Tuesday, February 16, 2016


One of the most painful events in computing is to realize you suddenly don't have access to your data. And you don't have a backup, or your backup is *really* old. And, it might have been self-inflicted. What to do?

First, go ahead and rant, then plead, then accept that forward is the only direction available. And become prepared with Recovery Media and a backup plan. 

Even if you have your data, you're going to need the installer files for your software (non-subscription programs like Microsoft Office, Quicken and Photoshop) and hardware (printers, scanners, though most can be downloaded from the manufacturer's website). Programs have to be installed, not copied from your backup - they don't work that way. That's why automated backup services don't back up programs - just data. 

Once your computer is back up and running, you'll need to install all the Microsoft updates, basic apps and your software, then copy your data back where it belongs. If you use a local email client like Outlook, Windows Live Mail or Thunderbird, you'll need to set it up and import the contacts and messages. 

Plan on six hours or so to install everything after the Factory Recovery completes. Then plan on your new backup system.

Conventional wisdom says keep three copies of anything you don't want to lose - documents, email addresses, photos, tax info, etc. The first copy lives on the computer, then a copy backed up to an external drive on a regular schedule and a copy "in the cloud". There are many ways to keep your stuff online (in the cloud), which is then accessible from any Internet-connected device.  

You can use a service like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox, and there are many more. Most give you some free storage space, and charge as your storage needs increase. Generally, you have to put your stuff in the folder on your computer that syncs with the service; it's not automatic unless you reconfigure where your computer saves data or do it manually every time you save something. You can also email a copy of just about anything to yourself, if it's small enough. Just don't delete the email when you receive it; move it to a folder for items you want to keep. 

Online backup services such as Carbonite have saved many of my clients and me from disaster. For about $60 per year, it will immediately copy any data item on your computer that's created or changed without any assistance from you. There are many other online backup services. 

There are points to consider with every backup solution. Online services will take some time for the initial backup to complete, and if you should need a lot of data copied back in a hurry, keep in mind the speed at which it downloads is limited by your Internet connection. That's where the external drive comes in! However, should something happen locally that affects the external drive, you'll be glad to have the online service, too. What could happen? Power glitches, theft, water damage, physical damage or you just forgot to plug it back in. 

This subject is fresh in my mind because I'm working through the whole process with two more people who didn't back up their data, didn't have Recovery Media and didn't have the installation files or license numbers for software they purchased and want to use. Check your backup, find your recovery media, program installation files and license numbers. 
Cathy Contant 315-573-4905 cathy@cathycom.com

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