The Importance of Backing Up Your Data

I should have known better.

Last week, in a fit of geeky goodness, I upgraded the video card in my computer and doubled my RAM to 4GB. Yay for me. Since things were going so well and I thought myself the king of tech upgrades (as simple as this one was) I figured, “What the hell! Let’s update the BIOS!” (BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System; it is the set of instructions the computer follows to identify, test and initialize various system components prior to running the operating system). It is at this point that things didn’t go so well.

My first mistake was not backing up my data. I’ll get to that later. The second mistake I made was using a Windows-based utility. Never, ever use a Windows based utility to update your BIOS. Right about now I’m guessing my readers are thinking “OK, why would I update my BIOS in any way, Windows or otherwise?” Well, you probably won’t. I probably didn’t need to either. While this computer was toward the high end of things when I built it, that was more than three years ago, in March, 2006. Updating the BIOS will not increase performance in any measurable way. Probably the biggest mistake I made was not recognizing that the new BIOS I was about to install was not compatible with the existing chipset driver on my motherboard. The chipset is basically what links the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of your computer to everything else: memory, hard disk storage, video, audio, etc. Turns out I needed to update the chipset driver prior to updating the BIOS. Oops.

So here’s what ended up happening: After I updated the BIOS (called flashing the BIOS) via that poison Windows utility, the computer wouldn’t reboot. Uh oh. It got as far as the BIOS checking the various system components, but wouldn’t load Windows. “I’ll just reinstall the old BIOS!” I thought. Brilliant. Except to do so required a 3.5″ floppy disk drive. I don’t have a 3.5″ floppy disk drive. This was all becoming terribly annoying. Time to call in the big tech guns: my sister. After much tinkering and fussing, and her consulting with coworkers, it was determined that Windows was corrupted and needed to be reinstalled. Although we were able to reinstall an older BIOS, Windows still wouldn’t boot. Here’s where the whole back-up-your-data-regularly thing comes into play: had I been backing things up like any self-respecting computer geek should, I’d only have needed to dig out my Windows install discs and reinstall. Since I didn’t do that, I needed a way to retrieve my data from my hard drive and put it on my external backup drive. Believe it or not, just prior to this fiasco, I had purchased a 1.5TB external hard drive. With backup software.

Enter Bart PE. Bart PE is a bootable CD that allows you to work all kinds of computer magic when you can’t boot into your operating system. Quite a handy life saver in this case. It wasn’t long before we had things running through Bart PE and the data were flowing from the computer to the external drive. Shortly thereafter, Windows was reinstalled. Woot!

Lessons Learned

Backup your data! Music, photos, videos, receipts, letters, spreadsheets, program settings, on and on. You don’t realize how much stuff you have until you can’t access it.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. BIOS not giving you problems? (This probably applies to 99.9% of us) Leave it alone.

Ask for help. I had heard of Bart PE before, but if it weren’t for my sister’s help, I’d still be tinkering with the thing trying to figure it out. Hooray for

xcopy "C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\My Documents\*" "E:\BACKUP\My Documents\" /s /e /i /h

As troublesome as this whole episode was, at least I learned a few things. Back up your data. Have I mentioned that before? I’ll say it again: Back up your data!

I was also able to learn some basic DOS commands (via Bart PE) and some file structure stuff, plus I was able to do a much needed reinstall of the operating system. After a couple of years of installing and uninstalling various programs, and making changes to the system, files and miscellaneous data get left behind. An occasional reinstall cleans things up and keeps your system running smoothly.

2 comments to The Importance of Backing Up Your Data

  • David

    Always good lessons. What do you think of WordPress, would you use it again if you started a new project?

  • I like WordPress. It’s very easy to use and the number of themes and plug-ins is seemingly endless.

    I’d definitely use it on a new project.

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