First Aid for Your Hard Drive
You're doing okay, right? Your computing life has settled down; your machine is stable; and you haven't even considered upgrading to Microsoft's Windows Vista.
Then--oops! You spill coffee on your notebook. (Oh, you don't think that's possible? Read Amber Bouman's "Laptops and Liquids Don't Mix.") Or maybe there's a storm and a power surge fries your PC's hard drive.
One of our Windows experts, Scott Dunn, has marvelous advice on moving the folders that hold your data files off your Windows XP or Vista drive to simplify backups. You can read it in "Keep Your Data Safe by Reorganizing Windows' Folders."
I also have advice from PC World experts about what to do if your hard drive crashes--and you don't have a backup.
A Medicine Cabinet for Your PC
Lincoln Spector, our jack-of-all-trades computing expert, tells you what to do when your Windows XP or Vista system refuses to boot. Get the details in "Diagnose and Repair an Unbootable XP or Vista PC."
It could be possible to bring a stalled hard drive back to life--at least until you can grab the data from it. Watch our "How to Resurrect a Crashed Hard Drive" video for tips, including the freezer and Frisbee techniques. (Hey, it's worth a try, right?)
If you want to fill your toolbox with just-in-case utilities, browse our "Recovering From Disaster" download collection.
But honestly, do you really want to go through all that?
Dig This: If you think 24 took a turn for the boring last season, just be thankful that Jack Bauer isn't fighting terror in the age of dial-up connections, pagers, and dot-matrix printers. BTW, you'll want to turn down your system's volume when you watch this video. [Thanks, Jim G.]
Dig This, Too: Have you ever wondered what a combat aircraft's cockpit looks like? Click on a plane to see the cockpit. [Thanks, Bob.]
Better Back It Up
Readers keep asking me why should they should bother backing up their entire hard drive.
Data's definitely important, but so are your favorites, the look of your desktop, the customized feel of your beloved programs, and Windows patches. Reinstalling and reconfiguring everything from scratch is a nightmare. The best, most staunchly conservative method is to back up the entire drive, with daily incremental backups of just the files that have changed. Mine's set to back up at 7 o'clock every night.
With version 11 I can restore a drive image, yet preserve current files and folders so they won't be overwritten. I can search through backup images without the hassle of mapping the drive. And it's easier to exclude files that I don't want to back up, like videos I might want to view once and delete, or files ending in .bak.
The tool's new Try&Decide feature lets me play around with new programs in a temporary, risk-free, and protected area. The downside is that Acronis has to reboot the system if you decide not to stick with the changes.
If you have more than a few networked machines, you might consider Acronis True Image Echo Workstation ($80). It lets you back up all of your systems from a single, convenient management console. The Workstation version gives you the ability to use Acronis's Universal Restore ($30), an add-on module that lets you restore a system to different hardware.
Hard Drive Heaven
If your drive's small or you think it's on its last legs (what's that clicking sound?), I've got spots for you to comparison shop.
BTW, it's fairly safe to say that you can depend on the price of hard drives to drop. Read "Hard Drive Prices Drop as PC Demand Rises." Then look at these prices: A 750GB Seagate Barracuda drive for less than $200, and a 500GB Western Digital Caviar drive for about $100.
Check out a comparison chart that I set up for fast SATA drives that hold over 500GB, with a cache of at least 8MB. None of them are more than $150.
Dig This, Extended Version: You have encountered an error. Here are some of the best 404 pages I've seen: Slonky, iamww, darrenhoyt, and nextwaveperformance. [Note from Copyeditor: I just love the flow chart... maybe we could adapt it for use in our staff meetings.]
There are lots more at 404 Error Pages: Reloaded. [Thanks for the lead, Gus.]
What's not funny is how some companies are starting to substitute ads into the spot usually taken up by error pages. Read about that revolting development in "ISPs Deliver Ads Instead of 'Server Not Found' Error."