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Maintaining Your PC: Disaster Recovery

Disaster, when it strikes, often leaves you wishing you had prepared better for it. If you're at this page, hopefully you've followed at least some of the recommendations documented elsewhere at this site and experience a less painful recovery.

Types of Disaster

Disaster on a personal workstation should not mean losing a peripheral, like a mouse, monitor or keyboard. Nor does it likely mean a broken CPU, power supply or motherboard. All of those can be easily replaced and your work carries on. Disaster is usually the term used when data is lost due to accidental deletion, or hard disk failure. Given that this is likely why you're here (hopefully before it happens), the type of data missed the most includes:

  • Data files and directories
  • Browser Favorites/bookmarks
  • Stored passwords and certificates
  • Address book for mailer
  • Saved email
  • History
  • Application customizations and configurations
  • Profiles (including desktop setup and Windows customizations)
  • Installed applications

Recovery from Accidental Deletion

This usually is the easiest to recover from as Windows creates a backup copy to protect you from this. The most obvious is to restore files from the Recycle Bin. Enter "Help and Support" from the Start menu and search for 'undelete" if you need assistance.

If you are logged on as a system administrator you have the additional option of doing a System Restore (also from the "Help and Support" screen. The focus of this function is to restore your PC to settings found at an earlier time, not necessarily the data that may have existed then.

Beyond these two features there are lots of third-party utilities that claim to help. In google search for "undelete a Windows XP file" for options.

Recovery from a Dead Hard Drive

Your hard drive died. What now?

  1. The first step should be to see a technician, to see if they have any success getting off any of your data. Depending on how the drive failed you may be luckier than you think. Do not give up on your data completely before taking this step.
  2. Next, replace the drive with a new one and reinstall the operating system, applications and recovered data. Reconfiguring applications may take time if no backed up profile exists.
  3. Last is your data. You will need to evaluate whether starting from an out-of-date backup will be faster than not restoring anything, if a current backup does not exist.

Silver Lining

Replacing a failed hard drive not only helps you to appreciate the value of future backups, but it may be a great time to replace the broken drive with a bigger one at a reasonable price. Even recent images of hard drives taken for backup reasons can be put onto larger drives. (You may have to create a partition of equal size originally but this can be modified after the image has been relocated.) The operating system should be updated to the most recent version and Service Pack and, if your computer is more than 4 years old, upgrade it if you can. You'll be glad you did.

Created by: Manfred Grisebach, July28th, 2005