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The famous Blue Screen of Death

There are a lot of people out there who do not back up their hard drives. Many novice computer users simply do not know how to back up their computer and others say that they don’t have the time. I was one of those that said they didn’t have the time to do it, and guess what? My laziness bit me in the ass the other day.

My installation of Windows Vista became corrupt. My computer would randomly BSOD (blue screen of death) with all kinds of stop errors and what not. If you ever got a BSOD before, I am sure you have noticed that it goes away quickly before you can write down the error numbers so that you can research the problems. Well there is a solution for that:

  1. Left Click on the Start button, Right Click My Computer and select Properties
  2. Select the Advanced system properties tab
  3. Under Startup and Recovery click on the Settings button
  4. Under System failure, uncheck the Automatically restart option
  5. Click OK in the Startup and Recovery window, Click OK in the System Properties window
  6. Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete to reboot after you have written down the error number

After researching error numbers given to me, I basically came to the conclusion that the inner workings of Windows were messed up and was beyond repair. So, I rebooted my machine after yet another BSOD but this time it wouldn’t boot, it went straight to the BSOD. Game over. I didn’t have a back up of anything, not one thing. So the lesson here, folks, is to ALWAYS back up your hard drive, you never know when a problem could strike and make your computer unusable.

I got my computer up and running by using the Recovery Disk I burned when I first got my laptop. Let me just say right here and now so that you don’t make this mistake; most computers come with a partition on the hard drive with recovery data and a piece of software to burn that data to a disk. You should ALWAYS burn that data to the disk via the recovery software provided by your computer manufacturer. Once you do, keep it in a safe place because you never know when you will need it and computer manufacturers usually do not provide you with a recovery disk. For the novice, a recovery disk basically reformats the primary partition on your hard drive and reinstalls Windows back on your computer the way it came from the factory. The recovery disk is basically an image of the hard drive before you put anything on the computer. Pretty neat, huh? Wouldn’t it be even better if you can make your own “recovery disks”? Well, its possible and I will tell you how.

There are many commercial disk imaging programs out there that do a great job, like Norton Ghost for example. However being the cheap collage student I am, I wanted something that could do the job for free. My solution was Clonezilla. Here are the no frills instructions on how to get started. Once you have the disk burned, make sure you understand and follow ALL the instructions given in the links provided. I am NOT responsible if you hose your computer. 

 

  1. Download ImgBurn, you will need this program to burn the .iso file for Clonezilla to a disk
  2. Download the Clonezilla .iso file
  3. Use ImgBurn to burn the Clonezilla .iso file to a disk, you can find instruction on how to burn an iso file to a disk with ImgBurn with this handy How To Geek article here
  4. Now that you have Clonezilla burned to a disk, it’s now time to read about how to actually use this program.

TIP: If you just bought a new laptop, I highly recommend that you uninstall all the bloat ware programs that came with your computer that you don’t want. Then install all the current updates for Windows, and install all the programs you will be using often on your computer. Once you’ve done that, make a image of your hard drive so that if you ever need to recover or you just want to wipe the slate clean, you can with a clean image.

NOTE: In order for Clonezilla to work, make sure that you set your boot order in your computers BIOS to have the CD drive be the first drive it tries to boot from. Also, make sure you use another program to back up your User File Folder periodically, I recommend Cobian Backup 9. There will be a post later on how to use this program to make periodic backups of your user file.

So now I have a Recovery Disk that puts my computer back the the factory default when I bought it, and a disk image that will put my computer back the way it was when I got all my programs, updates and what not installed. Life is good. I hope you found this useful, and that this tutorial will motivate you to back up your hard drive as well. Does anyone else use Clonezilla? How about another imaging program, free or not? I would love to hear your experiences.

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