Monday, May 5, 2008

Using Vista Backup and Restore Utility

I recently blogged about my daughters laptop getting infected with one of the many phoney anti-spyware programs out there today PC-Antispyware. In the end we ended up having to reformat reinstall Windows Vista to finally free the machine once and for all of this malady. I would also like to point out an excellent blog I found when trying to research the PC-Antispyware, Bill Mullins blog post on rogue Antispyware programs was very informative about rogue programs out there now and can be found here Bills blog is quite informative and very well done. I recommend you check it out for a number of helpful hints, tools and software programs his homepage is here,

Now back to the system restore,that went better than I had originally hoped. In some ways it turned out to be a bit of a Godsend. First let me explain, this computer is not the highest powered machine out there. It was basically a bargain buy at Christmas time from Best Buy, for $599.00 we got a 14.1 inch Gateway 1616 running the AMD mobile Turion at 1.9x2 Ghz, it came with integrated graphics which will use up to 256 MBs of system ram for video use. I upgraded the ram from a pathetic 1 GB to 4Gbs. Ram is cheap and even if the 32 bit system won't see all 4 Gigs so what, its far better than a stock 1 GB. So performance wasn't great, although it wasn't horrible on this machine.

Now however the machine was infected and I doubted it could be fixed by traditional methods. To fix it, I believe I used the term "nuke the bastards" a frustrated comment from one exhausted father, dealing with child's computer. Fortunately the machine came with a system restore disk, but no disks for drivers or pre-installed software, strange but no big deal. Note I choose to install from the OEM Vista OS disk provided rather than use the restore partition, I wanted a clean install, you see I didn't want the pre-installed trialware or more accurately crapware that comes with new computer these days. So the re-install went fine, Vista installs fast compared to XP, and in half hour it was done. Next the drivers, I was surprised that more drivers weren't included with Vista install, as was the case when I installed Vista for the first time on my desktop. So I plugged in the Ethernet from my router and went to the Gateway site were I found a fairly intuitive, and easy to use driver download section. Within an hour or so I had the machine loaded with the latest drivers so then time for service pack 1, which went without a hitch. So now it was time to reinstall the data. Fortunately we had been making incremental backups using Vista's native backup and restore utility, as would turn out, very fortunate indeed.

I wish I could say this went perfect, but it really didn't, even though I have 2 excellent books on Vista, I did manage to screw things up the first few tries. First I wanted to restore her precious itunes library. I download the latest version of itunes as I had a data backup on a DVD of her songs , play lists and ratings. Doing this had always worked fine before, when moving to a new computer. So with the fresh install of itunes I tried the DVD and it only installed about one third of the songs, even though I could see all of them. Not good, no not at all. I tried to install the backup on another PC with itunes, same result.

So now my last chance, the backup on an external hard drive, I had made using Vista's Backup and Restore Center. At first my main problem was trying to be too specific in giving instructions to the program. I tried to restore only specific data, by searching the program and installing all things with the keyword itunes. I got another small amount of songs and metadata but not nearly all of it. I tried the same for pictures with similar results. Frustrated, I was beginning to think this was headed for a total disaster. I tried again, this time selecting to restore the entire contents to the desired drive(c) and let it go. I immediately was queried by the program on how to handle a duplicate file, I told it to just keep the original and not save the second version. This kept happening, I finally noticed the little box to check,"do this with all duplicates" . Now, we were finally getting somewhere!

I took a while, maybe an hour, but in the end after a re-boot, Vista's Backup and Restore Center had done it. Even her desktop icons were back in place. All photos were restored as well as her entire itunes library, with play list and ratings intact, very cool indeed! A program actually performed as it was supposed to.

As for the Godsend, well that's a bit of an exaggeration, but with the latest drivers, combined with no crapware, makes for a far better performing machine. It boots quicker than when it was brand new, and is much snappier opening and running programs even after the ram upgrade. It also illustrates one of the older axioms of computing. Unless you have multiple backups, you aren't backed up. It also highlights a new rule for my daughter and her computer, no passwords for you! I'll control the administrator account on her machine from now on, I'll let UAC handle the rest.

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