The students in my computer class think it’s cute when I tell them “Jesus saves, and so should you”. I don’t mean to be sacrilegious or denigrate the Savior, but I feel responsible to pound into their thick young skulls the importance of saving and backing up their files. But I’m not totally successful, because every semester at least one student loses a project—which they failed to back up. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
In truth, it is possible retrieve lost and deleted files as long as the user doesn’t add new data to the hard drive. But beyond the recycle bin, retrieving files is usually above the skill level of most of us. Yet, with a little foresight and discipline it shouldn’t be a problem to lose data.
Like most writers, I back up my WIP via a flash drive (memory stick). Actually, I use three flash drives, which I keep in three different locations; one in my briefcase, one at my writing chair, and one in my desk at work. I rarely need the backups, but when the magic fairies in my laptop get contrary, it’s a relief to know I’m safe. Maintaining current backups won’t solve all computer problems since computers by nature quit working on occasion—usually at the most inconvenient times.
Such was my case two weeks ago when I visited an Internet site about exercise for men over fifty. Within sixty seconds my virus protector flashed a warning and by the time I exited the site, a virus shut down my operating system. I restarted my laptop, but before the virus protector could find and quarantine the invader the system locked up again and shut down.
Fortunately, I had a current backup, but my computer was useless since it kept shutting down. My only solution was to erase my hard drive and do a new install, which would take several hours and require reactivating all software.
As you may know, software activation can be troublesome if you haven’t deactivated it first. The only alternative to call the software company and hope you can eventually talk to a real person who’s kind enough to help you. All of this takes a lot of time and if you’ve been there you know it gets frustrating.
The solution? Acronis True Image software ($49.00) http://www.acronis.com/ When I purchased my new computer fifteen months ago, I splurged the extra expense of Acronis True Image, along with a second matching hard drive, and a hard-drive tray that replaces my DVD drive when needed. In short, these three items allowed me to make a clone (mirror image) of my working hard drive.
When the virus hit, it took less than five minutes to remove my virus infested hard drive and insert the cloned hard drive. No need to reinstall operating systems or applications, no problems with the computer registry, no need to reactivate software.
The computer fairies were never aware I had switched the hard drive at shutdown. Everything worked fine. All I had to do was to install my most recent WIP update from a flash drive and I was one-hundred percent like I was before the virus hit. Of course, I haven’t always been this prepared, but through the years I have learned from failures.
To restate the process; I purchased and installed Acronis software on my hard drive while it was working correctly, next I removed my DVD drive and inserted a special hard-drive tray, which I purchased from the computer manufacture (sometimes you can find them on Ebay). This tray holds a second hard drive, which is typically used for additional storage. I purchased a hard drive exactly like the main hard drive in my laptop, but according to Acronis instructions, the backup drive can be any memory size, speed, or brand.
Once installed, the software offers the option to clone your main hard drive onto this added hard drive. It takes a about four mouse clicks and two hours for the operation to complete. Once it’s finished, I stored the copied hard drive in a safe place until it’s needed.
When I do need it, I simply remove one screw from the bottom of my laptop, pull out the main hard drive and replace it with the clone. I put the screw back in place and restart the computer. That’s all there is to it.
Later, after I verify everything is working correctly, I remove the DVD player, put the corrupt hard drive in the special tray and once again use Acronis to clone a new mirror image of my working hard drive onto the previously corrupt drive—so I’ll be prepared if this happens again. (Oops, did I say if it happens? I mean when it happens again.) It’s simple, it’s easy, and it actually works.
Be warned that it’s possible for a virus to jump from one hard drive to another, so in my case I actually reformatted my virus infested hard drive before I removed it from the computer just to be safe.
Of course, there are other ways to backup, and I’ve used them all. I’ve tried Norton Ghost and other software that promises cloning ability, but Acronis is the only software that has been successful for me. Downtime is minimal, and the total cost for the software, extra hard drive, and adapter to replace my DVD tray was under two-hundred dollars—expensive, but worth it. I should mention Acronis has numerous other features, also.
I have friends and students who’ve experienced these same problems and they usually spend one-hundred dollars to get a tech to fix their computer while their computer is in the shop for two days or longer. I feel like the time saving and security is worth the extra expense. In addition, I can use this system for years.
Maybe there’s a better virus protector, but I’ve tried most of them and no virus protector is perfect. But as I said, viruses aren’t the only computer problems a writer faces. Computers sometimes die without warning. I’ve had hard drives suddenly lock up and never work again. I’ve had computers suddenly show the blue screen of death without warning, and require a complete new install. Once I opened the passenger door of my vehicle and the computer slid out and dropped onto the concrete. The End.