My Sony U750P is a brick right now. Yesterday I was doing some partition merging with Partition Magic and it choked in the middle. I have used Partition Magic for years and never had a problem but my number finally came up. The process aborted with a file attribute error leaving the C drive inaccessible, which on regular computers is not that big a problem to fix but on UPCs and some Tablet PCs the problem takes on greater complexity. The Sony U, like many UPCs and Tablet PCs ships without either a floppy drive or an optical drive. This means that when your system won’t boot from the hard drive you have no options for booting the device to make a recovery attempt. I have an optical drive on the way so I should be in a position to recover or rebuild my Sony soon.
I made a backup of all my documents and important files immediately before attempting the partitioning so I will be able to recover the data once I can boot the Sony. I am pretty sure a simple CHKDSK will fix the problem Partition Magic has caused in which case I won’t need the backup but it’s there if I do. I did not image the whole hard drive on the Sony prior to messing with the partitions for two reasons. One, I didn’t have an optical drive which makes it difficult, and two, in the event of a catastrophe a disk image wouldn’t allow me to restore the data onto another computer. I backed up all the important folders and files onto an external hard drive, an iPod to be exact, so I was able to restore everything onto another computer so I could continue my work. This backup process got me to thinking about common pitfalls in such a strategy so I thought I’d share it with you. I use Karen’s Replicator for manual backups like this for a couple of reasons- it’s free and lightning fast and it copies the files straight across as files and not some compressed special backup format. This makes it easier to bring to other systems from the external drive but more importantly lets me index the files with desktop search programs. This way if I choose to do so these backed up files will appear in search results for a specific file.
Most programs put all user created data in a folder under the My Documents tree so backing this stuff up is very simple. But there are certain programs that by default put data in other locations and it is crucial to remember to back these folders up too. I’ll discuss programs I use that put data in odd places so if you use any of these programs you’ll be aware that a normal backup may not capture your important data.
Outlook– everyone who uses Outlook is probably aware that the files it creates are put in special places. I say places because I have seen Outlook put the PST, OST and other files it creates in two different places. It is very important to back these files up so you can recover your PIM data and emails if you need to. The two different folder trees I have seen Outlook use are:
C:Documents and SettingsYourUserNameLocal SettingsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlook
C:Documents and SettingsYourUserNameApplication DataMicrosoftOutlook
These directory trees are both set as hidden by default and you must set the properties to allow you to see them before working directly with them. A better solution for backing up and restoring of Outlook data is to use a utility that is designed specifically for that task. I use OutBack Plus and swear by its ability to back up the entire Outlook/ Internet Explorer/ Firefox environment and easily restore it onto another computer. Once you restore with OutBack Plus your entire web and Outlook environment is exactly like it was when the backup was made, even on a brand new computer.
Onfolio– I use Onfolio all day long and my data and RSS feeds are important to backup. The data "collections" are stored under the My Documents tree by default so as long as you haven’t changed that you will be OK by simply backing up the My Documents tree. The RSS feeds are another matter, and unfortunately Onfolio chooses to store them in another hidden folder by default. If you don’t back up the correct folder specifically you lose all your feeds and history information, which for me numbers in the hundreds. Be sure and back up your feed information in the following default folder (after making it visible in the properties):
C:Documents and SettingsYourUserNameApplication DataOnfolio
Special programs- I use both QuickBooks and TimeTTracker to handle my accounting needs and both of these programs store the data in special locations so if you have programs like these make sure you back up this critical data. Both programs also allow you to back the data up from within the program and I recommend you do that too. This gives you redundancy for critical stuff you can’t live without.
While this list is by no means comprehensive the purpose of this article is to demonstrate not only how important making backups can be, especially when doing potentially dangerous maintenance on your computer, but also to point out that you must be aware of all the different locations programs store critical data so they can be included in the backup procedure.