TWT Newsletter, Issue #017 –, – Beat those hard drive gremlins
Welcome to the October 2008 TWT newsletter. With Halloween fast approaching, we’re going to tell you how you can deal with the worst kind of computer gremlins and recover from a hard drive crash.
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In this months issue:-
1) What’s New at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
2) When Disaster Strikes – Putting ‘Bare Metal’ Recovery Software Through its Paces
3) Tip of the Month – Using the Event Viewer to Troubleshoot Problems
4) Free Utility of the Month – InfraRecorder
5) Top-Windows-Tutorials is Now Powered by Amazon Web Services
6) Stop Press! Have you Been the Victim of a PC Repair Scam?
What’s New at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
Another bumper month of customizing Windows! We finished off our introductory guide to customizing Windows with a look at CursorFX. We then took things a step further in our advanced Windows Skins and Skinning tutorials. Your desktops never looked so good!
When Disaster Strikes – Putting ‘Bare Metal’ Recovery Software Through its Paces
Fans of Top-Windows-Tutorials.com might have noticed that we have cautiously withdrawn our recommendation for Acronis True Image. The reason we did this is because the software let us down badly in a recent test of “bare metal” recovery software. What is “bare metal” recovery? Basically this means restoring a computer from scratch, with a completely blank hard drive. One of the most common ways home users can do this is by creating a bootable ‘rescue CD’ that can access a backup image of their old hard drive and restore it to the new one. Several packages on the market claim to do this, but which ones work the best? To find out, we took two identical laptops (HP NC4010 with 512mb of RAM). We installed a clean copy of Windows XP on one laptop, then made a backup image of the hard drive and attempted to restore it to the other, using the bootable rescue CD’s each software package provided. Here’s what happened:-
On first impressions Acronis True Image seems to have the best rescue CD. It was the only CD we tested that could access our network drives. However, things quickly started to go wrong when we tried to restore the image we’d created on the working machine. “The archive is corrupt” insisted the rescue CD. We booted back into Windows on the working laptop and verified the backup, there were no errors. Next, we tried copying the backup image to an external USB hard drive. Booting back up into the rescue CD and attempting a recovery, we were presented with “The archive is corrupt” yet again. The Acronis rescue CD allows you to make a new backup from within the rescue CD environment, however we could not successfully make a backup without the dreaded “The archive is corrupt” message appearing.
Finally, we tried removing the hard drive from the non-working laptop and attaching it to the working laptop via a USB adaptor. Running True Image from within Windows we were able to restore our backup image to the other drive. Everything seemed in order, our drive now had all the files and folders present from a Windows installation. However, when we put the drive back into the other laptop, the machine would not boot. We tried using the recovery console to restore the master boot record (MBR) and various other tricks, but nothing worked. Even physically swapping the newly restored drive into our working laptop resulted in an unbootable system.
At this point, it was decided that we would no longer be recommending Acronis True Image unless their technical support provided us with a solution and we’re still waiting for a satisfactory answer.
Acronis True Image Rating 0/5
We weren’t really able to properly evaluate Norton Ghost 14 because our systems did not meet the minimum spec. Symantec have created a bootable CD based around Windows Vista, which is notoriously memory hungry. Booting the CD, the first thing it did was warn us our system was not up to spec. We tried to access the network through the CD but we were greeted with an obscure error. We didn’t persevere in the end, basing a disaster recovery CD around an operating system like Vista just didn’t make sense to us.
Norton Ghost Rating Unrated!
Things started to look up a little with our trial copy of Paragon Hard Disk Manager. Its interface is fast and efficient and we backed up our laptop to the network and created a bootable recovery CD with no problems. Paragon base their recovery CD around Linux, an operating system that can be customized and streamlined way beyond the limited options available in Windows. However, the rescue CD did take a very long time to boot, longer than competitors rescue CD’s.
Unfortunately, while the networking included on the CD identified our ReadyNAS network storage device, it would not let us browse to the backup stored on it. The rescue CD had no problems with a USB drive however and quickly restored the backup image to the blank hard drive. After a reboot, the laptop booted perfectly and all was well.
Paragon Hard Disk Manager Rating 4/5
The latest version of Nero BackItUp is now a stand-alone product and not bundled with Nero Burning ROM. Offering the same kind of functionality as Acronis True Image, Nero BackItUp is still good value on its own.
Frustratingly, Nero BackItUp would not let us create a CD image of its rescue CD. We did not have a CD burner in our laptop, but we did have one attached to another PC on our network. In the end, we were forced to install the software on our CD-Writing equipped PC. Once we had done that, it was easy to create a rescue CD.
With rescue CD in hand, we booted into Nero’s recovery environment. Again this is based around Linux, loading times were lightning fast for the Nero product, but once again we could not quite get to the network drive through the rescue CD environment. An external USB drive did not pose a problem however, and we quickly had the backup restored, the laptop booted just fine afterwards. Nero’s rescue CD environment also allows you to make backups as well as restore them.
Nero BackItUp Rating 4/5
So, out of the packages evaluated it is clear that Nero and Paragon performed the best. Which one you choose comes down to which other features you need. Nero BackItUp is a much more complete backup package, with facilities for backing up files and folders rather than just whole hard drives. Paragon Hard Disk Manager on the other hand is more focused on providing an excellent suite of tools for working with hard drives, partitions and installed operating systems. Power users could couple Paragon Hard Disk manager with Genie Backup Manager for a truly cutting edge home and small office backup solution. Users who simply want a good all round backup package are better off with Nero BackItUp. Both packages offer a free trial however, so there’s no reason why you can’t try them both yourself.
Tip of the Month – Using the Event Viewer to Troubleshoot Problems
Random computer failures can be a frustrating thing. However, troubleshooting problems is much easier when you have a clue where to look. That is where the event viewer comes in. This handy log records all kinds of events that happen on your PC. Often when a software or hardware failure occurs, you can check the event viewer for an explanation.
XP Users can find the event viewer under “Administrative Tools” on the Control Panel (in the “Performance and Maintenance category”). Vista users just need to type “event viewer” into the search box in their start menu. We’ll take a more in-depth look at the event viewer in the future. Vista users don’t forget you also have the “Reliability and Performance Monitor” which can help with troubleshooting too.
Free Utility of the Month – InfraRecorder
With backup very much the theme of our newsletter this month, we decided to recommend this excellent free CD and DVD burning package. While XP can write to CD’s and Vista can write to both CD’s and DVD’s, InfraRecorder can also read and write to CD image files. This makes it useful for burning CD images you might download from the internet, or perhaps for creating rescue CDs for
Truecrypt whole drive encryption.
You can download InfraRecorder for free
Top-Windows-Tutorials is now Powered by Amazon Web Services
We are pleased to announce an upgrade to our video hosting service. Thanks to our increased popularity our old host simply wasn’t able to keep up. Now Top-Windows-Tutorials.com is hosted by
Amazon Web Services,
one of the biggest names in online hosting and data storage.
For us, it means great hassle free hosting, for you, it means lightning fast video downloads and as close to 100% uptime as is humanly possible. Thanks to Amazon Web Services you can continue to enjoy our full-sized and full featured tutorial videos. While other sites post tiny, add-ridden video tutorials that force you to squint at your monitor, we continue to provide full-blown high resolution videos that show you exactly what is going on. Why settle for anything less?
Stop Press! Have you Been the Victim of a PC Repair Scam?
Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is a controversial anti-piracy measure introduced by Microsoft that detects illegal copies of the operating system and then nags the user to go and purchase a legitimate copy. Now however, it seems that some less reputable computer repair companies are deceiving their customers claiming that problems caused by malware are actually caused by WGA. Don’t get caught out! WGA does not ‘lock’ you out of your computer, nor does it make your computer only fit for the scrap heap (Microsoft are always happy to help you buy a genuine copy). If the computer repair company suggests you need a new PC because of WGA, or because your PC is “blocked by Windows”, take your business elsewhere. You can read more about this scam by
If you live in Lincoln or Newark, United Kingdom and would like one of our engineers to repair your PC, contact
for a no-obligation quote and a no fix no fee service.
That’s all for another month. We hope that you enjoyed our newsletter, if you didn’t then please let us know why, you can
contact us by visiting this page.
If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy! Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and we hope the hard drive gremlins stay out of your system this Halloween!