My current computer backup situations

Ever since I purchased an HP dv9700t CTO notebook PC, I’ve had to reformat this computer over 3 times now. The reason is simple: I like to try out new things on the computer and that more often than not, include alpha, beta and even gamma software. I’d like to say that I’ve learned and reformatting my PC (as a last solution) is a thing of the past. Alas! I cannot guarantee that. So, here’s what I’ve learned from owning a computer that I deliberately introduce chaos into:

  1. If you don’t know what a virtual machine or virtualization means, learn it NOW. Invest an operating system (Linux or Microsoft) and learn how to run that operating system inside a virtual environment. This article is going to be short so go ahead and read my article about my experience with two virtual machines (Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 and VirtualBox) Both are free virtual machine managers and are widely recommended for regular users.
  2. Windows Complete Image backup is NOT the same as merely backing up your files. In fact, based on my experience with Windows Complete Image backup and Windows File Backup available to Vista Ultimate users, I will say this: it would really really be smart to have a full featured backup solution in addition to Windows built-in backup feature. I would recommend Acronis True Image 2009 which is not bad at the price tag of $49.99. I’ve used Acronis on my computer since they had Acronis True Image 10 and since I discovered that you can’t retrieve individual files/folders from a Windows Complete Image backup, I’ve returned to using Acronis True Image. The reason: each time I perform a complete PC backup using Windows Backup and Restore center, it’s over 70gbs in size. Guess how much it costs (in terms of space consumed on the hard disk) to create a file backup using Windows Backup and Restore Center? Roughly ~65gbs (leaving all the default settings checked because Windows doesn’t even give you the chance to pick & choose what files you want to backup)!!! So, like I always say, economics (of space) is the reason I’m switching back to Acronis True Image 2009. That way, I’ll have just one ~ 70GB backup file on my external hard drive AND be able to extract my individual files from it!
  3. Good old fashioned DVD-R or CD-R backups:- After my last disaster scenario (i.e. I lost close to 3 weeks worth of work), I have seen the light in having copies of precious files on disks. I was actually able to pare my loss down to 2 weeks because I had copied the “My Documents” folder on my laptop to a regular DVD (~ 4.3 GBs of data).

So there you have it! Good luck and stay tuned for more on my blog and at my Channel (Jane Talks Tech!)

Using Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 & VirtualBox

So, for a long while, Sun’s VirtualBox xVM has been my ‘virtualization’ product of choice. Mostly because I had tried the much talked about Microsoft Virtual PC product and couldn’t figure out how it ran. Then, I read about VirtualBox (which had been owned by Innotek before it was bought out by Sun) was perfect for running ISOs of Ubuntu or whatever Linux distro I had on hand. It has USB support which I had also read was something that Microsoft Virtual PC lacked (it has an alternative called Virtual Machine additions). However, I had never been able to run a virtual Microsoft operating system via VirtualBox primarily because I didn’t know that unlike Linux, ISOs of Microsoft operating systems were not free. My desktop computer came with a pre-installed Microsoft operating system (Microsoft Windows XP) so I didn’t have an installation CD. Nevertheless, I scoured the internet, but stopped short of using warez because I’m very careful not to break the law and more than anything, infect my computer. Fast forward to over 2 weeks ago when I lost my data during a botched driver installation of HP drivers for the Officejet J6480.

Prior to this particular incident, I’ve had to reformat my vista laptop a few times and I lost no sleep because I always had current file backups of my data as well as complete image backups. However, after suffering through HP’s installation of drivers for their printer, my PC refused to start point-blank. I was essentially fucked because I didn’t think to  make a file backup of my computer before embarking on the installation. To cut the long story short, I knew that even though I didn’t have a recent file backup, I had a fairly recent Windows Complete Image backup on one of my hard drives. All this while, I had assumed that I could somehow pull files off a Windows Complete Image backup, but I chose the wrong time to test this assumption. The bitter answer was: I could not pull individual files off a Windows Complete Image Backup (they should put that on the label, in the words of a commercial or insist on customers who can’t read white papers to steer clear of their products. :D).

Not being one to easily give up, I scoured the web again via my favorite search engine (Google) and came across a website where the writer said he had been able to access his Windows Complete Image backup image via Virtual PC 2007. Imagine my joy and immediate dismay because I didn’t care to use Virtual PC 2007 due to  my previous difficulty in learning how to use. Nevertheless, I deciced to try Virtual PC 2007 again so that I would give a last ditch effort at recovering some files. I also took the plunge and ordered an XP Pro SP2 disk because I knew that somehow I needed said disk although I didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, the disk arrived in time and I set about making my XP Pro SP2 virtual machine. The first time I tried to install XP Pro SP2, I panicked because I thought it would actually install XP Pro SP2 on my machine (kinda like Wubi for Ubuntu which I’m steering clear of after powering one of my Vista bluescreens & subsequent reformatting). So, I killed it and did some more reading. Then, it hit me that, “No, Silly. It’s a virtual machine and you won’t get in trouble for me. lol.” So I crossed my fingers and started the process again.

This time, the installation completed. I exited Virtual PC 2007 and ejected my XP Pro SP2 installation disk. I restarted my computer and closed my eyes while waiting for the inevitable bluescreen. Surprise! I didn’t have any nasties waiting for me and I started up Virtual PC 2007 again. I was like a kid in the candy store when I was able to browse XP Pro in my Vista laptop. I showed it to my husband and he kept commenting on how excited I seem. Yep, I’m the kinda of girl who’d be happy if she got a gift of RAM, never mind what JC Penney says about how men get in the doghouse. LOL. As a random aside, check out the video “Beware of the Doghouse“. It’s hysterical. 🙂 Back to the topic, I also was able to install Virtual Machine additions which works by mounting the iso for Virtual Machine additions inside the virtual machine! Pretty cool and I was able to access my Vista files and use a shared cursor which was a welcome change from VirtualBox.The end to this saga (maybe? I haven’t totally given up yet) has not come as I still wasn’t able to access my Windows Complete Image backup VHD file. However, I don’t regret shelling out ~ $60 for that XP SP2 installation CD because I’m sure it’ll come in handy someday. In the meantime, my hard drive will be getting some major use.

Now, before I achieved success in installing XP SP2 virtually, I had actually installed Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 in my computer. All I can say about that was: please, do not try this at home, kids (meaning you, Jane). It was overkill for my purposes and it was quickly uninstalled with some major praying along the way (it installs IIS services and I don’t like turning Windows features on/off because in Mos Def’s words, “I had a bad experience“. My next stab at accessing the VHD file in my Windows Complete Image backup will be installing just VHD mount which is a component of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. With that, wish me luck!