Recovering from a computer disaster: Part II

By | March 1, 2011
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Restoring 200+ GB of data to a new hard drive isn’t a quick process. Paragon Backup & Recovery makes it as easy to recover from a computer disaster as a software program can make it – and to think that it’s totally free, is amazing. However, it took nearly 3.5 hours to put the image of the backup on the new hard drive – so you have to be prepared to spend some time in order to restore an image backup; the time it takes is directly related to how big your backup is and the speed of the device on which your backups reside. Paragon is as fast at restoring a drive as Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image – and Paragon is free – the others are not.

TC discovered some interesting features that Paragon has in the process of restoring his primary hard drive.

If you don’t understand what hard drive partitions are, they are like partitions in a room. You can partition a large room into two or three rooms, but they’re all part of the same large room. If you don’t understand hard drive partitioning, don’t let that bother you, Paragon will restore whatever is on your drive and any partitions you have. If you haven’t partitioned your drive, that’s fine, it will create an image of your hard drive exactly as it is.

If you do understand partitions, then this will make sense to you, and show you some additions features of Paragon Backup and Recovery. TC had his old primary hard drive partitioned into 2 drives, (drives “C” and “F” , drives “D” and “E” were pre-assigned to the DVD R/W and the CD/DVD drives). Paragon recognizes the partitioning and will restore the partitions exactly as they were on the old drive on the new drive. This is great; however, if the new drive is larger than the old drive, this will leave a lot of unallocated space, which will then have to be formatted and will then become another “logical” drive.

If you use the Quick Restore function, Paragon will simply clone your old hard drive onto the new one and if the new drive is bigger than the old one, any space not used will be “unallocated”. So, it’s best not to use the “Quick Restore” if you’re cloning a smaller hard drive on to a bigger one. TC chose Quick Restore, not realizing until it was too late that this option doesn’t allow for the partitions to be proportionately resized filling the entire bigger hard drive. It was OK in TC’s case, since another logical partition on the drive was desirable. (Later on EB purchased a bigger hard drive and used the full restore option and her hard drives were proportionately resized to fill the entire drive – see the screen shot below of Paragon’s interface and the view of EB’s new hard drive, freshly cloned from a Paragon backup. )

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After TC’s restore was complete he attempted to reboot his computer – but the computer would not boot. It turns out that Paragon does what is says it does, it precisely clones the old hard drive – bad boot sectors and all.

Lesson learned: Make sure you have more than one backup. If your hard drive starts failing fast, and gets to the point where it starts making noises, then your computer probably won’t boot up the next time you restart it. In fact, this was the case with TC’s computer. Before he replaced the hard drive, the computer would not boot, there were so many errors on the failing hard drive.

But the hard drive was cloned perfectly – the operating system and all the programs were copied perfectly onto the new hard drive – including the bad boot sector. To get around this, TC booted the computer with the Windows Vista installation DVD and ran the “Repair” option. He had to run it three times before the boot problem was fixed but when it was fixed, he rebooted his computer, with the brand new hard drives – and everything was exactly like it was before disaster struck.

If you don’t think it can happen to you – it can. Hard drives don’t last forever, with heavy use you may only get 4 years out of your hard drive, five if you’re lucky. We’re heavy users and ours lasted about five years. If you’re a light to moderate computer user, you might get six or more years out of your hard drive – but sooner or later, if you keep your computer long enough, you’re going to have a hard drive failure, and when you do you’re going to be glad that you read this article – and kept image backups instead of piecemeal file backups.

Remember to keep more than one image backup, if your hard drive is failing fast, the last backup you make, may have a bad boot sector. You can recover from this but it’s a lot easier if you have a backup created before the boot sector became corrupt. You can simply restore from the image backup and reboot your computer – and your computer will be back exactly as it was before your computer problems began.

Keep in mind, a mirror image of your hard drive means exactly that. If your computer is running extremely poorly, and you create an image back up and you use that backup to restore you computer from, you’re going get exactly what you had – a poorly running computer. Make sure your computer is running well or at least satisfactory before you make an image backup. If it’s not, try using a service like Reimage to get your computer back to tip-top shape before making an image backup.

Image backups make recovering from a disaster as easy as it can be. You won’t lose anything – not those precious photos of your grand child, or those emails you’ve been saving, or your bookmarks/favorite, or your programs – and you won’t have to reinstall Windows.

You can read “Recovering from a computer disaster: Part 1” here.

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