Consider the worst case scenario. Your PC has crashed and all attempts – including those outlined in Boot Camp over the past couple of weeks -- have failed to revive it. Windows and or data on the hard disc has been corrupted and the only solution is to format the hard disc drive and start again by re-installing Windows and all of your applications. If that ever happened to you, how much work would you loose and how long would it take to get your PC back to the condition it was in before the crash?

It doesn't bear thinking about does it? This week we'll look various backup schemes that can help to minimise or even eliminate the damage caused by a fatal crash. Yes, I know making backups is a pain, but look at it this way, a few minutes spent backing up could save files that took days or even weeks to create.

Essentially there are two basic backup and recovery strategies: you can duplicate the entire contents of you hard disc, or make copies of important user and system files and reinstall the applications from the original program discs. In both cases it's important to make backups at frequent intervals to keep the files up to date, though this can be scheduled to take place automatically and to save time it can be done incrementally, so that only the changes to the original backup are recorded. Backups or copies of backups should be stored in safe place, preferably 'off-site' so that in the event of a fire or similar catastrophe your backups will survive. Backup systems and data should also be tested from time to time, to make sure they actually work!

The 'whole disc' method sounds easy but in practice it's not that simple. To begin with you will need a reliable disc or tape-based recording system with sufficient capacity to store possibly several gigabytes of data. Making the initial backup could take a very long time, though it would be a one-off job and subsequent updates will be much quicker. Reinstalling an entire system to a freshly formatted disc can be a real headache since without Windows or the original backup program on the drive there's no easy way of transferring the data from the disc or tape. More importantly, the backup may contain the source of the original crash – a bug or a virus – which could be unleashed to wreak havoc all over again. At the very least you'll be reinstating all of the redundant files and clutter that was probably slowing down your previous installation.  

Method two takes quite a bit longer to get your PC back up on its feet again. This will depend on the number of programs and the amount of data there is to restore, but on the plus side the PC gets a fresh start and you won't necessarily need to buy any new hardware or software. Windows 95 and 98 both come with a utility called Backup for archiving important files to floppy disc or a suitable tape or disc based recording system. (Incidentally, Backup doesn't work with some CD-ROM writers). Backup can be found in My Computer. Right-click on the C: drive icon, choose Properties and select the Tools tab. The only limitation is that Windows has to be on the hard disc to run the program so it can't be used to restore a system to a freshly formatted hard disc.

There is plenty of good backup software on the market including an excellent little (550 kilobytes) shareware program called WinRescue that's well worth trying. It combines an advanced backup and compression utility with a very capable set of crash recovery tools that might even save you from having to format your disc in the first place! A 30-day trial version is available for download from and other fine shareware libraries. Versions for Windows 95 and 98 are available and registration costs just $19.95.    

The big question is what should you backup? As we pointed out in the last two episodes of Boot Camp it is vitally important to have up to date copies of your PC's critical system files, and the Windows Registry. However, they cease to be of use for recovery purposes once the hard disc has been formatted. When Windows is reinstalled it starts afresh and creates a new set of system files. Nevertheless it is worth hanging on to a copy of the main configuration files (config.sys, autoexec.bat, win.ini etc.), for a while at least, especially if you had to change system files to get programs or peripherals working on the previous installation.

The most important files to backup are the ones that cannot be replaced, in other words anything that was written or created on your PC. That includes word processor and spreadsheet files but that's only the beginning. If you have Internet and email account keep an archive of all of your sent and received messages. Don't forget your address book and list of favourite web sites. Messages are usually stored in the browser or email client's program folder or in the case of the Internet Explorer Address Book, in a Windows folder called Application Data/Microsoft. You'll also find IE Favourites in the Windows directory.  

If you have any graphics programs and imaging devices, such as a scanner or digital camera make sure you backup all of your image files (including any custom backgrounds, wallpaper or desktop themes). If there's a lot of them it's a good idea to use a file compression utility such as WinZip or PKZip, also available from shareware libraries on the Internet. Gather together any useful programs you have downloaded from the Internet and put the executable programs and 'zips' together in a folder so they can be saved en-masse. Finally, take a 'snapshot' of your desktop or any other part of your system that you want to restore. Just press the Print Screen button on the keyboard, open Paint or your chosen graphics program, paste the image, give the file a name and include it with the rest of your backups. Finally, cross your fingers and touch-wood, that you'll never need to use your backups

Next week – Symbols and accents in Word




A backup strategy that only records the changes made to the chosen files


A large, constantly changing system file in Windows 95 and 98 containing details of how your PC is set up, and all the programs stored on the hard disc


Type of compressed file, requires special program (Pkunzip, WinZip etc) to expand or decompress the file



Here's a way to turn your Internet Explorer/Outlook Express email Address Book into a text file that can read by a word processor, or imported into other email programs. Open Address Book and on the File menu select Export, then Address Book. In the dialogue box that appears select 'Text File (comma separated values)' and click the Export button. Type in the path (where you want the file to be stored) and give the file a name, for example: C:\my documents\adbook.txt. Select Next, check the items you wish to export and click Finish.  

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