Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Easy backup

I downloaded Image for Windows (IFW) from http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/imagew.html

It lets me backup my entire hard drive to DVD or CD. Plus it makes the DVD or CD bootable. That means if my hard drive ever crashes, I just boot from the DVD, and it will automatically restore everything.

Amazing. Easy to use. Only $US 27.

My only gripes:

1. It doesn't write to DVD-RW so you can't re-use DVD's.
2. Someone stupid like me could accidentally boot from a DVD and wipeout everything on the hard drive.

Both those gripes are solvable - just use cheap DVD-R disks, and (easier still) don't be stupid.

I'll email their tech dept and let you know if they have a solution for the DVD-RW's.

Addendum (17-Aug-05)

IFW can handle DVD+RW disks without any problems. DVD-RW's need to be fully blanked or brand-new before they will work. So I think I'll buy some +RW's and see how I go! The article is here: http://terabyteunlimited.com/kb/article.php?id=215

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Crash recovery - a litany of errors

Here's how NOT to recover from a faulty hard drive.

I turned on my laptop and got an error while booting about a faulty NTLDR.SYS file - or some name like that. The error said to insert the Windows CD and select option "R" to recover.

My Acer laptop didn't come with a Windows CD, it came with a "Recovery CD". So I inserted that CD, booted from it, and the damned thing started formatting my hard drive. Yes there was some vague warnings in broken English about backing up data, but I was expecting to see a Windows message, and got something totally different.

"Ah!!!!" I screamed as I saw what was happening, and turned my machine off in the middle of the format.

Now the disk drive was partially formatted, and had no directory info on it.

So I plugged in my trusty USB drive backup, and went about getting the machine ready to Ghost the backup drive back to the original drive.

Getting a laptop to boot from a CD and run Ghost is an effort in itself and took me about 2 hours to figure out. If you want to try it yourself, get Ghost to burn a bootable floppy that does the same thing, and use something like UBCD to convert the floppy to a CD.

So I ghosted the backup drive back to the laptop, booted the laptop and.... NOTHING. The USB drive was faulty, and the backup drive was unreadable.

"Ah!!!!" I screamed again in a Homer Simpsonesque panic.

I ran Spinrite on the USB drive in a vain attempt to fix it. But the back up drive was faulty (remember, Neil?) and so it just made things worse - and I lost the partition table on the backup drive.

So I threw the USB drive caddy out the window, and connected te Backup drive to a spare IDE port on my desktop computer. Still no joy.

So I tried a thing called "Diskpatch" which is supposed to fix partition tables. It said a few encouraging words, and did absolutely nothing.

Finally, I tried a thing caled "iRecover". It was able to see stuff on the drive. Most of it was scrambled, but I used it to pump as much corrupted data from the drive as I could.

It has been running for about 7 days, and has almost finished pumping everything from the 60GB backup drive. about 75% of the stuff is rubbish. I was able to recover one or two snippets that were some use to me.

Bottom line - I lost about 6 months worth of work - but was able to scrounge a lot of it back from other sources.

I NEVER EVER want to go through this again. It's bad for my health, my marriage and my business. Here's what I will do in future:

1. Backup more regularly to multiple locations.
2. Use something like NTI to create a bootable backup DVD of my drive.
3. Get a new Laptop - the Acer Travelmate is rubbish.
4. Never try to run windows repair on a faulty drive until I've pumped it for all the information I can.
5. Never trust a USB drive. Especially one that runs hot.
6. Backup more regularly to multiple locations.
7. Buy high quality equipment

The other thing with Laptops - don't move them around until you've put the machine in standby mode. If you do, the diskdrive is still spinning, and there's a good chance you'll stuff the drive up.

You will have one of your disks crash on you sometime in the next few years. It's happened to me 4 times in the last 12 months on 2 different machines. Make sure you can recover from it. Do something about it today.

iRecover is available from http://www.diydatarecovery.nl

It works, but it is damned slow.