I just read a post by Skip regarding a computer crash he just experienced, and the painful rebuild process he's about to go through to get things back up and running (reinstalling lots o' stuff on his system). Why? No backup.
Been there many times myself. Spent many hours reinstalling stuff, re-registering iTunes, Audible, Anagram, ActiveWords, and other stuff that requires license keys. Not a fun process.
I'm getting better, though, with a new process I follow. Last week I had to rebuild my system (I got a little frisky editing my Windows registry, so it was self-inflicted). It took me under an hour, and I didn't lose more than 20 minutes of work.
- I regularly (once a week or before a long trip) make image copies of my hard drive using Symantec's Ghost, which I got as part of their Systemworks Premier suite.
- I keep a copy the drive image in several places:
- one copy on the network at the office
- one copy on an external USB hard drive at my desk
- one copy on a really thin external hard USB drive I carry with me in my laptop bag
- I carry a Ghost boot disk (CD) in my bag in case I have to restore my computer
- I make additional file-by-file backups of my My Documents folder using Iomega's QuickSync software, which I got with my external hard drive (this ensures that I capture changes since the last Ghost snapshot). This is simple, since I did the setup once, and the software automatically synchronizes every time I plug into my docking station.
All of this works pretty well when I have a system crash or I shoot myself in the foot. I simply:
- plug in my USB hard drive
- boot from the Ghost boot CD and follow the instructions to restore the image (by the way each of my external hard drives has a copy of the .ISO image for the boot CD so I can create another one if I need to)
- reboot after the image is restored, at which point QuickSync automatically copies any newer files back on the newly restored drive
This process puts my system back exactly the way it was when I took the Ghost "snapshot." Since I'm on a domain at my office, another handy thing this achieves: It stores (and restores) all the credential information necessary for me to rejoin the domain.
If you want something a bit less techie, check out this article about a gadget called the Fastora ExBoot drive, which claims to do a lot of this sort of stuff for you automatically. I have never used this product, but it sounds pretty cool.