Patching Procedures For Little

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2003-07-06 Print this article Print

Guys"> The Full Manual Backup

Some folks may be tempted to manually back up only the parts of the operating system that could be adversely affected by a Service Pack installation or patch. Microsoft even offers an article on how to do this. The long and short of the procedure is to use the Windows Backup program (or a good third-party program) to back up the System State (basically the Registry; this is an explicit item in the Windows Backup program).
Next, backup the Boot Partition, which contains the earliest parts of the operating system boot, such as boot.ini and ntldr; as well as the system partition, which contains Windows itself. Remember, for the purposes of backing out of a configuration change, you dont really need to backup to tape. Instead, you just need sufficient space on a hard drive to hold the backup data.

For more tips on backing up and recovering data after an attack or disaster, see Microsofts article on the subject. Complete Coverage

For those who want more solid protection, the answer is to use a disk imaging program such as Symantec Corp.s Norton Ghost or PowerQuest Corp.s Drive Image. Ive recently noticed that some people have grown discouraged about backing up. The complain that drives are so large these days that theres no effective backup medium. They have a point. Still, if you just want an accessible backup in case of a configuration disaster and dont care to keep backups off-site, just stick another drive in the box and image your system. This works perfectly and hard drives are so cheap nowadays that this may be the most economical solution.

On the other hand, there have been a number of reports of things going wrong when installing the Service Pack, and sometimes it can be tricky to restore everything that was changed in the process. Even if you have a proper backup procedure in place with tape or online backup, creating a disk image before a major configuration change is the preferred practice. It offers the ultimate in coverage just in case something goes wrong; for example, if the system fails at the earliest stages of boot.

Fear of applying service packs and patches is basically a fear of the unknown. Still with a bit of time (and maybe a little money) you can protect yourself against almost anything that might go wrong.

Security Supersite Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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