TCS HTML Email #9 - Disaster Recovery Part 2


Become the Master of Disaster Recovery (part 2- using a recovery disc set)
John's first article in this series



Dell Request Backup Discs form



ThinkWiki's article about ordering Recovery CDs



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It happens sometimes that your Windows computer won't start up for one reason or another. Because it's faster, the best solution is to use a recovery partition, as outlined in Become the Master of Disaster Recovery (part 1- using a recovery partition.) Second best is to use your recovery disc set if you have one. In broad strokes, this article covers that process and begins with getting or generating these discs.

I. Get or Create a Recovery Disc Set (Creating a recovery disc set is important business and should be the first thing you do with your brand new computer.)

A. Windows XP:  Locate your recovery disc set-- you remember where you put it, right? If Windows came preinstalled on your PC but the manufacturer didn't provide a recovery partition or a full Windows XP CD, contact the company and ask for one (you did pay for it, after all). In most cases, you'll get one for free, no questions asked.

B. Windows Vista:  Windows Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate editions allow you to create an image file of your computer's hard disk that can be stored on an external hard disk or burned to a set of CDs or DVDs. This feature is called Complete PC Backup and can be found in the System and Maintenance control panel, under “Back up your computer.”  Users of Windows Vista Home editions typically have a recovery partition available, or a one-time-only option to create a recovery disc set that was put in place by the computer manufacturer.  The following procedure lists the steps for a Compaq computer and is meant to otherwise provide a general overview.  If your computer is a laptop, plug it into the wall.  Battery power won't do here because it could fail at a crucial moment and you'll have lost your only chance to do this.  Also, some laptop CD-DVD drives are motion-sensitive, so be careful not to rock the boat once formatting of the discs begins.

1. Gather some high-quality, blank discs (forget Re-Writables as the program will not work with this type of CD or DVD), and a felt-tipped marker to label them

2. Click Start > All Programs > Recovery Manager

3. Select Recovery Manager

4. Click Advanced Options

5. Select Recovery disc creation

6. Insert the first blank disc, making sure to first label it according to sequence (e.g., Disc 1, Disc 2, etc.)

7. Confirm by clicking Next, and wait while the Recovery Manager creates Disc 1-- could take up to three quarters of an hour per disc

8. When the disc is complete, remove and replace it with the next until the process is complete

You typically only have one chance to create your recovery disc set, but after doing so, it's a very good idea to make copies of your discs and to store them in another location for safe keeping.

C. Windows 7: All versions of Windows 7 let you create a system recovery disc set that can be used to save and ultimately restore all of your system and your files and applications.  Further, you can repeat this process as often as you like, and even use these discs to restore your stuff onto a brand new hard disk, should it become necessary to do so, as long as the new disk is the same size or larger than the original one.  Again, if your computer is a laptop, plug it into the wall.  Battery power won't do here.  Also, some laptop CD-DVD drives are motion-sensitive, so be careful not to rock the boat once disc formatting begins.

1. Click Start and type backup into the Start menu Search box, and choose  Backup and Restore

2. At the left, select “Create a system image”

3. At the next window, select “On one or more DVDs,” and then click Next

4. Next, you'll be asked to select your backup location, or if you've chosen DVDs, you're told how many you'll need

5. Click “Start backup” and insert your labelled blank discs as prompted; the actual backing up begins

6. After the last disc is created, choose to burn a System Repair Disc that can start up your computer when it can't start itself.

II. Start up with and use your recovery discs

If and when the day comes that you have to use your recovery discs, the first thing to do is to get the computer to start up from Disc 1 of the set (or from the System Repair Disc, in the case of Windows 7.)  After that, just follow the program's prompts to format your hard disk and reinstall your stuff.  After that, browse to the previous article in this series (see link at left), and follow the long procedure there, starting from step 5 to complete the setup process.

A. Windows XP: Turn on the computer and put Disc 1 in the optical drive.  Restart the computer, and then get ready to press the F12 key at the top of the keyboard when the Dell (or whatever) splash screen comes up, and BEFORE Windows starts to load.  Press the F12 key repeatedly and quickly at this point, and if you miss it, just restart and try it again until you get the Boot Menu.  At the Boot Menu, use the arrow and enter keys to select your computer's CD or DVD drive and continue the boot and the installation process as prompted.

B. Windows Vista: Turn on the computer and put Disc 1 in the optical drive and then restart the computer.  When the Install Windows page comes up, select Install now to begin the installation process.

C. Windows 7: Turn on the computer and put your System Repair Disc in the optical drive and then restart the computer.  Watch for a “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD” prompt, and then press any key quickly and repeatedly to force the computer to boot from the disc. The System Repair Disc will boot and finally offer you the chance to install from your recovery disc set.

III. Computer Maintenance (Broadaxe Method)

Some geeks preach periodic (annual) maintenance by backing up all files (and, I guess, all applications, too), and then erasing and reinstalling everything as described above and in the first article in this series.  I'm not partial to that plan except in the case of users who don't save documents, photos, music and the like on their hard disks.  I figure if it's not broken, don't fix it.

The last article in this series will describe alternative recovery tricks.
September 15, 2011

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