APCUG March Articles
2. Backing up your hard drive by Gene Barlow Gene does a good job of explaining the technical aspect of backing up your hard drive. Although it is written for Windows I think it's applicable to other platforms as well, even though the programs he mentions might not work in them.
3. Hard Drive Cloning by David Muscato tells his experience in moving his file from the old hard drive to the new one.
4. The $152 Internet Bargain by Steve Bass. Steve's focus on buying from the internet will I'm sure give you all something to think about. -----------------------------------------------
2. Backing up your hard drive
By Gene Barlow
User Group Relations
Copyrighted January 2002
Your computer hard drive is very important: Your hard drive is the heart of your computer system. It contains your Windows operating system, which is the master control program of your computer. It also contains all of your application programs that help you do productive things with your computer. But, most importantly, it contains all the data files that you create using your application programs. These data files are the most valuable part of your computer and the hardest to replace if something should happen to your hard drive.
Yes, your hard drive will fail on you someday: Your hard drive is a mechanical device that spins constantly and is certain to wear out. The life of a hard drive is only 2-3 years. If you are lucky, your drive may last you 4 or 5 years, but it could go out in just 6 months. It is not a question of if your hard drive will fail, but it’s a question of when it will fail. All you can do is to be ready when it does fail by having a copy of all of the files on your hard drive saved away from your computer. Then you can replace the failed drive with an empty new drive and put all of the files on the new hard drive. This lets you be back up and running in a mater of minutes instead of days or weeks rebuilding your drive. This process is called backing up and restoring your hard drive and is the topic of this article.
What files should you backup: One of the first decisions you must make is what files need to be backed up to adequately protect you. I consider your data files as the most important ones to backup. Your data files are those files that you create using your application programs. If you use Quicken, then the data file that needs to be backed up contains all of your financial records entered into Quicken. If you research your genealogy, then the database of your ancestors that you've collected for years is the important data file that must be backed up. If you correspond extensively using E-mail, then the folders of your E-mail correspondence needs to be backed up. You should plan on backing up your data files at least daily.
The second most important thing to backup is your entire hard drive and all of the files on it. This includes your Windows operating system as well as all of your application programs. By backing up the entire hard drive, you will not have to rebuild your system from scratch, but will be able to quickly get your system back up and running again. Some would suggest that you really don't need to backup your operating system and application programs because you can always reload them from the CDs they came on. While this is mostly true, you need to consider how much time this will take you to reinstall the operating system and all of the applications you own. Then, how long will it take you to download all of the software patches and add-ons that you have added to your system. Finally, how long will it take you to enter all of the special settings that you must do to have your system work exactly as you like it to. To this lengthy time, consider how you can recover the many programs and files for which you do not have a CD. I think when you consider all of these factors, you'll agree that having a backup of your entire hard drive is a wise investment of your time. You should plan on backing up your entire hard drive on a monthly basis.
What media is best for backup: The next question you need to consider is what is the best media to backup your files from your hard drive. A few years ago, tape backup systems were the most popular backup media. The only problem with these tape systems was that they were very slow. Backing up a 1-2GB hard drive in a couple of hours was reasonable, but backing up today's 40GB hard drives to tape would take too long. You would not do it often enough to be usable. The next popular backup media to come along were the removable disk cartridge drives. These were much faster than tape, but the cartridges tended to be expensive. For example, a 40GB hard drive would need 10-20 Jazz (2GB) cartridges to backup the entire drive. At $100 each, you would need to invest over $2,000 in cartridges to backup your entire drive. Writing to blank CDs promises to be one of the best backup media today, but even the fastest drives are slow and it takes many blank CDs to backup a large hard drive.
So, what is the best media to backup a 40GB hard drive today? Another 40GB hard drive! Hard drives are much faster than tape and are even faster than the disk cartridge systems. You can backup an entire 40GB hard drive in less than an hour or so. Since it is fast, you'll tend to backup your system more often and this means better protection for you. Hard drives are also very inexpensive to purchase. If you watch prices carefully, you can get a 40GB hard drive for $99 or less. I would plan on having an extra hard drive for backup purposes for each hard drive that you save data on.
What type of backup software is available: There are two very different backup utilities on the market today -- File backup utilities and Partition backup utilities. File backup utilities are by far the most common. These utilities backup individual files one at a time. They can also be used to restore individual files to your hard drive. A good feature of File backup utilities is that they can select individual files from all parts of your hard drive. This is great for picking and choosing your important data files to backup. On the other hand, File backup utilities tend to be quite slow in backing up your entire hard drive and you would need to make many extra steps in rebuilding your hard drive partitions in case of a total failure. That is where Partition backup utilities have the advantage. Partition backup utilities backup entire partitions and all the files contained in them. Some of these Partition backup utilities work at the lowest hardware level and are very fast. Restoring a partition to an empty hard drive using a partition backup utility will create and format partitions as it restores the partition file.
PowerQuest Corporation has an excellent backup software package that contains both a File backup utility and a Partition backup utility combined in one product. This product is called Drive Image and has a list price of $69.95. The File backup utility in this product is called DataKeeper and is designed to backup your individual data files on a frequent basis. The Partition backup utility in the product is called Drive Image and is designed to backup your entire hard drive every month or so. Let's take a look at how these two utilities can be used to backup your system.
Backing up your important Data files: As mentioned earlier, the data files on your system are the most important files on your computer. They are also the hardest to replace if something should happen to your hard drive. Backing up your data files should be your first objective in establishing a good backup plan for your system. Data files change daily and need to be backed up on a daily basis.
Using PowerQuest's DataKeeper utility, you can select all of your important data files from various part of your hard drive. If you have spent a little preparation in organizing your hard drive, you may already have all of your data files collected together in the same partition. This makes it easier to identify and backup these important data files. DataKeeper will let you backup all of your data files or backup only those that have changed since the last backup. You can also compress the backup files to about half their original size when you save them to conserve space. You can backup an individual file up to 99 times without replacing an earlier backup copy of that file. This gives you the ability to keep multiple backup versions of a data file as it is being developed. If you need to see the file, as it was several versions ago, you can do so with DataKeeper. It will backup these files to any device having a standard drive letter, such as a special backup partition on a hard drive or a removable cartridge drive. If you create your data file backups on a hard drive, try to place them on another hard drive than the one the original data files are stored on. Also, you should copy these backup files to a blank CD every month so that you will have some removable media that you can store away from your computer.
One of the best features of DataKeeper is its ability to monitor the import data files that you select and to automatically backup a file as soon as it is changes. Using this monitoring approach, you never have to think about backing up your data files since this is done for you automatically. It also assures that you have a backup of these important files that is current to the last minute or so. This is a powerful feature of DataKeeper and one that I would highly recommend using.
Backing up your entire hard drive: The second most important part of your backup plan is to backup your entire hard drive at least once a month. Having this backup in place will protect you from a major failure of your entire hard drive. Using PowerQuest's Drive Image to backup your entire hard drive you have two approaches to select from. Let's look at each of these approaches separately.
The first full-drive backup approach is to use Drive Image to copy all of the partitions from your main hard drive to a backup hard drive. Both hard drives must be installed on the same computer system to do this approach. Using Drive Image's Disk-to-Disk Copying facility, you copy the partitions from your main drive to the backup drive, one at a time. When Drive Image copies a partition, it creates a new partition on the backup drive, so the drive can be empty of partitions before you start the process. Also, copying a partition copies not only the partition, but also all of the hidden files, system files, and other files contained in the partition to the backup hard drive. So, when you finish copying all of the partitions from your main drive to the backup drive, you have an exact duplicate of your main drive that could be used if your main drive failed.
After copying all of the partitions to your backup hard drive, you need to disconnect the backup drive and remove it from your computer system. You should store the drive away from your computer, so that if anything happens to your computer, your backup drive will not be affected, too. Once a month, you'll need to retrieve this backup hard drive and insert and connect it back into your computer and repeat the backing up of all of your partitions, then remove it again from your computer. If something should happen to your main hard drive, simply get your backup hard drive and replace your main hard drive with the backup drive, setting it as a master drive, and you should be able to immediately start your computer and have it run. To simplify the frequent removal and replacement of your backup hard drive, you can purchase a hard drive rack mounting system from your computer store for about $25 that will let you remove and insert the drive without removing the covers of your computer.
The second full-drive backup approach is to use Drive Image to cross backup one hard drive to another. With this approach, you install and leave both hard drives in your computer all the time. For this approach to work, you'll need to setup a large backup partition at the end of each of the two hard drives. PowerQuest's PartitionMagic utility is the best way to create these backup partitions on your hard drives. Once the two drives are in place with a large backup partition on each of them, you can use Drive Image to create condensed image files of entire partitions and store them on the backup partition of the other hard drive.
To make this a little easier to understand, let's look at a simple example. You have two hard drives and the following partitions on each of the two hard drives:
C: partition (Contains your Operating System)
D: partition (A backup partition)
E: partition (Contains your Application Programs)
F: partition (Contains your Data Files)
G: partition (A backup partition)
Using Drive Image, create an image files of your entire C: partition and all of its contents on your G: backup partition. Then, using Drive Image, create an image file of your E: and F: partitions on your D: backup partition. These image files represent the entire partition and all of their active content. These image files can be condensed by 40-50% to save room on your backup partition. Notice that we save the images from one hard drive to the other hard drive's backup partition and visa-versa. Hence, we call this the cross backup approach.
Once a month, you'd repeat this cross backup approach from one drive to the other until you fill up the backup partition. Then you'd delete the oldest image file to make room for the new image file to be stored in your backup partition. If either of your hard drives should fail on you, all you have to do is to remove the failed drive and place an empty new drive in its place. Then using Drive Image, you find the latest condensed image of the partitions on the failed drive on the other drive’s backup partition and restore that image to recreate the partitions and all of their content on the empty drive. This lets you be back up and running your computer in a matter of minutes instead of days or weeks rebuilding your system. If the drive that failed was your first drive containing your operating system, that is no problem. You can boot Drive Image from a DOS diskette and quickly rebuild your operating system partitions from the second drive's backup partition.
What if both hard drives fail together: While it is rare, it is possible for both of your hard drives to fail at the same time, thus leaving you without either of your backup partitions to use to rebuild the other hard drive. For example, your computer could be burned in a fire or taken by a thief. In these cases, you'd loose not only your main drive, but your backup images as well. So, you need to make some special provisions to guard against these situations. I'd recommend that every 3 months, after you have backed up your partitions using the cross backup approach, you use Drive Image's ImageExplorer to split your condensed image file into multiple segments that will fit on blank CDs. Drive Image will burn these image segments on multiple CDs for you or you can use the CD burning utility that came with your CD-R/RW drive. While this may take a while to do, it will give you an inexpensive removable backup of your entire hard drive that you can store away from your computer. I would repeat this process of creating backup CDs of your entire hard drive every 3 months or so.
Summary: If you follow the suggestions in this article, then you will have a comprehensive backup plan that will protect both your important data files as well as your entire hard drive. You must make sure that you follow the time intervals suggested so that your backups are current enough to be usable. PowerQuest's Drive Image product, a second hard drive, and a CD-R/RW drive are all the software and hardware you need to run this backup plan. A second hard drive and a CD-R/RW drive can both be purchased for about $100 each. Faster models are available for only a few dollar more. User group members can purchase Drive Image at the user group price of $35 by accessing a secure web order form at www.ugr.com/order/. You will need to enter the name of your user group and the special code UGNL02. I wish you success in setting up your backup plan.
3. From: David Muscato
Hard Drive Cloning
A while back I bought a Hewlett_Packard 6735 Pavilion machine. It came with a (Seagate) 10 or 15 Gig hard drive and Windows ME pre_installed along with a number of other bundled programs, none of which came with an "installable" CD, just the typical OEM resource recovery type CD so a successful reformat and new install of Windows ME on my 30 Gig Maxtor was out of the question.
I went to CompUSA,and after being assured by the sales clerk at the register that Drive Image is Win ME compatible, I purchased a copy. Skeptic that I am, I immediately went to PowerQuests' website and still saw no indication of Win ME compatibility so I had to wait until Monday to contact their support department by
voice. Sure enough, their software had yet to achieve Win ME compatibility so it was back to CompUSA for a credit and a likely long wait before I could use my Maxtor as the primary master.
On Windows_Help.Net that I came across an article on drive cloning using the xcopy32 command and sure enough it worked like a charm.
NOT ATTEMPT THIS ON COMPRESSED HARD DRIVE
** My drives are EIDE. I do not know if this is safe for use on SCSI drives.
If you don't have two machines using the same version operating system you may need to disconnect your C: drive while you reformat or partition and format the target drive for use in which case, boot from a startup diskette created by the same operating system you will be using, use the Fdisk and/or Format commands then reinstall the source drive (C:) as primary master and the target drive as primary slave or secondary master, jumper and cable accordingly.
Restart the computer (suggest you verify proper drive parameters are properly
set in CMOS at this time), when Windows has loaded, click Start then Run and enter the following in the Run box XCOPY32.EXE /c /h /e /k C:*.* D: then click OK.
** CAVEAT **
You MUST enter the command line in the Run box off of the start button, NOT from a DOS prompt or window !
/e continues the operation if an error is encountered (the swap file causes an error).
Switch information can be obtained by typing xcopy32 /? /p in the "Run" box off of the Start button.
When the xcopy operation is completed, shut down, reinstall the target drive as primary master (and the source and primary slave or secondary master or door stop), set jumpers and cabling accordingly.
Restart Windows in SAFE MODE. When Windows has loaded, right click my
computer, then properties then performance and click virtual memory at the
bottom to re_establish the swap file on the drive. Click ok a couple of times and click ok to restart the system, start in normal or logged mode and you should be up and running.
4. Title: The $152 Internet Bargain Subhead: When to decide if a trip to Target is a better bet
Byline: By Steve Bass, Pasadena IBM Users Group
I don't have a good head for numbers, so double-check these figures for me, okay? I went online, pressed a few buttons, and two minutes later, bought a bottle of multivitamins for $10 and some Folic Acid for $3. Shipping was $3 so the entire bill was $16, right?
Nope. It cost me closer to $152 and two hours of futzing.
Raise your hand if you think shopping on the Internet can save you money. No doubt it can, provided you use it efficiently.
In the next few minutes, I'll show you the mistakes I've made (hey, I'm not as bright as I look, okay?), how you can avoid them, and maybe stave off a few gray hairs in the process.
Bargain Hunting The trap I always seem to fall into is spending a few minutes trying to find the best deal on the Internet. (Computing minutes, as you may have noticed, are not related to real minutes, but that's another story.) I started by opening my Internet Explorer Favorites and trying to remember which folder I tucked the “vitamins and drugs” into.
Oddest thing, I muttered, is how these darn Favorites have a way of getting disorganized. I mean, what was I thinking when I combined DVD Rentals and DVD Player Research into the same folder. That's confusing, even to me, and it might be best if I separated them into two folders. I wouldn't take five minutes to fix. You think?
Of course, an interesting thing happened while cleaning and dusting my Favorites. I noticed the “Free Stuff” folder, the one with coupons, discounts, and giveaways. Right, I think, I'd better stop by there first and see if Drugstore.com or MotherNature.com is offering free shipping. My first stop is to couponsforyou.com. Nothing for me there because it's a dot.gone. So were four other coupon sites. I hit the jackpot with www.dealofday.com because drugstore.com offered free shipping and a free diaper travel bag with any $20 order. Cool, I could use the diapers for buffing the car and I'd find something to do with the bag. And free shipping will put $4.95 in my pocket.
So What's the Deal? The deal wasn't difficult to handle. Do all your shopping, stick the code into the special box on checkout, and shipping was deducted from the total. I did all my shopping, clicked done, and drugstore.com gleefully greeted me. “Yo! Steve-o! Welcome back buddy. Good to see you! But listen, the free shipping, and diaper deal? New customers only. Sorry, pal.” Busted.
I couldn't just let that go. It was a challenge to my hacker mentality and less-than-adequate hacking skills. Creating a new user name and account couldn't be much work, and drugstore.com wouldn't be the wiser. I really wanted that diaper bag.
Busted Again “Hey, Frank, when did you move in with Bass?” Around ten this morning, I fumed. It was a good question and one that I felt drugstore.com had no right to ask. As a consenting adult, what I did with my alias is my business.
I was busted again and chose not to play around with drugstore.com's cookies. So I headed back to AdvanceRX's site, added three bottles of Folic Acid to AdvanceRx's shopping cart. But it hit me that Drugstore.com was selling it in bottles of 200 tablets, a better deal. I think. But hell, even if I paid for shipping and went without the diaper bag, that'd save me roughly $2. Better check.
So I open a fourth browser window, navigate to the site, and find I was right the first time. Advance RX is the best deal. You know, Bass, I think, kicking myself. You oughta stick this stuff on a spreadsheet so next time you can refer back to it. Easy enough to do, so I do a few rows and columns, stick in sites, vitamins, prices, shipping, and whether I've ordered there before. It was worth the 35 minute investment, really, even though I decided to forego any fancy fonts or formatting.
Stay Calm, Okay? By now I'm feeling a little antsy so I head back to AdvanceRX to place the order and get on with my life. At this point, you're probably one step ahead of me. I faced a really dumb problem: After all my futzing elsewhere, AdvanceRX timed out. The shopping cart was empty, my patience was fading, and I was in dire need of a psychotropic drug. Try clicking IE's Back button, I thought and Windows applauded my decision with a General Protection Fault. With all the B vitamins I'd depleted, I didn't think it made sense to bother rebooting.
I asked my wife if she'd like to make a quick trip to Costco. She did, we found the vitamins (about $2 more than online, not including the stress formula I felt a need to buy); we also bought $100 of stuff we really didn't need and went out for lunch.
Next month? Shopping Tips for Internet Shopaholics.
Steve Bass is a Contributing Editor with PC World and runs the Pasadena IBM Users Group. He's also a founding member of APCUG Write to him at Steve_bass@pcworld.com. Check PCW's current edition at http://www.pcworld.com/resource/toc/index.asp and sign up for the Steve Bass online newsletter at www.pcworld.com/bass_letter.