Ghost Looking for a Shell
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The most sinking feeling I’ve ever felt in my gut was when one of my hard drives failed. I had pictures, music, videos, and important documents on that drive. I vowed to never let that happen again.

^That was me, about 7 years ago.

Now, I know and realize the importance of backing up data. Do you?

According to this survey, most of the people reading this do not back their data up (even at 3 month periods).

This is probably due to the fact that it is not always easy. Sure, manufacturers of hard drives, like Seagate, have been trying to fix this at the user level by implementing a software to hardware solution with their external drives. A Windows user can click a button on the desktop to automatically backup important data, or backups can be scheduled to start at a certain time.

While such a feature is surely attractive and easy, it’s important to know what’s going on with your system. Redundancy is a key aspect of this.

Redundancy is a *concept* in the computing world. It basically means that you should have copies of important data scattered in various places. For example, I have one computer that I use on a daily basis. I have data that is generated on a daily basis (spreadsheets, analysis, etc.). My best option is to automate backups to multiple locations. I can automate a backup of my current system (as it stands today) to an external drive. This provides me with a great deal of assurance, should anything go wrong with my current setup, but it does not provide a fullproof solution. Though it is unlikely, both harddrives could crash or become inaccesible which would destroy the whole purpose of backing up data. Redundancy.

Redundancy suggests that you make CD/DVD copies of important data and give them to family or close friends. Think of your hard drive as your house. When you move in, it’s always wise to give your family and friends (and perhaps your neighbor) a copy of your house key. You might even hide one under a rock outside. This is redundancy in action.

Hopefully, at this point, you are convinced that you need a better backup solution.

Here are some options:


Several options are available. I recommend using Linux and running a backup script from the desktop (or via cron) whenever you feel like it. Though, I realize that this is not the average user. 🙂

If you are running Windows, there are several ‘pay-for’ options available, like Norton Ghost. They certainly work, and are better than nothing, but I would advise to stay away from such ‘easy’ solutions. Why? Well, if things go really bad, it can add lots of difficulty in recovering files. Some viruses have also been reported to target such methods. Do you really want to leave your data open for unrepairable attacks? (that’s a rhetorical question)

So, you want something that works for windows and is not vulnerable. Don’t forget redundancy!
Please…try one of the solutions below. I know it’s a PITA, but it is worth it in the end…trust me!


Clonezilla is an excellent choice for those that want a complete ‘image’ of their system. Using Clonezilla, you can copy your whole system onto an image file or multiple CD’s. When things go awry, you can easily reload your system. It is like reinstalling windows, except, you don’t lose anything. 😉 (Recommended)

For users of Windows, it’s always good to keep a copy of your System32 directory elsewhere. This way, you can always just copy over files on a drive that has become unstable due to viruses and such. You will also want redundancy of folders such as /Documents and Settings/Me/.

Norton Ghost
It is a good solution, but you need to know what you are doing! The same goes for any commercial software I suppose.

It’s easy in Linux. But only if you know how to do it. 😉 Scripts can be found (more on this later) that can do the job for you…fully customized. 🙂 For now, just make sure to zip up your root. Redundancy is still at play.

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