A Good Piece Of Advice...
I do not think I have covered this subject before, but I thought I would share this with ya'll. Some time ago, our intrepid webmaster, Dave Dare aka simplyconnected, gave me this piece of advice that I have put to good use. Here is what he suggested.
Windows Operating Systems have a My Documents folder that most everyone dumps their family pictures, music, Word docs, and everything else of a personal nature into it and its sub-folders. That is all well and good... until you experience a Windows crash and you lose all your personal stuff. Of course, if you have it backed up to CD's or DVD's or an external hard drive (as you should regularily) you will have the back up to fall back on. But here is what Dave suggested that I do, as he has done.
Instead of dumping everything personal into Windows My Documents, create a new folder and put it directly on the C: drive, OUTSIDE of Windows. Should Windows crash, (and not the hard drive) you will not lose your personal stuff. Once again though, back up that new folder on a regular basis so if you ever do lose your hard drive, you will have it on a back up.
So I took his advice, and created a new folder outside of Windows and called it My Stuff. In it, I have the same sub-folders that are found in My Documents, and more. When I want to save something personal it goes into the My Stuff folder instead. I keep this folder backed up to my external hard drive on a regular basis.
If you are not doing something like this, you might want to consider doing it. It could save you a ton of headaches in trying to restore or recover lost personal information that you have stored inside of Windows... Thanks, Dave, for a great idea that I have put to good use. Come to think of it, I probably should back up my folder again!
Wonders never cease to amaze me. My friends at home experience the same computer woes as y'all, then they come running, looking for someone who can bail out their computer of viruses, Trojan horses, worms and internet nasty's (that they inadvertently loaded on their own computer because they didn't un-check a box).
Back up your stuff on CD or DVD BEFORE it gets infected. If you ever need to re-load Windows, your burned DVD will be clean, and you can load it to any computer.
When you reload Window things happen you won't expect. The new Windows overwrites My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, Internet Explorer Favorites and every other Windows-generated folder. It's gone forever. Some folks see that as a small concession for getting rid of a computer-disabling foe. Not me.
Hard drives, thumb drives, jump drives, camera cards and anything that can be re-written all crash. If you make a good DVD or CD and close it properly, it will never crash and viruses can't infect the files.
These guys who make viruses are not stupid, in fact they are very clever. They replace your files with their own. When you run anti-virus programs, there is no such thing as 'cleaning' your computer after the fact. The only thing the antivirus people can do is to quarantine or delete those files. They cannot replace your unique files. Remember, the viruses comes first, then with hope and reverse engineering, the antivirus comes sometime later.
Do not fall prey. Back up your stuff because you may need to reload your hard drive at ANY time. Blank DVDs cost less than a quarter. And so what if you have several backup DVD's. At least you will have clean data. The moment your hard drive gets infected, I promise, you will go running to those backup DVD's. - Dave
Couldn't agree more. I learned the hard way several years ago when my computer crashed and I had to do a clean install of my OS. All my "stuff" gone in a heartbeat.
I was lucky. About a month before that I had put all my stuff on a CD to share with relatives back east. The most that I lost was about a month worth of photos that had been previously sent to me and were easily replaced.
Others who are victims of a crash without back up aren't so lucky.
The drawback to using CDs or DVDs is that you would have to make a new one every day to optimize the incremental changes in your "stuff" that occur every day.
Another option is an external hard drive (they are cheap) that you set for a nightly incremental backup.
I, too, was concerned about the possibility of the external hard drive crashing along with the whole computer like with a lightning strike so, for additional redundancy, I have a portable hard drive (also cheap) and I back up to that about once a month and keep it in a drawer away from the computer.
Trojan horses, worms, viruses, etc. are authored by very sharp and brilliant programmers. Never think otherwise. Sometimes they embed code that is designed to work sometime later. Remember that very real Y2K virus that everyone was anticipating? It was busy infecting computers many months before the time came, without detection. Remember, Norton and McAfee can only detect AFTER computers are infected with a new virus. An ounce of prevention...
This brings me to the discussion of, "what backup media should I use?"
Let me say it this way, nothing is cheaper than using burned media like CDs, DVDs, double layer DVD (that holds 8.5GB), or Blue Ray disks (that hold 25GB). Because of their higher cost and slower write speed, I rarely use re-writable disks.
The advantage in burning disks is simply that they cannot be altered, once burned. So, if you picked up a time-delay type of nasty, you should have a few older backup versions to fall back on. Can you do this with a separate drive? No. USB drives and external disk drives can be infected or re-infected any time they are plugged in, right under your nose. Burned media can not.
The real question is, are you backing up your computer? Do not allow catastrophic failure to beg this question. You can outsmart the virus authors by having your own clean disks. A stack of 100 DVDs cost $15.
That's fifteen cents/each.
Whenever folks ask for my help to clean their computer, I usually reformat their hard drive. Formatting is the only way to be sure the drive is clean. If they have no backup disks, there is nothing I can do beyond reinstalling Windows and all their programs.
On another note, when is the last time you cleaned your burner drive? They all have a lens and the inside of your computer is constantly flowing dusty air. When disks fail to burn, read or skip, a simple lens cleaning is usually all that is needed.
There is a disk you can buy with a brush that swipes over the lens. Hey, it works for around $15.
I prefer a more 'hands on' approach by pulling the drawer half way out and reaching in with a long Q-tip. I roll it over the lens wet, then again with a dry Q-tip.
Another way is to remove the cover. By the time a drive is dirty, they are usually out of warranty so removing the cover is no biggie. Isopropyl alcohol is recommended but Windex and a Q-tip works just as well for me.
Here's a youtube video where the guy cleans a 'settop' player. - Dave
A few months back I upgraded my desktop computer. I installed two hard drives. A small 60 gig solid state hard drive that is only for my operating system and software. The second hard drive is 3 terabytes and that's the one that I store everything else in. I mapped my "my documents" folder from my main hard drive so that any files I drop in there automatically go into my second hard drive.
I also have two hard drives in my computer. One for the OS and program files, the other for all my "stuff." That's in addition to the other precautions I reported earlier.
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