There is one computer-related topic that keeps generating one question after another. It's a topic that everybody knows about, and yet most of us are guilty of not taking it seriously enough. And those of us who do take it seriously are often doing it wrong.
What is it that I'm writing about this week? If you guessed "backing up your computer," you guessed right.
Over the years, I know I have touched on this subject a number of times, but what has prompted me to touch on it again is the other half of the equation that never seems to get any attention.
You see, so much time is spent on how important having a backup is, how to perform the backup or what needs to be included in the backup that the equally important subject of how to restore the backup gets neglected.
Then, when disaster does strike and people have to go restore from backup, the recovery steps that they are following often don't work.
A lot of the backup software that's out there makes assumptions about the backup/recovery situation that doesn't necessarily fit your situation. Then the steps don't make any sense, and you're left feeling lost.
Here's a for instance: one backup utility that I know of makes the assumption that the computer itself is intact but the data itself became lost or corrupt. Then, the recovery steps make suggestions like "double click the restore icon on your desktop" which makes no sense if you are restoring after a hard drive crash or replacing a computer.
Another example involves "ghosting" or "imaging" software. This backup concept is that if you regularly image your machine, then recovering from a hard drive disaster is a snap - just re-image a new hard drive and all of your data and settings are restored exactly as they were right before disaster struck.
But what happens if the disaster isn't with the hard drive but with the motherboard? What if you are simply trying to move all of your data and settings to an altogether new machine?
Usually trying to restore backup data from an image disk only works if the computer that is being re-imaged has exactly the same hardware as the machine that is being replaced. If you can get the image to load at all you usually end up with a ton of driver issues and other things that have to be cleaned up.
I had one frustrated computer user ask me recently, "What good is having the backup running every night if it still costs time and money to have someone come out to restore it?"
I'll answer that here. Backing up your data is a necessary chore. Without a backup running regularly, when you do have a disaster, whether it's a hard drive crash or some other catastrophic failure, then switching to a new machine is easy if starting with no data is OK with you.
But what if you would like your new machine to have all your "stuff" in it? Wouldn't it be nice if your new machine or hard drive had all of your documents in your "My Documents" folder and all those programs that were installed on the old machine? Wouldn't it be nice to have all of those back?
Well, all that stuff has to be restored and the new machine "tweaked" until it matches the way you had it as close as possible. Programs that were in use on the old machine have to be reinstalled on the new. You can't just restore it from backup, it has to be reinstalled. Favorites and email all have to be imported manually and applications that may not be on the new box have to be installed.
Take accounting data for instance. Backing up the data is one thing, but people are often surprised to learn that they need to reload the accounting software on the new machine if they want to be able to restore that accounting data.
Chores like reinstalling software and importing the data from backup can take a lot longer than it takes to set up a regular nightly backup but what it all comes down to is this - it's better to be struggling with restoring your data then to be wishing you had something to struggle with. So backup your data anyways!
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (772) 408-0680 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (No Hyphens!)