GPSolo Magazine - Oct/Nov 2003


Dear Editor:

At several points in the June issue of GPSolo, there are references to making backups of one's computer files. This is great advice, but it is wrong.

Backups fail for a variety of reasons. If one does not carefully design the backup, a crash or theft of a computer will result in data losses that may be impossible or terribly expensive to recover. I had a crash about June 1 of this year. I did not lose my document files—I was able to recover them from the backup.

What I lost was all of the software and registry, together with many e-mail addresses and the like that were either not backed up or could not be restored from the backup. The major reason is that backups do not preserve the system and registry in a way that can be restored. Restoration of software usually requires reinstallation from the original disks, with all of the necessary code numbers and passwords. In order to get a working computer, I ended up having to buy much of my software again.

What is better than a backup is an image. Imaging software can very quickly make a copy of the entire hard drive, including system files, registry, software, and data. With an image file, if my computer were lost entirely, I could transfer its entire contents onto another machine within an hour or so of unpacking it on my desk.

I use two ION 40 GB external hard drives (about $200 each), alternating one each week, and storing the new one off-site in a safety deposit box. With a USB 2.0 card (about $50) and Acronis True Image software (about $50), I can make an image of my entire 40 GB hard drive in less than an hour. And I can continue to use my computer while the image is being created, as I am doing as I write this.

After any crash or other loss, I can either find the lost files on the image drive, or I can get a new hard drive or computer, put the Acronis disk in the CD drive, attach the ION drive, and in less than an hour I am back at my old computer—directories, e-mail addresses, and all.

Backups do fail: They fail to preserve the system and software in a usable form. Images fail much less often.

Ralph E. Cooper, Ph.D., J.D.
San Antonio, Texas


Back to Top