My Own Disaster Recovery

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2005-08-04 Print this article Print

Story"> This came in handy in a recent near-disaster for me. My 4-month-old Dell came with a Seagate SATA drive and the Intel Storage Agent installed. Suddenly, I started getting messages from the Intel Storage Agent that the drive was reporting it might fail soon. (Microsoft has indicated that this diagnostic capability will be in Windows Vista.)

I called up Dell, and after running some more diagnostics, they confirmed that the drive needed to be replaced.
They wouldnt just send to me, they insisted on sending it with a tech. When he showed up (very late), his plan was to replace the drive and then help me reinstall Windows and restore "my backup." I wonder how often he actually encounters a non-business user who can do this.

Lets imagine I was a really conscientious home user: I would have backed up all of my data, including things like my mail file. After the new drive was in, I would have used the disk that came with my Dell to restore Windows and probably all the pre-installed non-Windows software (like the Intel Storage Agent), after which I would run Windows Update to fill in the holes that developed since my system CD was burned. Then I could restore my backup of my data, say bye-bye to the Dell tech and figure out how to reinstall all my other applications and reset my customizations to the system. Over the next few weeks I would reinstall things like ActiveX controls as I found I needed them, type in saved passwords (if I remembered them), rebuild my favorites list, etc.

This process would be bad enough for me to do. If it happened to any of the friends or relatives for whom I provide phone support, it would have been the disaster after the disaster, like that killer aftershock that follows the massive quake.

Since I had Ghost images, I was able to restore everything. Absolutely everything. In fact, since I knew the tech was coming and the disk hadnt actually failed yet, the last thing I did before he was supposed to come and I shut the system off was to save another Ghost image. I literally picked up on the new system where I had left off. I didnt have to reactivate Windows or anything else like that.

Mine is a hard-core setup. But there are alternatives you can have without the added cost of Ghost, but with a trade-off for more restore work. For instance, you can use the conventional Windows Backup program to back up the files and system state to the external drive. To restore, youd have to reinstall Windows and do the updates, then restore the backup, and youd probably have all your apps and settings. It would be close.

If I wanted to save space by saving fewer backups, I could also use the external drive for other systems, either by moving the cable itself or by sharing the drive over the network. NAS is a better, but more expensive solution to this.

Disaster recovery for consumers gets short shrift from users and the industry, but theres good reason to think that the very problem that made it acute, ballooning hard disk sizes, will make alleviate it in the end. That second disk can be your savior when something goes wrong on the first.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.

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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