The importance of backups (Part 2)

Hey again everyone…

Ok, in my last post, I described the backup solutions that I’ve tried and my opinions of them.  Now, I’m getting into my recent lesson.

The problem:

    Ok, to start, I’ve had some problems with Vista and updates for a while.  Everyone’s had the “failed update” and “repeat update” occasionally, I’m sure.  My first “issue” was with Service Pack 1.  I had to hard reset my computer a few times to get it to actually install.

     A few weeks ago, I tried to install Internet Explorer 8 (Beta).  When I would try to run it, I would get a Data Execution Prevention (DEP) error, and it would crash immediately.  So, I uninstalled it.  From then on, IE7 would give me strange problems.  Like error messages saying that it couldn’t open the page (even though it was open) with “Operation Aborted”, and when I would type in a page, half of my keystrokes wouldn’t show up at all.

    A friend of mine gave me a pre-release copy of the Windows Media Center TV Pack update.  So, I installed that, and ran into issues with it.  I would get fake “Broadcast Flag” messages from TV programs– regardless of whether I was recording them or not.  So, I called Microsoft and went through the troubleshooting steps with them.

     The first thing we tried was uninstalling the TV Pack.  That wasn’t possible, since the update (installation) was corrupted, and it didn’t put an uninstall option in.  So, our next step was to do an in-place upgrade (also known as “Repair”) of Vista.  That failed, because I have Service Pack 1 installed, and I was using an original Vista RTM DVD.  So, I was told to uninstall SP1, and then do the in-place upgrade.  Then reinstall SP1 and the TV Pack.

The attempted solution:

    When I tried to uninstall Service Pack 1, the computer needed to reboot.  In the process of rebooting, it shut itself down.  Been here before….  Well, no matter what I did, I couldn’t get SP1 to uninstall or the computer to boot up. 

     So, here I am thinking “I’m going to lose everything.”  I haven’t backed up this computer at all..  OK, I used One Care to back it up in 2007, then uninstalled One Care shortly after.  If you’ve used One Care and tried looking at the backup, it’s a series of .zip files that only OneCare knows what’s in.  You can find out, but it would take forever to go through them all.

    I grabbed my Image For DOS disk, and made an image of the corrupt drive.  The reasoning behind this is, while the updates and programs are worthless to me, the data and user-settings are still good. 

    Then I proceeded to completely reinstall Windows Vista.  And I updated it until it said there was nothing else.  Strangely enough, I haven’t received the Media Center TV Pack update yet, but I’m not too worried about that one.  Then I took my USB drive and made an image of the base system.  Now, I’m installing everything else.

    Image For DOS worked like a charm. The only glitch that I had was this.  I tried to image the base system to an older 20G hard drive– using a third party enclosure that I bought a while back.  The imaging program claimed that there was no room on the drive (in reality, there was no actual partition).  So, I had to put the image on a different USB drive.  No problem… It validated and everything.

    I copied the base image to the 20G drive, and tried to validate it…. No dice.  It wouldn’t complete the validation.  But, it did validate on the other external drive.  Then, I used TerabyteUnlimited’s TBIView (their image viewing program) to see if the 20G drive was good.  I was able to open the file, and go through the folders without a problem.  So, I’m guessing that it’s a good image.  (TerabyteUnlimited makes Image For DOS.)

    What I’ve learned from this is three things. 

  1. Make sure you back up regularly and have contingency plans set up for your data (normally I store everything on external or network drives, so an Operating System reinstall doesn’t affect my files).
  2. When you first install an OS (or reinstall one), make a base image of the installation and all current updates.  That way, if you have to restore your image, you don’t have as many updates to get.  Do this before you install your Antivirus and Firewall programs, just in case you decided later on that you don’t like the ones you originally started with.
  3. Validate your backups.  If it means doing a restore, then that’s what you have to do.  Most third party programs (Acronis, Image For DOS, etc) will have ways to validate the backups without a restore.  The good ones do for sure. 

Hopefully this set of posts inspires people to backup regularly.  I can tell you that I’m cleaning out my laptop, and am going to make an updated image of it.  Then, I’m going to start imaging it on a weekly basis.  The same with my desktops and their data.  In the end, it doesn’t matter who’s program you use.  Just as long as you use them, and test them.  And if you make any MAJOR changes, then redo your backups– although you should be redoing them regularly. 

Have a great weekend everyone:)


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