Long, long time ago, a Personal Computer (today named a PC) was sold together with the operating system media (MS-DOS, then Win95, then Win98, Win Millenium, Win XP). At this moment, standard home users felt themselves somehow lost, but skilled people knew that they had to partition the hard disk in order to smartly install the operating systems.
Today, the home PC’s are usually sold with the operating system pre-installed. The computer is ready to use, which is a good point for newbies, but most of the settings are not the best choice for a further safe use.
What we will do today.
As it has been delivered pre-installed, the computer can be used immediately. However, with this initial setup, you have no chance to correctly perform a backup.
Two different types of backup are necessary for a smart user : a backup of your data, for instance on a removable media (USB disk or DVDRW); and a backup of the operating system.
A backup of your own data has to be done frequently : the pictures you removed from your camera and stored on your PC should not disappear if your PC receives a virus.
This operation is usually very fast, because your real data do not use a lot of space on your computer. And the movies you have already seen can be moved to an external drive.
A system backup has to be done each time you do a change to your system, typically once a year. A system backup copies the whole system disk to a removable media, in order to restore the operating system from the backup media.
If everything is on a single disk (typically the “C:” disk) you have to backup the whole C: disk, on a bootable media, which takes a huge amount of time.
That’s why we will split your physical disk into several partitions, in order to have a small system partition having only the operating system and your installed software, and a data partition which will have all your personal data.
The recovery media.
If when ordering your computer you did not purchase the recovery media, before touching anything, you should create the recovery media.
There is a somewhere menu for that, usually the click sequence is start, all programs, recovery media. The recovery media can be a USB flashdisk or a DVD.
I had a DVD burner attached to my PC, so I created recovery DVD’s. This operation needed four blank DVD’s. Now, in case of trouble, I should be able to restore the system to it’s manufactory settings. Be careful, restoring the manufactory settings will destroy the whole disk, erasing all your personal data. This is only the “last chance” rescue disk.
First of all, backup!
Now start the real job. Before touching anything, the first thing is to create a backup of your system disk. In case of trouble, you will be able to restore your system to it’s current poing.
For instance if you install something bad, or you removed an essential software you absolutely need, simply restore your c: disk.
I used Clonezilla (http://clonezilla.or...ezilla-live.php ), the free system backup I recommend to everybody. Download the iso file, burn it to a CDRW or a CDR. I often use CDRW’s because there are several steps involving several iso files, so this costs me a single media.
If you have a second disk, I recommend performing the backup on the second disk.
If you only have one disk, you should first shrink your c: disk in order to manage some place free, and then create a partition and format it. For such a small job, the Windows disk manager can do the job.
Now, boot on your CloneZilla CD, and perform your backup.
Here below is the Clonezilla splash boot creen, accept the defaut boot settings :
Choose device-device, local device, beginner mode, and then save_local_partitions_as_an_image
This will perform a partition-to-file backup, and as source choose your system partition, it’s probably the “sd2” or “sd3” disk, you can see it when considering the partition sizes.
If you are not familiar with system backup, here is a tutorial for clonezilla :
Secondly, shrink the c: disk
The c: disk is generally far too big. Our current goal is to make this disk as small as possible. The c: disk has to be big enough for all your basic software, but no more.
Using Windows explorer, have a look at the “properties” of your c: disk.
For instance, my c: disk is a 2 terabytes disk, of which 50 gigs are used. 2000 gigs currently, and 50 gigs used. A lot of space is wasted, because I don’t want to put anything important on my c: disk. So, I will choose a more reasonable size. I decided 200 gigs for the c: disk, leaving 1800 gigs for my personal data, texts, spreadsheets, pictures, and system backups.
Now we need partitioning software. I use gparted for my partitioning purposes, it has a livecd and/or liveusb version, take it from here:
Download the gparted livecd for instance, and burn it on a CDRW. Boot on the gparted disk, here below is shown the splash screen.
When the boot is finished, you will see the gparted main screen. Click in the system partition, on my image here bolow it’s the /dev/sda2 partition, you will see the resizing window.
Use the mouse to shrink the partition, reasonably larger than the “yellow” used size.
Create the new partition
Now you can boot your Windows system from the hard disk. As the disk has been modified, Windows will probably ask you to reboot.
As we have created a free space on our disk, we can use the Microsoft Disk Manager (right-click on my computer, and choose manage) in order to create a partition on the free space, and format it in NTFS format. This newly formatted disk will probably be your “d:” disk.
Now you have to learn how to work with two disks. Remember that your C: disk is a “danger” disk, it can catch a virys at any time and it will disappear during repair.
Your “D:” disk is your safe data disk.
So, create a “d:\data” folder on your D: disk, and change your Microsoft Office (or other wordprocessing environment) settings in order that d:\data is the default storage place.
So, each time you create a document, it will be saved in the d: disk.
Also, change your browser settings so that they save the downloaded files and pictures in the d: disk, for instance in d:\download.
Now you are ready for going live.
Monthly, perform a system backup off your c: disk. Name your first backup backup1, the second one backup2. On month three, remove backup1 and create backup3.
So, in case of problem, like new driver giving bad results or virus successful attack, simply restore the last backup. If the last backup is unusable, m-1 backup is still there.
And on a daily basis perform a backup of your data disk. A lot of software’s are available for performing differential backup, but you can create your own one in a very simple way.
Let’s say that your photos are in a folder named \photos, and your spreadsheet and word processor data in a folder named \data. These data are very precious, and if you have a hardware failure, you really need to have them immediately available, that’s why I recommend a daily backup for this, let’s say just before poweroff your PC.
Create a text file named “dailybackup.bat”, with the following lines :
dir j: @echo @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ @echo please check that the USB device is available @echo You must see no errors in the "dir" above @echo @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ pause @cls @mkdir j:\backups\photos 2>nul @mkdir j:\backups\data 2>nul xcopy e:\photos j:\backups\photos /E /D /Y xcopy e:\data j:\backups\data /E /D /Y @echo @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ @echo Backup job finished @echo @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ PauseLet’s suppose that your data disk is the “E:” disk, and that your USB external disk is the J: disk.
The first “dir” allows checking that your USB disk is connected.
Then come some “mkdir” in order to create the folder structure on the destination disk.
And then you see the “xcopy” command line which copies all the photos from \photos and all the data from \data.
What is nice, is the “/D” option. This option will tell xcopy to save only the “new” files, and “/Y” will accept replacing the existing destination files by the recently modified ones.
There is a “pause” at the end allowing you to see the results before closing the window.
When you run this script for the first time you will see a lot of copied files (you probably have a lot of pictures in the \photos folder).
If you run the script a second time, you will see it working very fast, nothing copied because no newer file exists in the source folder.
Create a new .doc or .xls or .txt file in the \data folder of your internal disk, and double-click the “dailybackup.bat” script, you will see a single file being backed up, the last file you created. All the other ones are not copied because they are already present on your backup media.
So, you have a perfect and very fast script for your daily backup .
Now you are ready for real life, do not forget to do your daily backup of your personal data, and a monthly system backup, and you are ready to recover from any problem.
My last problem arrived after five years of home PC usage, and I had no backup. Please, don’t be as stupid as I was!