Sunday, November 03, 2013

Best Buy, file recovery and Win 8 File History

So, the third hard drive in my 4-year-old Dell Studio Windows 7 desktop computer crashed. I had had a 3-year contract with Dell and after the second drive crashed, they replaced it with a slightly smaller HDD, claiming they were out of stock on the size of the original. This meant the rescue CDs I had created oh so long ago wouldn't work as they sensed that the system was different. I guess I can't complain as all 3 of the replacements, including a tech coming to my home to make the switch, were covered in the contract. The tech was always here less than 48 hours after I made the call.

You would think, with all of the drive crashes I've had over the years (these were just the most recent) that I would keep good back-ups. But no - my backup USB drive filled last March and I never cleaned house so that my scheduled back-ups could take place. I lost a lot of data - files I use to post in 4 different blogs - plus personal family photos, documents, music library, etc.

I went to Best Buy and bought a new Windows 8 desktop. I know laptops are all the rage, but I LOVE my desktops. I usually buy online from Dell, but didn't want to wait the week or two for a new machine. I got a Dell Alienware CPU and an Acer monitor.

I tried to get my files off the HDD myself - purchased a drive enclosure, but found I couldn't get past the password protection. I searched the Internet for software to get the files off the drive, but I couldn't find anything that seemed to fit my needs. So I contacted one of those online services (MTG PC Helpdesk) that promise to connect to your computer and repair it from afar. I sure didn't like having someone I didn't know prowling around on my computer and they charged me a bunch of money. Still the old HDD seemed to be overheating and after several hours, they had to give up due to crashes. They refunded half of my money, but still - I paid a lot for virtually nothing.

I took the crashed drive to Best Buy and after a quick check, the Geek Squad told me the drive was slow and that it was probably not going to allow any recovery. I asked them to try anyway (I'd have to pay $100 even if it didn't work) and they agreed.

Three days later they called me and told me they'd recovered 68 gigabytes of data. I had no idea there was that much crap in my account. Because there was so much data, I'd need to buy a drive to put it on - which I agreed to - and it took them about 24 hours to make the transfer - but I got about 90% of my stuff back. I'm in heaven.

Just a quick thanks to the Best Buy Geek Squad - they were just doing their job - using the right equipment - but it worked out well for me even if I am a bit lighter in the wallet.

But I still haven't gotten to the reason I started this post.

When I bought my new Windows 8 machine, it came with at least two (I'm not sure I've found them all yet) backup systems which wanted to charge me monthly fees to backup my computer to online sites. I'm not big on anything with ongoing fees, so I've disabled one piece of software and deleted the other. I did create some rescue DVDs and used the hard drive that I bought from Best Buy to back up my recovered files to create a bootable USB drive in case this drive crashes.

None of that, however, solved my problem of backing up my extensive library of files locally, so again I was searching the internet. It only took me a minute to find that Windows 8 has a feature called "file history."  Connect a USB HDD to your computer with enough capacity to hold all your files, set up "file history", and it checks your HDD every hour or so and matches the files on your local hard drive with the files on the back up disk. Absolutely fantastic. Much better than periodic backups.

If you are using Windows 8 and can afford a USB hard drive, this appears to be the perfect solution to the decades old problem of having an up-to-date backup of your files.

Just thought I'd share all of this with anyone who gives a shit.

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