Although I knew the computer's hard drive would soon die, I still felt a chill when I finally saw it happen. After five years of heavy, twenty-four hours per day use, the hard drive in a spare computer that I used for a web server, was near death. Despite anticipating the loss, I had hoped to avoid needing my backup just like I hope to avoid needing my fastened seat belt.
Hard drive failures can happen suddenly and with no warning. For users who haven't backed up, this can cause blank stares at the monitor with mouths agape, angry cries of "No, No, No!" or sometimes just quiet sniffling and the dabbing of a tear. Even when I know that a hard drive might die soon, seeing the dreaded white-lettered message, Primary Hard Disk Failure, on a black monitor screen when the computer starts freaks me out a bit -regardless of how many backups I have.
Sometimes hard drives show mercy during their final hours by giving fair warning in time for a frantic backup. My warning began with a series of messages -hints of impending doom -that popped up on the screen. They warned that various files needed by Windows were missing or corrupt. An hour later, Control Panel and other administrative tools on the computer wouldn't open. I right clicked on My Computer, clicked Manage and looked at the system Event log. This confirmed that my drive had a physical problem and was failing. I backed up my most recent files and turned off the computer for what I knew would be the final spins of my diligent hard drive.
After I installed a new hard drive, I used imaging software to restore a backup. My computer was resurrected and running exactly as it was less than thirty minutes before. Disk imaging software is used to take what is called an "image" or "snapshot" of a hard drive. Products such as Terabyte Unlimited's Image for Windows, Acronis's True Image and SnapShot can create files that represent exact duplicates of hard drives. This means that if your drive dies, then you simply buy a one and you can use your image file to create a clone of your original drive. And unlike biological clones, there's no controversy!
Backing up specific files like those your My Documents folder to CD, DVD, Tape, external hard drive or Online, is still prudent because some backup is over a million times better than no backup. But backing up only specific files and folders on a computer is like storing a duplicate of your home's furniture, art, photo albums etc., in a warehouse for replacement in case of a direct tornado hit. Afterward, you can restore your belongings, only after you've gone through the chore of rebuilding a house.
Hard drive recovery with a disk imaging software is like recovering your entire house, including all its contents -plumbing, wiring, artwork, furniture -everything. You'll be able to create a new cloned hard drive in a matter of minutes, bringing your computer and you back to normal!