NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, April 2005
Rich’s Ramblings
by Rich Schinnell
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Back in the Golden Olden days of computers, we used to backup our files onto 160 Kilobyte (KB) 5¼” floppy disks. As the media progressed from 360 KB 5¼” floppies to huge 720 KB 3½”disks, then to the big guys of 1.44 Megabyte 3½”disks, files and programs became larger.

Now it is even more important to backup your files. My criteria for requiring backup is that if I would shed a tear or feel keyboard rage if a file was lost forever, then I always make sure I have lots of copies around on other media. So I will repeat for the umpteenth time:


With 120-200 Gigabyte (GB) hard disks almost being the norm, you can really accumulate a lot of files/garbage on your hard disk. You might want to think about how you’re going to recover if your hard disk all of a sudden sounds like an automobile’s screeching brakes. That means a fatal crash of your hard disk.

Many of the wiser/smarter heads backup their critical files to CD-ROM or DVD-ROM on a regular basis. Even with a 4.7 GB DVD-ROM drive, this might not be enough storage. I have a procedure that works for me:

On each of my computers I have created a directory called “C:\My Documents”. This directory is where I have several sub-directories where I store all data and word processing files. Using Microsoft Windows XP, the default directory where data is stored is normally located in C:\Documents and Settings\userid\MyDocuments. The userid is the name of the user you are signed onto the computer with. In some cases it would be administrator, or in the case of some major computer manufacturers who pre-install your complete system, it could be called USER or OWNER.

One nice thing about computers is that you can change where files that you create are stored. In WordPerfect and Microsoft Office products, you can change the default location of these data files. Normally it is located under “Tools|Settings|Preferences|File Locations “on your top menu bar in the program.

My method makes it easier to backup because all I do is backup the “C:\My documents”folder and its sub-directories. While you’re at it, you can create a sub-directory there for all those files that you download from the Internet that are upgrades to your installed software. This will really help if you end up having to re-install your software in case of a hard disk crash. Also I keep the latest versions of ZoneAlarm and Ad-Aware in this directory. I also have an attachment directory there where Eudora E-Mail puts all the attachments received and have backed this up. Periodically I export the “favorites”from my browser to this directory so that I have a better backup in case of a failure of my hard disk.

Although there are lots of alternatives, there is a school of thought that with hard disks being so huge and cheap many people buy an additional large hard disk and only use it for backups or images.

Some use a disk imaging program similar to Symantec’s Norton ‘Ghost’, or Acronis ‘True Image’. Both of these imaging programs allow for incremental as well as full imaging.

What I like about these programs is the feature where they create a complete snapshot of your hard disk at a point in time and write the image to a second drive. Both will also write to CDROM and DVD-ROM disks. They create images in real time and without having to exit Windows XP. An added advantage is that if you decide to buy a larger hard` disk, the program will copy your existing hard disk to the new larger disk. Then you can replace the old “C:”with the new larger “C:”drive.

Symantec bought out the PowerQuest drive image product line and, for those who are not using Windows XP, the ‘Ghost 9’ retail box comes with a copy of Drive Image 2003 which operates in a DOS-type mode. Installing ‘Ghost 9’ went quite smoothly, as I already had the .NET updates to my Windows XP. If you don’t have the .NET update, the Ghost cd-rom will install it. I use ‘Ghost 9’ and it does work. I also bought Acronis ‘True Image 8.0’ and like it. Each has strengths and weaknesses which will vary from user to user.

My preferred method: I have an external 160 Gigabyte Western Digital hard disk that connects to my laptop via either USB or Firewire. I can create a ‘Ghost’image of my laptop’s “C:”drive on the external hard disk. These programs can compress the data so that it takes up less space on your backup device.

Several times I have had to restore individual files and directories from an image. Having this option gives me a “warm fuzzy” when installing some of the new software that could, and sometimes does, mess up my system.

‘Ghost’ and ‘True Image’ will allow you to extract files and directories from the complete image that you created earlier, as well as restore the whole hard disk.

‘Ghost 9’ comes with a CDROM that is bootable and will allow you to access almost any device, including your network server. If you have huge amounts of data and write the image to CD-ROM disks at 700 Megabytes each, you can have quite a few. Just don’t lose or damage one. Writing to DVD disks makes for less disk swapping when you have to do a complete restore. But as I said before, my preferred method is my external USB hard disk.

Acronis True Image, version 8.0 http://www.acronis.com/
$46.99 on their site, but check the web for special deals from other vendors.

Norton Ghost, version 9.0 http://www.symantec.com
$69.95 MSRP, but always check out the web for prices at the different retailers and sales.

I purchased both products, and each has advantages and disadvantages.

Disclaimer: I also was a beta tester for Symantec’s ‘Ghost 9’ product. I ended up purchasing ‘Ghost 9.0’ for a couple of computers that I set up and gave to friends. Your mileage may vary.

For other products mentioned in my articles, I suggest you visit the CPCUG web site where I have a web page listed, under “members,” that has the Web URL’s for most of them.

Windows XP Service Pack 2 Upgrade Recommendations
I highly suggest that you update the motherboard BIOS on your computer before you upgrade XP to Service Pack 2. It could possibly save you lots of aggravation. Also, you might want to upgrade any video drivers. Then go for it, as I highly recommend the additional security features included in service pack 2 for Windows XP Home and Professional.

Linux Trials
I must swear you to secrecy, or my Windows friends will probably give up on me, but. I read about the UBUNTU Linux release and decided to try it.

Background: I have tried to install a flavor of Linux for the past 10 years or so and have had miserable luck. Something always fails; either the video card, network card, or sound is not recognized. I have a raft of Red Hat binders where I have tried, really tried, to get it to work. I have friends on the dark side that continually tell me “try it, you will like it,”so I try and end up being frustrated.

[ http://www.ubuntu.com is the web site if you’re thinking about trying it. Or ask me; I have 5 or 6 CDROMs that they sent me to give away.]

I will be reviewing Ubuntu Linux in the next couple of months. Watch this space.

Rich Schinnell is a long time member of CPCUG, having been one of the founders who got it all started back in 1982. He ran a BBS for over 10 years and now has retired (kind of). He does a bit of small business consulting for select clients on interesting problems. He can be reached at schinnel@cpcug.org and by phone at 301-949-9292.

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