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
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
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
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
Check any or all boxes. This may take about thirty (30) seconds.
Run Scan Disk
Be sure to check the standard box before starting. This may take a few
Run 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.
QUARTERLY [every three (3) months]:
- Download and install anti-virus updates. Run your anti-virus main
(START/PROGRAMS/McAfee or Norton, or any other anti-virus program)
and follow its instructions.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
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
- 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
Data Recovery Prevention: When to Perform Backups
What files Require Regular Scheduled 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.
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.
Windows keeps volatile data and settings information in this area, as do
many other applications.
- 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
Application specific data.
Recommended Media for Storing Backups
- 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
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 -
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.
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
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
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
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.
- Replace your hard drive, or have it repaired. It will now be empty.
- 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.
- Re-install any additional software from the CDs that you have added
since the computer was purchased.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Perform the WEEKLY, MONTHLY and QUARTERLY maintenance requirements
(see Required Routine Maintenance above).
- 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
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.