A crashed computer is more than just resurrecting documents, spreadsheets photos etc. Here’s a plan to help.

It will happen to everyone at some stage. It might not be tomorrow or next week or even next year, but happen it will, and when it does, you need to be a goof little Boy Scout.

Be Prepared.

What is this disastrous possibility you ask? Simple dear reader, a hard drive failure.

The thing is, whilst your data (documents, photos, spreadsheets etc) ARE of course valuable, when it comes to rebuilding a system due to a malfunction, then the time-consuming part is not resurrecting that data.

I bring this up, as just recently I have been through this ‘trauma’ with a trusty 6-year-old Dell biting the dust. This machine has rarely been turned off in that entire time and so has had a hard life, and probably lasted maybe a couple of years longer than I expected. (My previous Dell lasted 4 years. I have used Dell XPS machines for nearly 15 years now I believe and been very happy with them as a whole).

Let me explain exactly what my setup is, and that will give you a feel for what, if unprepared, an almighty task would lie ahead.

The “box” contains a single 4TB drive split into a pair of 2TB partitions with all of the OS stuff (Windows 10 Premium) on the first partition (Drive C) and applications on the second (Drive D). For data, I have a Seagate 8TB USB 3 drive connected.

There is 32GB RAM and 8 USB slots for peripherals, one of which goes to a powered 16 port USB hub.

Why so many USB’s? This is a partial clue as to why reconstituting a system can be so painful!

I have a lot of peripherals I use daily. An awful lot. Here is a list:

If any of the above are not directly plugged in (the mouse for example) then they have a corresponding USB dongle that needs a port.

There are a few other things I dabble with on occasion that also require ports such as Arduino and Rapsberry Pi electronics, and of course there are needs to get data off drones, cameras, phones and so on.

A number of these need device drivers and so of course when rebuilding a system, you need easy access to these.  I back these up in a separate folder, each with a sub-folder for the exact device and meaningfully named to aid in later identification.

Speaking of backups, I use a pair of Seagate Barracudas in a RAID array and powered by a Synology NAS system. I was put onto this by Adam Turner (of Vertical Hold – an excellent techie podcast – fame) and it was quite easy to setup and maintain on my network.

But it doesn’t there of course.

Back in the “old days”, we had floppy disks as masters to our precious programs – later to become CDs and then DVDs. Today everything is mostly downloaded as compressed files (ZIP, MSI and so on) and so to save re-downloading all of these (with exception), I save the masters of these to again separate folders, also meaningfully named.

The major exceptions are those applications that have a Control Panel type system such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office and Maxon where there is no EXE or ZIP file as such, and these systems automatically update, so all you need to do is re-install the master controller and log in.

But then you also have all the plugins and so on you have for these programs, and if you have a Loupedeck CT (if not why not!) the downloaded profiles this uses, which when you boil it down comes down to hundreds, if not thousands of macros and icon images in each profile.

I use profiles from SideshowFX by the way which are both well thought out and dare I say it, beautifully crafted.

So, now knowing all this, even with a fairly regimented storage system of the stuff I need to get a dead machine to rise from the ashes in the form of a brand new Dell XPS becomes a 2 day job, at least to get everything back to the way you want it.

My suggestion therefore is that if you have not planned a resuscitation routine, you do so with some alacrity! Even with the best plans in place, and assuming nothing goes wrong, it’s a bastard of a job, so best make it as easy as possible.

Footnote: What IS interesting is that before it died on the old system, out of the 2TB I had as the OS “boot drive”, I was down to less than 15GB free. The 2nd partition, the D drive, has around 40GB free out of the 2TB. With the new system setup, and almost identical in configuration, my C drive has over 600GB free and the D drive 900GB.

It goes to show how much “rubbish” is picked up as you go along doesn’t it, despite how many times you run disk cleaners, defraggers and so on.



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