Today's post is from Cindy, the genius designer behind Angry Girl Gear, and co-owner of the crafting forum Attack of the Craft. Cindy is about the smartest techie we know, in her "real life" she is a computer forensics specialist and analyst. We really have no clue what that means, all we know is that the chick is smart when it comes to computers (she even has a Master's Degree in it!). And when we have a problem with our PCs, asking Cindy how goofed we are is usually a pretty safe bet for her to tell us "I told you so". So now, she is sharing her knowledge with Modern Rosies, in a way that we all can understand, and protect our computers better.
Your computer is going to break. I'm sorry, but it’s inevitable. It’s an unavoidable part of life, like death and taxes, only worse. Consider all of the things you do with your computer - you store your pictures, your movies, your music, your documents. It’s where you interact with friends, play games, and seek entertainment. For many, it’s an IV line to existence, and nothing hurts more than when that line is yanked out of your arm and you're left looking at the darkened shell of what used to be your best friend and closest confidant (or maybe that's just me...)
Alas, no worries. I am here with teh tech smrats to help you prepare for this dark day. My goal with this series of blog posts is to keep you from having to spend a fortune with the Geek Squad or from having to buy a new computer. I want to assure you that under most conditions, even if your computer looks dead, smells dead, and acts dead, your data is still recoverable, and I'm going to tell you how to recover it. I'm also going to give you some tips for safer computing, including how to protect your data and keep it private. And you can do this all yourself, no Geek Squad required.
In the first installment of my series, I'm going to tell you three quick things you can do right now to prevent yourself from having a mental breakdown when your computer goes haywire. Do these three things, and I guarantee you will just have made your life 100 times better (for reals, yo):
1. Recovery disks, you must haz them! In the good old days, when we used to walk uphill both ways to school, computers used to come with recovery disks. These days they don't. In order to cut costs, most manufacturers stopped providing disks with their systems, putting the onus on you, the user, to create them yourself.
You might have gotten a message when you first turned on your computer telling you to create recovery disks. If you're like me, you were probably so excited to play with your new computer that you clicked the *Screw That* button and immediately jumped on Facebook to start chatting. Bad plan. Today you turned on your computer and everything was fine. Tomorrow you may try to turn it on and discover that it doesn't power up any more... all it does is sit there like a brick. And once it’s a brick, it’s too late to burn those disks. Those disks you need to, you know... make your computer work again. Yeah... it’s a vicious circle with a capital "V".
If you haven't burned your disks yet, get the hell off this blog right now and go burn them. If your computer is no longer harassing you to burn them daily, check the user's guide that came with your computer for instructions on how to create them. If you can't find the user's guide, search the internet for your make and model of computer plus the phrase "How to create recovery disks".
2. System Restore is your best friend ever. An even better friend than your girlfriend who always tells you that your butt doesn't look big in those jeans. Learn to use System Restore. I've been a computer user for years and years, and nothing has saved my butt more than System Restore. Say you're surfing porn (what???) and suddenly 30498304938 popup windows open, all full of ads for Viagra and diet pills. You, my friend, have just been infected by adware. What are you going to do? Let’s be honest. Not much. Adware, spyware and malware are so advanced these days, that you can't simply uninstall them and move on with your day. You'll be lucky if you ever see your desktop again through all those popups.
Without System Restore, you're most likely going to have to rebuild your whole computer from scratch (recovery disks!!) and I'm pretty sure that's not what you had in mind to do with your day when you first started surfing that porn.
System Restore is like a free do-over. Whoops! I effed up... REDO! You simply start the System Restore wizard, tell it what point you want to restore from (it even has a handy calendar that you can choose your restore point from), and sit back while it does its thing. It won't erase any of your data, your computer programs will still work... it's just like going back in time to the other day, before you were dumb enough to think surfing porn was a good idea.
System Restore is enabled by default on most modern computers. Your job is ensure that its enabled (who knows what you might have turned off, right?) and that its configured to set up system restore points often enough for your comfort level. You can find System Restore on Windows 7 computers by right clicking on My Computer (or Computer), selecting Properties, then selecting System Protection on the links at the left. For other Windows versions, search the internet for "How to enable System Restore" along with your Windows version.
Next time you surf porn, you'll thank me for this.
3. In the end, always have a "backup" plan. I can't stress this enough. If the data on your computer is important, back it up. If the data on your computer is important, back it up. IF THE DATA ON YOUR COMPUTER IS IMPORTANT... WHAT?
Back. It. Up.
I mean, God knows you don't want to lose all those "MySpace duckface" profile pictures you took in your bathroom mirror. Those are priceless gems, baby, and I really think you should post one in the comments section of this blog. Just for old time's sake.
There are several ways to back up your data. If you have pictures, documents, movies and music that you don't want to lose, copy them to a storage medium separate from your computer. With the sheer volume of today's data (they're making computers with terabyte hard drives in them now for God's sake), it’s wise to invest in an external USB hard drive. These hard drives are easy to use - plug them into your computer, your computer recognizes it as a hard drive and assigns it a drive letter, then you open said drive and start copying and pasting in whatever is important to you.
This method can be tedious, it can be time consuming, but it works for things like documents and pictures just fine. As long as you remember to update it with new photos and documents that you create on a regular basis. This method does not work if you want to back up your computer as it is in its current state, or if you want to back up software and programs you have running.
Windows 7 also has a nice back up program built right into it. This program backs up your entire computer in its current state. This way, if your computer decides to become a brick tomorrow, you can recover it (recovery disks!!) then execute the latest back up file that windows created, and have your computer back the way it was before it died. You can schedule backups to run at odd hours of the night as often as you'd like. You do need to back up the computer to storage media that is separate from the computer itself, so once again use one of those external USB hard drives to back up to. To configure your Windows 7 backups, follow the instructions in this handy link.
**Please follow the Modern Rosies blog for future computer-related posts from Cindy.**
Cindy is the owner/designer of the alt-clothing company Angry Girl Gear, specializing in corsets and alt-hoodies and shrugs. You can shop AGG here, or follow her on Facebook. And to follow more of Cindy's shenanigans, and to join in on a ton of crafting fun, check out Attack of the Craft, where Cindy is part-owner, and full time resident! Cindy lives in Dallas with her music-loving husband, and her ebil kitties.