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It's Backup Time!

Okay, so you're ready to do the installation. Need I say it? If you're upgrading from a previous version, Setup is supposed to let you back out and restore your system to its previous state if you panic in the middle. I've actually backed out of Setup a few times successfully and a few times unsuccessfully. Setup does lots of stuff to your operating system and hard disk files, and particularly if it bombs halfway through the process, things could get sticky. So ask yourself, "Do I have important data on my computer?" If so, back it up. Can you afford the downtime incurred should you need to reinstall your applications and operating system? If not, back them up, too.

Backing Up to a Disk Image

One technique I like for doing serious backups is to make a disk image of my main hard drive. With a disk image, if the drive dies or I have some other catastrophe, such as a new operating system installation goes south, I can just restore the drive to its previous state—boot tracks, operating system, data, and applications—all in one fell swoop.I use a program called DriveImage from PowerQuest for this task, though some people swear by a competing product called Norton Ghost. Either one is a powerful tool for making backups and recovering from a dead operating system. These programs work by copying your hard disk sector by sector and storing the whole image in a huge, single file on another drive. The large file they create contains all the necessary information to replace the data in the original tracks and sectors.

If you have a CD-writer, you can use a CD-R as the backup medium and tell the drive image program to break the image file into 650MB chunks. If you have a CD-RW drive, it can provide a very cost efficient (though slow) means of backing up and restoring. It also works with a second hard disk in the computer, a second partition on a hard disk, and removable media such as or Zip or Jaz drives. Another approach is to store an image on a hard disk across the LAN on another workstation, though recovering from the remote station is a little more complex than from a local drive.



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