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1/7/2004
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Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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The Explorer: 10 Resolutions For Better Computing In The New Year

Happy New Year! If you're reading this column, you obviously survived the Y2K bug, so you're already ahead of the game. <g>

With that problem in the past, it's now time for resolutions for the rest of the New Year: Here are 10 things you can do to help ensure trouble-free computing for all of the year 2000. These certainly aren't the only steps you can or should take (see the other resources listed at the top of this column for many other things you can do), but chances are you'll find at least one or two items here that can either help you get out of trouble with your hardware or software, or better still, prevent such trouble in the first place.

Please note that these resolutions aren't sequential; each is an item in its own right; so be sure to read all the way through the list for the tips that might help you the most:

1. Don't Groan -- Make Better Backups. There's simply no substitute for having a complete, known-good backup. Yes, there are products like "GoBack" that let you try to undo bad installations, and Unerase/Undelete products that that can help you recover from user errors such as deleting essential files by accident. But the only 100 percent certain, absolutely guaranteed way to ensure the survival of your setup and your data is with a full, current backup.

Backups used to be slow, but with products like Ghost or DriveImage (my personal favorite), you can create a compressed, complete, byte-for-byte clone of your entire hard drive or partition in minutes. I can, for example, completely back up a 2GB partition in about eight minutes -- less time than it takes to drink a cup of coffee. Then, using a CD-burner, I can copy the "image" file to a blank CD (that costs under a buck) for permanent storage. So, for less than a dollar, and with essentially zero downtime, I can make a full, complete backup any time.

If you're not making copious backups, try it: Someday, you'll be incredibly glad you did.

2. Do A System Snapshot Before Making Changes. Although making a full backup need take only minutes (see #1), restoring a backup takes longer. DriveImage, for example, can clone a 2GB partition on my system in eight minutes, but before it will restore that image, it does a thorough disk scan to ensure that the partition area is defect-free. As a result, a full restore of a 2GB partition takes about half an hour. That's not horrible, and sometimes the full restore is indeed the best thing to do; but you can save yourself some time in recovering from minor problems by doing a "system snapshot" before you make changes. This can be done manually by copying any settings you're changing or by backing up your .DAT and .INI files, for example. Or you can use automated tools such as Norton's Disk Image and Registry Tracker; or by running ScanRegw to force a manual backup of your registry. There are other methods, but the key thing is to make a copy of any essential files likely to be altered by any change you're making to your system. Then, if something goes wrong, you can restore the backups (such as by running "ScanReg /restore" from DOS). Sometimes, this will be all you need to do to recover from a minor problem. But if not, you always have the full backups (from item #1) to fall back on.

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