How my backup saved me TWICE in the last two months

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Yes, here I am again preaching to you about backing up your computer. But this time, it’s from a personal point of view and it has to do with my own primary desktop computer. I’ve had two different, major problems in the last two months so I wanted to tell you about what happened and how each of them turned out.

computer crash

 

Problem #1 was about 2 months ago. Everything seemed to be going along fine, then I started to get the Blue Screen of Death on my computer every so often. Maybe once every 7 to 10 days. I could be right in the middle of something, and all of a sudden my cursor would freeze, then both monitors would go black, then the blue screen would flash up there and the computer would immediately restart. I wasn’t too happy about this obviously. Otherwise, it seemed to be working okay.

When I checked the error codes, it looked like the problem might be related to an outdated video card driver. So I updated all the drivers, and yet it still kept happening.

I knew I would have to do something about it at some point, but I just hadn’t decided exactly what. Then, that decision was made for me one day when I got the blue screen, and this time it didn’t reboot. I would make sure it’s completely turned off, then when I would go to power it up, it would not boot to Windows at all. It just got stuck in that “Repair Windows” cycle but the Self-Repair was not able to accomplish anything.

Now just for a minute, I want you to put yourself in that situation. Your computer won’t boot up. You cannot access any of the data on your computer – no documents, emails, pictures, nothing. How bad would that be if it happened to you? Would losing all of your files and folders be a really bad thing?

Solution to Problem #1 : replace the hard drive

As I said, this is a desktop computer. In this computer, I have a second physical hard drive. Every night, my main hard drive is completely cloned to that second hard drive. So, when my main hard drive crashed, all I had to do was switch over to that second drive and everything was there. Then I just replaced the first hard drive. Hard drives crash all the time – sometimes gradually, and sometimes with no warning at all. 

This might sound complicated, but it’s really not. The process of cloning that drive every night is completely automated by software, so I don’t have to do a thing. This might be more of an effort than some people are willing to exert, but for me I like having it this way. And this cloning process is just one of the 4 ways my computer is backed up every single day. As I said, for some that would be overkill. Just personal preference.

Problem #2 was just a couple of weeks ago. The second Tuesday of each month is called Patch Tuesday. This is the day Microsoft sends out their monthly Windows Updates, to patch up problems and security issues that have been discovered in Windows. For my computer, those updates were installed on Wednesday November 11.

That day, I noticed I was having a lot of trouble with MS Outlook. Every time I would get an email that had any images embedded, Outlook would crash. Then I noticed that Skype would not run – it just would not open at all. I also use Sony Vegas, a video editing program, and that would also not open. There were a few other screwy things going on that I don’t recall specifically right now.

I checked the hard drive, and it was not showing any signs of crashing or failure. With a little research, I found out that one or more of the updates that Microsoft had sent out that week had a problem. It was crashing Outlook and other programs. For some of my clients, it was just a matter of removing the bad update. For me, it was worse – my computer went downhill pretty rapidly and before I could repair it, it would not boot up to Windows at all. I couldn’t even use System Restore to take it back to an earlier date.

So there I was with a perfectly good hard drive, but a completely screwed up Windows installation and unable to boot up, even in Safe Mode.

What would you do in that situation?

Solution to Problem #2: restore Windows from a system image backup

One of the other mostly automated backups I do each night is what’s called a System Image backup, using a program called Macrium Reflect (free). All I have to do is plug in my external drive at night, and unplug it in the morning. Overnight, Macrium Reflect takes everything on my main hard drive – programs, files, folders, settings, EVERYTHING – and puts it in a single file on my external hard drive.

So all I had to do was restore that System Image backup from a couple days earlier, and everything was back like it was on that day (Tuesday, before the Windows Updates came in).

This type of backup is one of two backups that I recommend for everyone. It allows you to get back in business within an hour or two after replacing a crashed hard drive. In my case, the hard drive didn’t even need to be replaced – I just need to restore a system image backup to get everything back the way it was.

So that’s what has happened to me recently. Yes, it was a slight inconvenience to deal with it – BUT I was back up and running very quickly in both cases, and I lost no data. I have gone through this same procedure with many of my clients who had a regular automated backup, and experienced a major problem. Let me tell you, they were very happy that I had encouraged them to have a backup process in place.

If you want help with setting up a backup for your computer, just email me at pctutor@gmail.com or call me at 727-254-9078.

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Mike H
November 23rd, 2015

What program are you using for the overnight clone? I often use Clonezilla (linux based), but do not know which to use for Windows.
I am retired from computers after 45 years. The only one I care for now is mine and my son’s. Thank you for your entertaining podcasts.

Scott Johnson
November 23rd, 2015

Macrium Reflect, the same one I use for the system image. I think for the cloning feature you have to get the paid version.