Prevention PC Setup

The following tasks should be performed when installing a new PC:
  • Save all receipts and papers, label and file them where they can be located easily. Keep the packaging for about thirty (30) days before throwing it out, in the event you have to send everything back to the manufacturer.
  • Buy a power strip surge protector that includes phone line surge protection and use it!
  • Create an emergency boot diskette and label it. Your computer will come with the necessary instructions. It may even come with an emergency boot diskette already created in which case you can skip this step.
  • Install anti-virus software. If your computer did not come with anti-virus protection software (usually Norton, McAfee or Dr. Solomon) you MUST buy a program and install it. The basic package is all you need.
  • Create an emergency anti-virus diskette and label it. Follow the instructions of your anti-virus software.
  • Clean up your desktop (screen) that will come littered with icons. These are just shortcuts to run programs and can be deleted (right click on each and select DELETE) if you want to unclutter your screen. The programs do not get deleted; every program can just as easily be run from the PROGRAMS menu (START/PROGRAMS/...). A lot of these desktop icons will be internet shortcuts to Internet Service Providers (ISP) who are hoping to seduce you into subscribing to their internet service. Once you have chosen your ISP you may delete these icons.
  • Label your C: drive. Do this by double clicking MyComputer, then right clicking the C: drive, then left clicking properties, then entering a label name. Any label name will do. This improves performance.
  • Write down the model number and the serial number and the vendor's tech support 1-800 phone number.
  • Call the vendor tech support and register the above information.
  • Extend your warranty if necessary. Make sure your warranty covers parts and labor for at least two years. After two (or three) years the industry's technology will have evolved greatly thereby rendering your current PC a dinosaur beyond the scope of serious maintenance or upgrade concerns.

    Data Recovery Prevention Required Maintenance - Weekly, Monthly and Quarterly

    Performing these preventive measures will significantly decrease the probability and frequency that your hard drive will crash, or the likelihood that viruses will ruin your system. WEEKLY (or every 40 hours of computer use):

  • Run Disk Cleanup (START/PROGRAMS/ACCESSORIES/DISK CLEANUP). Check any or all boxes. This may take about thirty (30) seconds.
  • Run Scan Disk (START/PROGRAMS/ACCESSORIES/SCAN DISK). Be sure to check the standard box before starting. This may take a few minutes.
  • Run Disk Defragmenter (START/PROGRAMS/ACCESSORIES/DISK DEFRAGMENTER). Check the C:/ drive. This may take between 10-60 or more minutes, depending on how many files you have saved on your hard drive. MONTHLY:

    1. Download and install anti-virus updates. Run your anti-virus main program (START/PROGRAMS/McAfee or Norton, or any other anti-virus program) and follow its instructions.
    2. Download and install system updates to obtain the latest Windows software bug fixes. This should be located on START menu as "Windows Update," or go directly to the Windows Update website.
    QUARTERLY [every three (3) months]:

    1. Perform a virus scan of your entire hard drive (C:/). Run your anti-virus main program (START/PROGRAMS/McAfee or Norton, or etc.) and follow the instructions. This may take an hour or more.
    2. Perform a THOROUGH disk scan of your hard drive. (START/PROGRAMS/ACCESSORIES/SCAN DISK). Be sure to check the THOROUGH box before starting. This may take an hour or more.
    3. Curious about how well your system is performing compared to other PCs? Go to PC Pitstop and it will tell you.

    Adding New Software

    Software comes from only one (1) of four (4) possible sources:
  • It has been installed on your computer prior to delivery. Your pre-installed Windows 98 operating system is, of course, the best example. Other pre-installed programs may include Anti-virus software, MS Office Suite, etc. When asked where to put software during its installation, simply select its default location.
  • You install it from a CD or a floppy diskette. When asked for a target directory, allow it to be put to the default location (usually

    C:/ProgramFiles/appname).
  • You download and PAY FOR it and install it from a website. Downloads arrive as a single file and then either expand or self-install when they are "opened." When asked where you want this downloaded, allow it to download into whatever folder the PC indicates, OR you can create a top-level folder on the "C: drive called "My Downloads" and force everything there (our preference, as if you encounter any problems with your system after downloading, you can more easily locate them in this folder). You SHOULD backup these single download files putting them onto a separate disk and labeling them with any account or registration identification numbers so that this software can be reinstalled in the future, if necessary, without repurchasing it. You may then delete these downloads from your hard drive.
  • You download and install it for FREE from a website. Downloads arrive as a single file and then either expand or self-install when they are "opened." You can allow the incoming file to download into whatever folder it chooses, OR you can create a top-level folder on the C: drive called "My Downloads" and direct everything into this folder (our preference). You can delete these single download files after they have been "opened" and the install process has completed. Be sure to bookmark the web site where you obtained the file so you can return to it, in the event you need to reinstall it.

    Where to Save Application Outputs & Data

    eg. WORD documents, spreadsheets, graphics creations, photos, MS Access databases, FileMaker Pro databases, etc.

    Applications usually ask you where you want to keep the things that you create. 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 regularly backed up (see BACKUPS below). You may also create sub-folders within the "My Documents" folder tree to keep things organized by application.

    However, some applications, like MS Money, automatically put newly created data into their own area in the

    "C:\Program Files\..." area. This is OK -

    you just have to remember this when you select "what" to regularly backup (see below).

    Data Recovery prevention: Backups

    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 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.

    Data Recovery Prevention: When to Perform Backups



    • 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, or work on documents every day, you'll want to perform a backup every day. Backups are your insurance policy against the loss of valuable data and/or files.
    • SPECIAL ONE-TIME BACKUPS should be done for any software that paid to download. 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 files Require Regular Scheduled Backups?

    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.

    We recommend the following files for regularly scheduled backup. This selection satifies 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 quickly to it's pre-crash condition.
    • C:\MyDocuments\ (entire tree).
    • Windows files:
    • 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 (required for Netscape users only)
    • C:\ProgramFiles\Netscape\Users\(entire tree).
    • C:\Windows\ApplicationData\ - the entire folder and any/all subfolders.
    Windows keeps volatile data and settings information in this area, as do many other applications.

    Application specific data.

    • 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.
    Recommended Media for Storing Backups

    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 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.
    In the past two years we have developed and refined the procedures described above. Adhering to these will minimize the likelihood of a hardware crash, keep your PC in peak performance and eliminate the irrecoverable loss of valuable data or files.

    About the Authors:
    John Dalton & Nancy Baer own and maintain http://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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