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PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/16/2013 9:29 PM

My PC hard drive crashed last week. Some, but not all, of my data was backed up to an external drive. I replaced the hard drive, and went looking for recovery discs. I found sites that would sell them to me. Best Buy said they could not get them. So I called Dell and they are sending them free to me. Then I got thinking: why are recovery discs not included with the PC? And why are they needed at all? Could the info be on a chip in the motherboard and the PC would recovery itself automatically when the drive was replaced? And could the PC have 2 hard drives such that a backup or mirroring would be done, say, daily by the PC without my attention, and the PC would just switch to the 2nd drive and tell me when the 1st drive has died?

Is it possible these two operations are deliberately made difficult so the user will need to pay for help or software or a new PC? Best Buys' first suggestion was to toss my PC and buy a new one. A less experienced used might be talked into that.

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#1

Re: PC recovery and backup options and pros/cons

12/16/2013 10:24 PM

For my data I use Time Machine on my Mac. However, there are plenty of PC equivalents. It's seamless and allows me to access prior copies of all my files based on date.

I also have a spare SSD drive that I cloned for my applications and operating system. If something catastrophic happens I can swap in the other drive and be on my way.

All my drives are now SSD, except the Time Machine drive and a portable USB drive.

I have 3 other SSDs running in my machine, one for my photography, one for my business files, and a third for Windows OS running on Parallels.

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#2
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Re: PC recovery and backup options and pros/cons

12/16/2013 10:42 PM

Very interesting. An SSD is a solid-state drive, correct? What is the advantage over a conventional hard drive? And how do you clone OS and apps? Sounds like a very nice setup.

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#4
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Re: PC recovery and backup options and pros/cons

12/17/2013 6:40 AM

SSD technology is much, much faster than mechanical drives and much more reliable since there are no moving parts.

I have a workstation Mac Pro that was built in early 2009. We use it for CAD work. To keep up with the increasing software demands and loads we first maxed out the RAM, then added SSDs.

The machine now boots in about 1/3 the time compared to the old mechanical drives. The speed increase for program execution is significant. It's like getting a new machine at a fraction of the cost.

Here is a written article on how to clone a Windows drive to a SSD. It could just as well be another mechanical drive if you want.

SSDs are more expensive than regular hard drives and generally smaller in data size, so I split my files amongst several drives. The operating system is on one drive with all my software applications, but my data is distributed on several other SSDs.

SSDs may not be economical enough for you, but there are some hybrid designs out there than might be worth considering. They have the large mechanical capacity drive fitted with a small SSD to act as a staging platform to increase speed.

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#3

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/16/2013 11:57 PM

What is the size of your HDD? there are SD chips of up to 64G or more which should be more than adequate to store the entire operating system and drivers and many essential software installs as an image; it would be dated to the time of that image, but the entire thing would be very close to your ideal of an OS image embedded on the MB ( even better, since the image you make will include those special drivers not in the orginal OS build, added later for specific hardware). several SDs could be made as a multi-chip image if desired for really big backups.

If I were to do it, I would have to include the image software on the SD as well so that with a second drive as the temporary OS, I could rewrite the original OS drive with the image, and be back in operation very quickly indeed. It becomes a virtual SYSTEM RESTORE; only much less iffy than the MS-OS embedded one; you will always be certain that the restore will not fail and has the added advantage of all the updates to that point in time as well, as opposed to a 4 year old factory recovery OS.

In addiditon, the cost of the SDs is so small these days that you can make several dated images, maybe 2 weeks apart, and when the 2nd oldest is one month old, then it is rewritten as the newest image ( leaving the oldest alone for a zero date ). Thus you will have at best a 2 week old OS and an image 2 weeks older, and the third will be a month or more old so that you have an ultimate backup if the more recent ones fail because of an embedded virus or other malware. The total number of images and their time separations is up to you and how often you make system changes.

There are other ways to set this up, limited only by your imagination and ingenuity to implement them. ALWAYS test your setup to be sure it works, never did like the phrase " well it OUGHT to have worked " after the damage was done.

For ultimate backup recovery I have been using ZAR for a long time, for files that got missed in the backup or erased in error. doesnt work on shredded files though or dead hardware, those are toast.

Hope this helps; good luck in future, happy computing.

L-I-T.

PS. a recovery disc is sometimes embedded in the original HDD as a separate partition, for recovery directly to the drive itself; but that assumes the host drive OS failed for reasons other than hardware issues. If you are saving data backups to external drives, why not create your own recovery library on one of those, you then need only a small HDD with a basic OS to transfer the image to the new HDD.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/17/2013 6:49 AM

You can buy an external 1, 2, or 3 terra-byte drive that is specifically designed to do periodic backups in the background for Windows machines. Usually they are connected by USB. Mine is Firewire.

They have their own software that simply performs the backup on a regular (i.e., hourly) basis without your intervention.

The system stores a copy of everything you select for backup, then only stores changes to files from that point on.

The advantage is that storing changes reduces the total storage required, but the system is intelligent so that it can rebuild the data to your disk for the time period of your choosing.

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#7
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/17/2013 10:30 AM

Not quite the same as an OS restore is it ?

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#8
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/17/2013 10:40 AM

That is why I clone my OS drive and back up my data drives.

It's easy if you keep things segregated. If the OS goes bad I just sub another drive and then clone that to the original drive to be used as a backup again.

If the data goes bad you just restore it from the backup drive.

Instead of taking a day to rebuild your machine I can be back in running order in less than an hour.

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#9
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/17/2013 10:46 AM

Yup, I agree, if the OS HDD fails then its a great recovery mode. For a soft recovery to a drive that got corrupted, but still viable, you dont need to disassemble the machine to change out hardware.

Ubuntu will operate from one SD and you can then restore from another SD.

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#6

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/17/2013 7:42 AM

All of what you suggest could be done by the manufactures. You could request it in any new PC you by. It is going to increase the cost of the PC. Which is why the manufactures don't do it. They have to compete with all the other manufactures on price. A lot of people don't know what RAM is or the difference between processors.

Most new PC's have a partition that has the recovery info on it. In your case with a hard drive failure it does no good. Unless when you get a new computer you make an image of the drive on another drive. Some computers have an internal USB port that a flash drive could be cloned with the OS. The drive can then be added to the sequence of events at start up.

There is some good back up software out there. I use Acronis. It will run a real time back up of the computer to any drive you select. It allows you to clone or image drives.

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#11
In reply to #6

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/17/2013 11:44 AM

OZZB, amen. Most people think RAM is an animal and a processor is used in the kitchen. I have friends, intelligent educated folks, who call me when their system acts up just because I'm an engineer. It shouldn't be this way. A PC should be as reliable as a TV or a car. Drivers don't know what's under the hood and wouldn't tolerate a car that was buggy and crashed routinely. And that's my rant for today.

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#14
In reply to #11

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/18/2013 10:24 AM

PLEASE do not burden the PC software development process with the same level of engineering rigor applied to a safety-critical system. No PC should ever need to be as reliable as a car - unless that PC is involved in some critical infrastructure where its failure could cause injury or death.

Of course, cars are rolling LANs of PCs nowadays, more or less.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/18/2013 10:50 AM

I concur!

For one, I think my computer is far more reliable than my car. My car goes into the shop several times a year. My computer has not been in the shop for about 5 years. If I have a problem with my computer, I just re-image and the problem is gone. This happens about once a year but then I take my computer security seriously. Still some malware gets by. I say this because after the re-image the hardware and software are the same. I have a utility that can apply all the OS patches before I consider my computer restored. I think there is better than a 90% probability that all my computer problems were caused by malware.

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#17
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/18/2013 11:49 AM

I respectfully (really) disagree. I'm somewhere between the average user, who doesn't know terms like imaging and OS, and the posters here who are on top of all this. I feel the frustration of the masses. They just want a machine that doesn't crash, does simple Office-like tasks, plays a few games and goes to the internet.

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#10

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/17/2013 11:24 AM

OP here! You guys are great. AH, I've seen you all over CR4 and you have an incredible record of good answers. Do you have a life outside CR4!?

I'm a EE, but retired for 10 years and haven't kept up with the PC world. SSD was news to me, and cloning of OS and apps. Best Buy's Geek Squad (not very geeky) didn't suggest any of this. As soon as I get the recovery discs and get up, I'm gonna check into SSDs and cloning. Don't know how much space I need, but way under 1T I 'm sure. Does that sound like a good plan?

Too bad that most users don't know about these options; they are at the mercy of sellers and makers.

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#12
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/17/2013 12:59 PM

- - - Thanks.

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#13

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/18/2013 9:34 AM

The con to my process is you need to buy an extra restore disk and it is a bit time consuming. You do not need to back up each stage as I do. I am just anal but as I see it the cost in time and materials for the extra backups is next to nothing. The pro is you have a near air tight system. Only data on C: you have not backed up will be lost. I keep very little data on C:.

Many computers have a restore partition on the hard disk. These are worthless if your HD crashes or your computer is infected by the new wave of malware. They are in detectable by virus scans and infect or corrupt the restore partition. Bear with me on my ranting about malware. I am guessing there is a 50-50 chance the HD crash was cause by a turf war between 2 bot nets. Both were fighting for complete control of your computer.

If you have either a Segate or Western Digital HD you can get a free copy of Acronis backup. I would disconnect my computer from the network/internet then use your disks for a factory restore. Then I would install Acronis from a flash drive ect and back up your C: drive. Then create a Acronis boot disk. I would then install all the software you can install that does not require the internet. Make sure that includes a firewall that will allow you to block all incoming connections. Then image again. Put these images on an external drive. Then I would connect to the internet and install the rest of your software then back up again. I would keep all my data on a separate disk. Wnen you back up do a complete back up including your master boot sector MBS. You may be able to restore even a crashed HD by restoring the MBS.

Why do most of this not connected to the internet? When I have done this, by the time I see my monitor after plugging in the internet cable I see a warning that I have an outside connection do I want to let it in. The new wave of malware (bot nets) monitors all infected computers. It is easiest to infect the instant you connect to the internet since most users install security software from the internet.

I would Google "server-side polymorphic malware" to understand the new wave threat this info changes week by week then http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botnet is adequate to bone up on botnets. The largest antiquated botnet was 30 million infected computers. That was when they could be detected by an AV scanner. Now that they can't this is probably a small number. We can safely assume there is more than 50 million infected computers worldwide. That is enough 'horse power' to scan every possible IP address many times per second. If one botnet doesn't get you another one will.

These botnets are capable of drilling a VPN tunnel through your firewall, so once they are in your computer they can get around all your computer's defenses. They are so stealthy they can hide from even the best security.

I have many terabites of data so an SSD is out of the question except for maybe my C:.

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#15

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/18/2013 10:40 AM

It makes sense to keep the supply chain and configuration management of the "restore" software separate from the hardware. The software will change much more frequently (software is never "done," you know) than the hardware, and much of the software is supplied by separate vendors. Unfortunately some of that crap is bloatware; you wouldn't want to lose your copy of RealPlayer would you?

Not packaging discs with the machine is just a cost-saving effort. Some users will completely over-write the OS anyway during their time of ownership. (Not providing system backups contributes to this practice.)

Keep in mind that SSD storage devices have write cycle limits, though these are usually pretty far out there before the device becomes unreliable. Every backup medium fails over time, given that pesky 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

My personal backup technique is to just back up my data whenever I hear a story of someone's system crashing and (almost) losing their data. :) I use an external hard drive, memory sticks, DVD-R, or whatever. Diversify and spread the risk. My data is not that critical, usually just pictures and music that I'd rather not pay for twice.

I don't consider someone else's cloud backup to be reliable.

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#18

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/18/2013 12:35 PM

Boy, I could not have scripted this better. As I was writing my last post, my new HP laptop (Windows 8) said it was going to restart in 5 minutes for Windows updates. No option that I could see to stop it. So it restarted, took about 10 minutes to do the updates (I had time to visit the bathroom and the kitchen), and of course lost all the tabs I had open. Not very user-friendly.

I just thought of another analogy. I think for most users a PC should be like an appliance. What if you came home and found your refrigerator had crashed and the food was ruined? A fridge is not safety-critical, but we wouldn't tolerate such nonsense routinely, as we do with PCs now.

I think a very reliable PC is technically possible, but the companies that control the market don't want such a device; it would ruin their sales of new machines, new Windows, virus programs, "geek squads", and the like. I have to close now as this miserable machine is acting up.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/19/2013 11:08 AM

The default state that as new computer comes is as user friendly that Microsoft thinks it could be. Of course they are pretty computer knowledgeable. From the control panel you can get to windows updates and change the default setting some you won't have it shutting you down.

Most of the problem is not the PC it's the OS. Microsoft's OS is the problem.

There are other OS out there. They can be more reliable. There is though a learning curve to use them. This is why Microsoft gets away with the problems with their OS. The general user is too lazy to want to learn something new.

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#20
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/19/2013 12:28 PM

That's what I figger too. What do you think of Linux? I like my W7, but W8 is just a big pain. A new Windows every year makes $$$ for MS, but grief for users.

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#21
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/19/2013 1:21 PM

Running Windows on your PC is like driving off with a new Kia Optima: modern, somewhat reliable, pretty loaded with features and real generic and uninspiring. (I have no idea how great or bad an Optima is. I just pulled an example out of the air.)

Running Linux is like taking a new Chevy Camaro, replacing the seats with racing buckets, disconnecting a bunch of crap you don't want, tricking it out with all kinds of aftermarket add-ons that don't all work, and signing up to fix most of what goes wrong because you've completely voided the warranty. You either savor the beauty of what you've produced on your own, or hate yourself for diving into such a mess.

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#22
In reply to #18

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/19/2013 2:18 PM

You gave a terrible analogy the operation a PC is probably billions times more complex than the operation of a refrigerator. You also display a common naivety about any device connected to the internet. The internet is a war zone. If your analogy put that refrigerator on the front line of a war zone where lead is flying that would be fair. I doubt that you would have had this problem if you were not connected to the internet. I was not sure before but since you are still having problems you have a malware problem not a hardware problem.

Hackers are winning the war not the good guys. I am sure you have heard you should back up your computer. You chose to ignore that axiom then complain when the consequence of your foolishness bit you in the butt. Lyn is correct in that just because you back up doesn't insure that the backup will work when you need it. What is certain is if you don't have a backup when you need it you are screwed.

I would like a car that never needs service. I don't blame a conspiracy of mechanics because my car needs servicing.

I suspect the reason your computer is acting up is that it is re-infected. I warned you about that possibility. I guess you figure you should be able to walk through a ghetto and 3 AM and not get mugged. I think if you are stupid enough to walk in a ghetto at that hour you deserve whatever you get. Cyber space is more lawless than the real world because the hackers that break into your computer almost never get caught unless they are stupid enough to use it to attack the Pentagon.

Do yourself a favor and check this out. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botnet

If you are too lazy to read it through, skip to the table Historical list of botnets This is a list of bot nets that were located and brought down. I suspect for every botnet discovered and taken down there are 10 others that didn't get caught. Note the trend since 2007, they have grown logarithmically in size then there is no data for botnets created since 2010. Also note the botnet on the top row couldn't even be completely taken down even after it was detected. This would disturb anyone with a lick of sense. They are only catching old unsophisticated botnets but not the new ones. Botnets have learned how to become undetectable a few years back. The growth trend has most likely continued and the hackers are too sophisticated to get caught anymore. I wouldn't be surprised if more than half the computers on earth are infected. Why wouldn't they be? Hackers breaking into your computer can't be easily stopped and can't be caught. If you are using Symantec software, hackers broke into that companies server less than a year ago and copied the code for their secuity software. I suspect they had better security than you have on your computer. They now know how to circumvent their security. To stop a botnet you need to have unusually sophisticated security. Hackers make a great income using enslaving computers to carry out some money making scheme.

Lastly, the botnets were not caught because a genius like you called up the cyber police to complain a botnet took over their computer. The cyber police followed the money trail. All this hacking is about money. The tens of millions of persons owning the known infected computers were as just as clueless as you are.

Sorry for being so blunt!

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#23

Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/19/2013 10:38 PM

Well, boys, looks like we're in a shootin' war. What do you recommend for a suite of protective softwares?

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#24
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/20/2013 7:22 AM

For the PC BitDefender is one of the best for $40 ($33 on sale now). They also have a free version that may be worth checking out.

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#25
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/20/2013 3:35 PM

Thanks, AH, I've downloaded the free BitDefender.

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#26
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Re: PC Recovery and Backup Options and Pros/Cons

12/20/2013 4:44 PM

OK I will try to help. By the way I have preach this talk a few times and you are the first to take me serioiusly. Congradualtions, you will have less hassles for it.

First, how is your computer getting reinfected? I am not an expert but I know enough to be useful.

Botnets have lists of all the IPs of acquired computers (Zombies)

I would guess not only will they have your IP address but your OS and probably what kind of security your computer has. The botnet uses some of its its Zombies to scan ALL the IP addresses. Probably pinging each 'dead' (off line) IP address waiting for it to cojmeon line. When your computer connectes to the internet a botnet Zombie and your computer shake hands and your Zombie is given a list of tasks to do as background processing so they are not obvious. If your computer does not communicate back with the roper hand shake the zombie eather infects you or more likely contacts an infection server giving it all the the attack info it needs to reinfect you. This probaly occurs in less than a second after you connect.

To prevent this you want to stealth your ports. This means when the Zombie pings to see if you are on line your computer will not ping back as they usually do. The botnet does not know your computer is on line. This is job #1 for you. Before I completely stealthed my computer I only blocked in coming connections and I would get a message 'Do you really want to block this unknown connection?' The half dozen times I have connected a newly cleaned computer before I stealthed my computer the warning message was instant. Stealth is better because they can get in if they know you are up but it may take awhile.

Bit defender has a firewall here is a link showing a version of the bit defender's fire wall.

http://www.miarec.com/knowledge/how-configure-firewall-bitdefender-internet-security-firewall

Be sure to Block port scans that is the most important setting bit defender has.

You probably do not need to enable internet sharing that is for applications like MiaRec

Comodo firewall is free and one of the better firewalls and has far more goodies than bit defender. Once you are surfing the web stealthing your port will not protect you. I do not know if bit defender is secure enough for me. You might want to install Comodo while being protected by bit defender. I am ultra-anal about keeping my computer clean.

I do not remember all the settings in the advanced firewall settings but blocking fragmented IP traffic is critical. 9 out of 10 ways to get around a solid firewall starts with a fragment. Think of an IP stream as a train. The internet and your firewall will allow the train to be broken into pieces. You will have a legitimate stream or train coming from an infected web page you are viewing. It will also send another piece of the train that is fake it can tell the firewall I am part of this train. Most firewalls do not keep track of every car of every train so it lets the other part of the train by. I would check ALL the advance check boxes. Uncheck only if you have problems.

http://help.comodo.com/topic-72-1-451-4769-.html

Check into K-9. It is free and is the best way to avoid infections while surfing. It is for web pages as a good AV is for your computer. The AV scans an executable for malware before you execute it. K-9 scans a web page before you can open the page. Even though the malware paged on your computer can't be detected the infection on the page is easily found so you will be blocked from opening the page.

None of these help if your computer was infected before your security is in place. I think you have enough survival skills to duke it out with the hackers.

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