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Posts tagged ‘backup’

PC Habits: Your New Year’s Computing Resolutions

January 12th, 2016

Martin

The start of the year is a good time to take stock of your PC, in the same way you might be doing in other parts of your life. Good habits can make or break your computing experiences.

But while you can’t take your PC to the gym to get it toned, there are plenty of good habits you can start doing now. Getting started is the hardest part, so here are some reminders of my top blog posts which will get you going. Read more

Don’t get trapped in the Clouds

January 6th, 2016

Martin

The New Year is the time when I like to look at new beginnings, and renewal, with all things technology. I’ll be writing about a few topics which you should think about over the coming weeks, and this week it’s focussed on a problem which arises with new computers.

You may have been lucky enough to get a new PC or laptop for Christmas, freeing you up from that dusty old box which you were ready to exile to the landfill. With all that shiny new gear, you’ll be speeding ahead with everything from gaming to everyday office work!

But you might also be running straight into a trap. Read more

Backup: your complete guide

September 17th, 2015

Martin

Backup: everyone knows they should do it, but so many don’t. Whether it’s your family albums or your business’s accounts, you need to protect what’s on your PC from loss or damage.

You may worry that it’ll take ages, cost a fortune, or that you’ll forget to keep it up. In this guide I’ll show you the different types of backup available, the software to use, and how to get around all these problems and worries.

Basic Backup

There are two types of backup you can do right now (as long as you’re reading this on a desktop or laptop!). They’re not the perfect solution, but they’re infinitely better than doing nothing.

Copy and Paste

At its most basic, a backup is just a second, reserve copy of your files so that you can recover from accidentally deleting things, or if your computer breaks down. So, the easiest way to back up is simply to copy and paste all your files to a new, second location. Try copying everything to a dedicated folder on your C:\ drive, or – even better – onto an external disk. That’s it – you now have an infinitely better backup than you did a moment ago!

System Restore, or Recovery

Open the Windows menu and search for ‘restore’. In Windows 10, open ‘Recovery’, from where you click on ‘Configure System Restore’, then ‘Create…’ to save your computer’s current state. With Windows 7 you should look for System Restore.

If Windows suffers a problem, such as being unable to boot, you can roll back to any of the system restore points that have been created, and essentially undo any damage. This tool does not back up your own documents etc., so use it in conjunction with (at the very least!) Copy/Paste to preserve your machine properly.

Proper Backups

There are much better ways to backup your computer than the ones mentioned so far. There are a handful of different types, and so the following will give you an idea of your options. Choose the one which suits your needs the most.

1 Synchronising backup

This type creates a copy of all your files, and then whenever you run this backup again it simply updates any files which have changed at the source, deletes files which have gone from the source, and adds new files which have been created since the last run.

This is one of the smallest backup types, and takes up the least space. The second run, and all runs after that, are quick. However, if you accidentally delete something but don’t notice until after the next backup run, the file will be gone entirely. Therefore it’s not very sophisticated.

Examples: Create Synchronity, GoodSync, Allway Sync.

2 Incremental backup

Incremental backups first make a copy of all your files. Then later runs make a record of all new files, deleted files and changed files, and notes the date.

That means that updates after the first one are quick, and you can roll your computer back to any date on which a backup was taken. It takes more space than the Synchronising type, but it means that every file that’s ever been on your PC is preserved, until the drive is full. At that point, your software should start deleting old backups as it creates new ones.

Examples: Time Machine (for Macs), Backup4all, EaseUS.

3 Disk Image

With a disk image backup, your entire hard drive with all its contents – program files, documents, photos, registry – is wrapped up into a single huge file, and put away for safe keeping. If your computer was to be abducted by aliens, or fall into a canyon, then as long as you had the image, and built a computer identical to the one it came from, you could restore the disk image and carry on from there.

It’s a long process to create a disk image, and every new backup takes the same amount of time to make. This type of backup also takes up the most space, as your whole computer is effectively cloned every time. However, it’s also the most comprehensive, taking in everything in one go, and has other uses, such as duplicating systems in offices and the like without having to install Windows on each one.

Examples: Macrium Reflect Free, Acronis True Image.

4 NAS and Cloud backups

NAS stands for ‘network attached storage’, and usually refers to a dedicated box linked to your router or modem at home. It can be used to share storage across all your computers, or maybe to stream digital media around your home. It can also be used to store your backups. ‘Cloud backup’ is a similar idea, except that the data is uploaded to the ‘Cloud’, i.e. the Internet. Both processes might use one of the methods already mentioned in this article, such as incremental or disk image.

The big advantage of these network locations is that your files are secured away from your PC. If possible, you should always keep them in a different location to your computer, so that if something happens to the computer it is less likely to happen to your backup too. Imagine if your files were on a USB disk in your laptop bag, and your laptop was stolen, USB disk and all!

A big disadvantage is that transferring your files over a network connection is always going to be slow compared to backing up to a disk connected to your PC. And if your internet connection is limited, then backing up 200 gigabytes (GB) of photos to the cloud might use all that up in one go (or might take weeks)! You also need to pay a subscription to a company if you want cloud backup, and you need to trust that company not to spy on your stuff.

Examples: SpiderOak (cloud), Carbonite (cloud), Western Digital My Cloud (home NAS box).

Back up today!

However you do it, backing up your computer’s files and folders is arguably the most essential maintenance task you can do with your PC or laptop. It’s the first thing I do when a customer trusts me with their machine, and I make sure all my own computers are backed up at all times.

I must admit I got burned once many years ago, and nearly lost some valuable and much loved files. Luckily, even in those prehistoric days a computer repair shop saved things for me, and I learned my lesson. 🙂

Playing with your new PC – the non-boring way

December 17th, 2014

Martin

There are a million blog posts out there telling you what to do now you have a new PC or laptop. They all have one thing in common:

They are sooo boring!

Security this, firewall that, registry clean the other.

You’ve got a new computer for Santa’s sake! It’s faster, whizzier, and more shiny than the one before. It’s got so much… potential! I really hope you didn’t spend Christmas Day spending Actual Money on upgrading your trial antivirus to a full version, or sitting there while Windows updates, restarts, updates, restarts…

There’s a whole encyclopaedia out there to read for free, you know!

The Good, not the Bad or the Boring

Deep breath, calm down. Sip your Buck’s Fizz.

There are of course many a useful thing you can do to a new computer. A lot of them are indeed best done when it’s new. But before you get into the… administration of your machine (what are you, an IT department?), here are a few things you can play around with first to keep your laptopping interesting.

  1. GamesInstall one of your favourite games. If you’re a gamer, try running one of those titles your last workhorse had a little trouble with in it’s latter years. Enjoy smooth gameplay. Outrun your friends with your newly-responsive keyboard wizardry. Take out that Christmas-period family anger in an arena-style deathmatch with Dad and Grandma.
  2. Photo CollectionTransfer your photos and really show them off. You’ve might have a ream of shots from your drunken antics in Magaluf, or shaky video of that eagle on the 12th at Augusta. Maybe you’ve got both. Well, with your new laptop you’ll have a fingersmear-free screen, with punchier colours and a higher resolution. Make sure all the family are there as you show off your mad skillz!
  3. Try an old computer. What?! I hear you yell? There are two truths in the PC world: Firstly, that the best thing a powerful new PC is good at is emulating several older models. Secondly, all the good PC software came out years ago. So grab yourself an emulator and take yourself back to MS-DOS games or a full working edition of Windows 98 (because, why not?).
  4. DollarGet rich by mining bitcoins. OK, I don’t really know how to do this, because if it was worthwhile then everyone would be doing it. Still, if you have an ultra-powerful PC ticking over then you could give bitcoin mining a go. For something more useful, try using your PC to help in the search for aliens or a cure for cancer.
  5. Try a different operating system. Like emulating old games, modern PCs and laptops are great at running other systems within a window on their desktop. If you’ve ever wondered what the fuss is about Ubuntu (or FreeBSD, or the Windows-copying ReactOS for that matter) give VirtualBox a try.

Only then will I allow you to consider the dull stuff

Maybe you’ve tried all that, and you’re now thinking: “well, this is all well and good but I could lose the lot tomorrow… and can’t I eek a little more speed out from under all these free software trials I don’t need?”

You’re right. There are a few key tasks you should do early on in your new PC’s life, to make sure it’s running at it’s best. They’re no one’s idea of a fun night in, but here goes:

  1. VirusDitch that free 90 days trial of Norton or McAfee. It might make you feel a little safer, but it’s really just there to scare you into giving those companies money that they don’t deserve. Remove them using the Add/Remove Programs option in the Control Panel, and install something free and good like AVG Free or Avast. Then stop worrying about it.
  2. For extra strength security, add Malwarebytes Antimalware. It picks out a lot that antiviruses leave out, like tracking cookies and toolbars.
  3. If you really want to get into something tedious and dull, try to set up a backup system. Windows has backup built in, or you can simply make sure you copy all your files to an external hard drive, so that you have a spare copy should the worst happen. Though we know you won’t really do that regularly, don’t we?
  4. Update Windows. It seems a little tricksier in Windows 8.1 than it was in Windows 7, but if you’re patient then Windows should really update itself given time. It might be just a good idea to check it yourself though (via the Control Panel again) to make sure it’s set up to check for new updates.
  5. Remove anything you don’t need, then give the computer a quick clean. New computers come with all sorts of junk on them, in addition to the antivirus trials. You get media players, photo editors and duplicates of Window’s own built-in tools that are just there to flash the manufacturer’s name up more times than is necessary. Clean PCGo into Add/Remove Programs again, and uninstall anything that you don’t think you’d use. Be careful though, and don’t remove anything if you’re not sure what it is. Some crucial drivers look far too much like proper programs, and shouldn’t be touched. Finally, give it the once-over with CCleaner. It’s free, and will remove any traces of those silly old programs.

Confession time

OK, when I said that the above was not someone’s idea of a fun night in, I was missing out one crucial individual. You’re current author loves nothing more than firing up a doddery laptop and ditching the junk, the unnecessary, the superfluous, the excess, the redundant, the nonessential, the…

Set up a New ComputerIt’s a long-held habit, but one in which I’m increasingly called-upon to do for others. It’s almost, dare I say it, fun, and I’m building up a comprehensive knowledge of what can go, and what should stay. If you need help with any of the above, I can be that help.

Perhaps I can answer a question over the phone on speeding up your PC, or come and have a comprehensive look at what needs doing. I can also show you a few ways to do those important tasks in much easier, more comprehensive ways. How about automatic backups? Ultra-powerful antivirus? Media players which deal with any file?

Backup: it’s what you should be doing

November 26th, 2014

Martin

Backup: a word to strike fear and guilt into all but the most committed computer user. We all know we should be doing it, but we don’t. We forget, delay, become complacent. We don’t think we’ll ever need it.

Read more

Stop yourself getting hacked – secure your data

September 5th, 2014

Martin

A big news story like the recent iCloud hack, and leaking of naked celebrity photos can result in:

  • titillation
  • tittering
  • entertitainment
  • concerns over your own security arrangements (e.g. “Are my naked photos of enough interest to hackers for them to get me in the news?”)

Read more

Make the most of your photos

May 10th, 2013

Martin

There are three problems with the way people treat their digital photos:

  1. They take too many
  2. They don’t back them up
  3. They never look at them

Each thing on this list is a shame, and yet all together it makes you wonder why people bother taking photos in the first place! With the rise of digital technology – cameras as well as laptops and tablets – it’s too easy to amass a huge number of photos, and even easier to lose them all. If you’ve taken time out of your day by the seaside to peer through a lens (or stare up at a tiny screen) then do yourself a favour and make that moment worthwhile! Read more