A New Tool Makes it Easy for you to Make Backups

Are you protected if your hard drive crashes today?

Your newsletter this month is devoted to “backups” since audiences this month have been so interested in this topic. Let’s face it, although there are a lot of proactive people in the world, most people don’t get serious about backing up their computers until they have experienced the loss of their work. The pain of losing months (or years) of hard work can be devastating.

Of course, for your networks and your servers, you have RAID 5 striped sets with parity keeping your data safe. This e-zine is devoted to your desktop computers; there is a new personal backup tool on the block that is very impressive.

This newsletter last spoke of GHOST in February 2003 in the article “Help – The Computer Ate my Data.” You can review that article for a more in-depth look at backups.

Recently, Symantec released the new GHOST version 9 that is nothing short of amazing. Apparently drawing heavily on the recently purchased Drive Image from PowerQuest, this new version of GHOST is impressive.

The setup
About a week ago, I installed Symantec GHOST version 9 on my primary computer and was amazed that it backed up 20 Gigabytes in less than 20 minutes to the laptop’s external Iomega hard drive. That is fast!

The best part is that you never had to exit Windows XP in order to perform the backup (older versions of GHOST would restart the computer in system mode to perform the backup process). So fast and simple – this is the way backups need to be so everyone is willing to invest the time in performing daily backups.

System crash!
A couple days later, I was testing a new program on my computer that errantly scrambled the registry in Windows and led to a complete loss of access to all files on the hard drive. As always, I had made a full backup the night before, only this was to be the first time to restore (other than testing) with Symantec GHOST version 9.

I connected the external Hard drive, rebooted the computer using the GHOST CD, and about 20 minutes later the laptop was back to the exact point it was the night before. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, I went out to the local CompUSA and bought 3 more copies of GHOST 9 to replace the older versions of GHOST on the other computers in the office.

How to protect yourself
BE SURE you are backing up every day you store any useful information on your computer (and that includes receiving and/or replying to important e-mail). To accomplish that, there are three things you need to do:

  • First, you need a device for GHOST to store the backup on. I choose to use the Iomega� External Hard Drive models that connect to external USB v2.0 ports.
  • Second, get a copy of Symantec GHOST version 9. I recommend buying a “boxed” copy (instead of the download) so that you get the CD. The CD is important so that you can “boot” your computer in the event the hard drive is corrupted to a point that the operating system cannot boot.
  • Third, test the installation by saving a test file, performing a backup, deleting the test file, and then performing a restore to see if your test file comes back again. Remember, it is up to YOU to be testing your backups regularly to ensure they are working properly.

As always, I encourage you to have your local “computer expert” handy in case you run into trouble, and it is up to you how involved you want them to be in the process.

If you have more than one computer that you want to back up, then purchase a copy of GHOST for each machine. If you buy a large enough external hard drive, you could potentially use the same external drive to backup all of your computers, however your life will be simpler if you have a drive for each computer. Remember – the easier it is for you to perform daily backups, the more likely you are to do them regularly.


  • Pawel Czarnota October 1, 2006 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Great tips! I didn’t know new version of Ghost was available. When I perform my backups, I use DVD-RW to back up my personal data and use USB keys to backup files daily, but then again I can afford to spend few days to reinstall Windows in case of crash. What do you think about online storing solutions?

  • Mike Foster March 25, 2008 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Pawel – the Online Backups can work very well. I use Iron Mountain’s service, and it is to augment my image backups. The most important issue to find out about online backup is “what is the restore process in the event of a complete computer failure such as a drive crash, fire, or theft?” Restoring one or two files online is really easy. Restoring an entire computer from an online backup is normally very difficult and usually involves your reinstalling the operating system yourself first. This is why image backup is so important.

  • Accopsype March 29, 2008 at 5:37 am - Reply

    I love your services and products, many thanks!

  • Mike Foster November 23, 2009 at 8:28 am - Reply

    Ghost is up to version 14 now – and still going strong. My only issue with Ghost at this time is that it does not support my machines that are running Windows 64-bit. Norton promises a patch soon. Until then, I am using ShadowProtect and it is working fine for image backups with the Windows 64-bit machines.

    I do not find ShadowProtect is as intuitive for IT novices as Ghost, so it is tough to recommend ShadowProtect to my CEO clients to use at home unless they have their IT professionals help them set things up. Same with Acronis image backup.

    As more and more people move to virtualization, a neat feature of ShadowProtect is that it allows users to mount old backups as virtual machines!

  • Mike Foster June 8, 2010 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Ghost works very well with Windows 7 64 bit now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *