By Nerino Petro Jr.

Assuming you have planned ahead and backed up all your critical files in an off-site location that is not destroyed by the same disaster (or act of theft or system crash) that wiped out the files and hardware in your office, you can get up and running again simply by purchasing new hardware and loading it with your stored data. Here’s how:

Locate your most current backup and/or “image” of your computer.

Locate your system specifications and determine which software is mission critical (or just plain helpful) to getting your office back in operation. Tools to help you maintain an inventory of your hardware and software can be found at and

As you’ll be replacing your hardware anyway, determine if you should upgrade any of it to better run your mission-critical software.

Determine which online vendor you wish to purchase your new computer from. If you’re ordering from one of the major vendors such as Dell or Gateway, you may want to check or

Contact the vendor to determine how quickly they can deliver a system meeting your requirements. Next day?

Once you receive your new computer, set it up and make sure all components are operational. Connect to the Internet and update your operating system. If your new computer includes restore disks, then you can go to the next step. If you did not receive restore disks, however, you may wish to make a backup of the new system at this point, which will make restoring much easier if a problem should arise when installing your backup.

Install or attach your backup device to the computer and install any software and necessary device drivers, including any updates from the Internet. If you stored your backup files or backup image on removable media such as a CD or DVD, have the disk present.

If you have a backup of your entire hard drive including the operating system and programs, you must decide if you’re going to overwrite the new hard drive or if you are only going to recover your data. Overwriting the new hard drive may pose problems if the new computer hardware differs from your old computer. The computer may or may not start, or you may have to install updated drivers for your motherboard and other components. However, this method does have the benefit of allowing you to restore all of your programs and data in a shorter period of time.

If you only have a backup of your critical data, you will need to ensure that you have all your mission-critical program disks, serial numbers, and license keys, as well as an Internet connection to download updates.

Restore from your backup set:

  • If you are not going to restore your entire hard drive, then install your mission-critical programs, and if you wish, install the secondary programs (e.g., programs that aren’t critical but that make things easier for you). Then restore your data from your backup set.
  • If you are going to restore the entire hard drive, then do not install any programs; at this time restore the entire hard drive from your backup image or complete backup set.
  • Restart your computer to ensure proper operation. Install any required drivers for new hardware.

Once your new computer is fully operational, make a new backup of everything on the hard drive so that you can restore to this point, if necessary, in the future.

Nerino Petro Jr. is the practice management advisor for the State Bar of Wisconsin. He can be reached at

Copyright 2006

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