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  PC-Net's PC News - December, 1998
Don Watkins

Prepare Ahead to Survive a Crash

By Don Watkins



The tactic of using "FUD" (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to sell products or get attention drives me nuts and there's no shortage of it in the computer business. We seem to generate more hysteria and hype than all other industries combined.

However that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be prepared. There are a lot of parts to a computer and there's no way to avoid something going wrong. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available to help you. Unfortunately, many of those resources are online and probably won't be available to you when something breaks, so being prepared will cut your stress level.

Today's computers rarely lose setup data but you'll still want to try and create a record of your computer's hardware settings. These are the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor settings, more commonly known as the CMOS settings, that can usually be accessed by hitting a special key when your computer starts. Many computers allow you to access this area via the ESC or the DEL key but another key or key combination may be required.

Once you get to the setup area and have your printer turned on, bring up each screen and hit the Print Screen key. Be sure and print all the screens.

If your printer won't print the CMOS content screen, there are several programs that back up the CMOS contents to disk, but I prefer trusting this task to paper. When that's not an option (writing all that stuff down by hand could take a while), check out the shareware program SBABR. It does a lot more than just backup your CMOS settings and might help out with other recovery problems.

I believe in great backups. I get in trouble a lot, and this preparation makes it a snap to boot from my special floppy and walk away for a break while my tape makes up for my bad decisions. Similarly, while I'm watching the nightly Seinfeld rerun, my tape backup is hard at work making a backup. For me, easy is the key. If it's not easy I don't do it, so tape works especially well. I strongly encourage you to think about your backup system and decide how much of an investment in time and money you feel like your data is worth. There's no right answer, but give it some thought.

In the meantime there are other steps you can take to make a crash less painful. Let me stress that these procedures are for Windows 98. If you're using Windows 95, drop by the message area and drop us a message and we can take up the procedures for Windows 95 there. (Also drop by the newsgroup if you have questions or want more information on this topic. We can help you.)

You'll always want to make sure that you have backups of important data files that you've created in your applications even if you don't back up anything else. Even with my tape drive, I still back up my accounting files to a ZIP disk and once a week send it to my special offsite backup site. Actually that fancy sounding "offsite backup" is my neighbor's house but you could just as easily use your office or some other location so that if your house burns down, you won't have to depend on the IRS taking your word for it.

The following articles appear on the Microsoft Online Support site (also known as the "knowledge base") and if you have a problem you probably won't be able to log on to retrieve them. So before that happens log on to each and print the various pages for that "special day."

Be ready to restore your registry. Check out details on how to use the Registry Checker tool from the command prompt (that may be as far as you'll be able to get when you start your computer) from this article in the Microsoft knowledge base on Command-Line Switches for the Registry Checker Tool.

If the Registry Checker tool doesn't work there's still hope. Check out the article on restoring the registry manually.

If it's not a registry problem, have the general Windows 98 startup troubleshooting article handy.

When something really, really bad has happened and your disk has crashed, there is a process. I'll include it here, but generally I'd recommend that you seek advice before you implement this strategy. Nonetheless print this article and put it in a safe place. Here's hoping you'll never need it.

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