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Essential Tools for Data Backup

By Char

essential-tools-3.jpgMy PC desktop system is giving me fits and I have a feeling it is trying to retire itself, so it is very timely that today’s Essential Tools feature is all about Data Backup. Jimson Lee of noticed that the topic of data backup had not really been addressed in any of my previous Essential Tools posts and volunteered to pull together some of his favorite resources for us.

In over 20 years of computing, Jimson is proud to say that he has never lost any data. Having the following invaluable tools, plus self discipline to do backups really helps. Like building a kitchen cabinet, you have to have the right tools at the right time.

Scenario #1: You accidentally overwrote a file, or a file got corrupted

What to do: Luckily, you have a backup using the Windows Backup utility (included free in Windows XP under All Programs… Accessories… System Tools… Backup). It is best to do one FULL backup anywhere from once a week to once a month, and do incremental or differential backups DAILY! Windows Backup supports backing to a network drive or USB hard drives which are very inexpensive these days. (Char’s input – I rely on my Iomega external External Hard Drive for backups)

Scenario #2: You have a Boot Sector virus and your pre-installed anti-virus software on your hard drive won’t do you any good!

What to do: Use a BartPE bootable CD with latest anti-virus software installed. Another variation of BartPE is the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows. The latest version supports a booting off your USB Flashdrive instead of burning CD-Rs. BartPE is a Preinstalled Environment (PE) bootable Windows CD or DVD from the original Windows XP with a graphical user interface (GUI), not a command line DOS Boot diskette!

Scenario #3: Your PC is “dead”. It powers on, but the hard drive won’t boot.

What to do: Boot your PC with a BartPE CD with network support, and copy or salvage files to network drive, or external USB HD. This is for Microsoft Windows users. For Linux users, you can use Knoppix bootable CD to do the trick.

Scenario #4: You bought a new laptop and want to convert your old PC to it, both data and applications.

What to do: Acronis True Image 9.1 Workstation with Acronis Universal Restore. (The latter restores to different hardware) Prevents from having to reinstall all the critical apps over again. This is very handy if you don’t have (**cough cough**) your original CD and license keys handy.

Scenario #5: Your self hosted WordPress “disappears”, or some posts are corrupted or missing.

What to do: Do a WordPress Export after every post! Login to your Admin console, go to Manage… Export.. And save your file.

So, what are you waiting for, the “blue screen of death”? Get your stuff backed up now! I would love to hear your data backup stories – any near misses with losing your data, how you recovered, etc. And, of course, what are your essential tools for keeping your files safe?

Categories : Essential Tools



Have you seen CrashPlan? For $20 you can backup to other machines on your network, external devices, friends PC’s over the internet and they also offer online backup solution for a monthly cost.



Hi Char,

Funny how I should pop in and see this latest post. Years and years I’ve been preaching this (and not exactly practicing what I preach but you know how it is): back-up, back-up, back-up. Now it just so happens my wife and I are just at the point where we haven’t got any reliable back-up options at hand. Online storage is out since we need more than a low end DSL connection to make that work effectively and a full backup would require a bit more than a thumb drive with a couple-four gigs available. I’m working toward getting an external drive made just for this purpose so we can back up the three machines we have.

I hate these “tween” periods.

We just installed a new power supply (from the stock 350 watt to 550 watt) in my wife’s business PC and more memory and now my reliable old machine is starting to act “my power supply is sick” funky so I’m putting a new power supply (same) in mine and upping the ram as well. Less wear and tear on the disk drive that way.

Excellent post BTW and if your PC is beginning to drop random programs, crawling, freezing and/or rebooting for no discernible reason, that’s usually a sure sign of a failing power supply and if not that, the hard drive. I’d go for the power supply first. If you do regular hard drive maintenance such as defragmenting and cleaning out of old junk etc, then your hard drive should outlast any “stock” power supply any day.

“scuse the long comment…I’m wordy like that. :)


Terinea – I have not seen that yet – I will have to look in to it.

Kirk – thanks for the power supply tips. I’m actually thinking my desktop could probably use a new one.


Oh, and BTW…If you’re running Windows XP on just 512 mb it’s worth putting another 512 mb in…and cheap too. (if your lucky enough to have just one ram chip installed with and extra slot open). Breathes new life into old “reliable”. But you probably know this already.

I just now shoved an extra 512 mb into my 2003 AMD machine and it’s definitely heaving a sigh of relief. In fact, you’re my first comment using a GB of ram. Doesn’t it sound more powerful? :)


I think this is a sign that I should backup my data. I keep putting it off for one reason or another.


Great post, and very timely for me as I think my laptop is on it’s last leg. Any advice for migrating everything from one hard-drive to another before it’s fatal?


Allway Sync is the best (and free!) program I’ve found to help keep track of what I’m backing up.

Perhaps this is not as important to some, but I do work at the office (which I bring home on my USB drive), on my laptop, at home on the desktop and I back everything up on an external drive. Sometimes I can’t remember which file was updated most recently (Date Last Modified isn’t always accurate, they use a variety of ways to determine the most recent file).

It’s a really great program, I highly recommend it!



You can use Acronis True Image 9.1 Workstation to clone a hard drive to a different target size.

You can also use Norton Symantec Ghost.


Thanks, I’ll check both of those out.


Too much bartPE, it can be good for scanning for viruses but not always the cheapest and best solution.
You did mention knoppix for ‘linux users’ but knoppix will help any windows system, I can’t live without it.
I think you should ditch BartPE the loading times are a long time but knoppix is much faster.
As for backing up you’re system check out something like Norton Ghost or my favorite genie-soft, these if you have any problems will restore the whole system.
Or if you want to back up files i recommend using a old laptop hard drive with a external 2.5″ hard drive caddie.


Great list, however thats what I love about my Linux, backup can be handled by scripting! I won’t go into that though, but basically all is needed is a txt file (written by me of course) that is executed daily, instead of finding some program to do it for me :) Also, I was just thinking of a plugin that will automatically email you that exported file every time you post on wordpress, that would be nice. I know nothing about writing plugins, but perhaps someone does…


Terinea – I have not seen that yet – I will have to look in to it.

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