Restoring System Files in XP or Vista

Every once in a while, your system files get totally jacked.  This could be because of a virus, spyware, malware, or some curious person deleting necessary files.  Whatever the reason, the result is usually system instability.  Whenever I encounter a strange system issue, I usually run SFC.  SFC stands for system file checker.  It is a native utility within Windows XP or Windows Vista that check those system files.  If it encounters a system file that has been corrupted, deleted, or replaced by a malicious one; SFC will put the real one back in its place.

Now, there are some options available to you when running SFC:

/scannow : Scans all protected system files immediately.

/scanonce : Scans all protected system files once.

/scanboot : Scans all protected system files every time the computer is restarted.

/revert : Returns the scan to its default operation.

/purgecache : Purges the Windows File Protection file cache and scans all protected system files immediately.

/cachesize=x : Sets the size, in MB, of the Windows File Protection file cache.

/? : Displays help at the command prompt.

So, for example, let’s say we wanted to run SFC immediately.  Then we would type sfc /scannow in the command prompt window.  To get to the command prompt window, do this:

XP users – click on “start,” go to “run,” type “cmd,” and click “ok.”  This will bring up a black box.  This is the command prompt window.  You can now type sfc /scannow .

Vista users – click on “start,” “all programs,” “accessories.”  Right click on “command prompt” and select “Run as adminstrator.”  You’re off and running.


Windows XP, Vista, Office Free CD Key Recovery

Do you know how bad it sucks to lose a key to your software?  Well, if your here, you probably do.  Sorry – I hate when that happens.  Sure, it’s not strict data loss here in one sense.  But in another sense, you are losing the capacity to reinstall that software – software that you paid for.  I recommend you take a look at Magical Jelly Bean.  It’s great software that is easy to use.  Just download the software.  It’s at the bottom of the page.  Unzip the file and run it.  It’s as simple as that.  Now, there is also a product called ProduKey that you can use.  It’s pretty good too.


Restoring a MySql Database

Every once in a blue moon (hopefully), you will need to restore a database. There are many reasons for this. Your database can become corrupted. You could have been hacked. There are all sorts of reasons. In any case, here is how you can quickly and easily restore your sql file.

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Exporting Your MySql Database via PhpMyAdmin

If you have access to PhpMyAdmin, you have an easy way to backup your MySql database. At first, this can seem a little confusing. Don’t be scared off by the screen or the process. If you need a quick backup of your database, this is a super quick and easy way to do it. This isn’t good for a long term backup solution – you need something automated like a plugin, script, or cron job for that.

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Free Joomla Backup

Joomla is an extremely powerful CMS system that I use on another site. The learning curve of Joomla, however, can be pretty steep. One of the things that many people neglect to do is backup their Joomla database. Again, as I always preach here, that is a huge mistake. You don’t want to cruise along for a year and then lose all your work! Keep in mind that you will want to backup your content via FTP so that a restore of your database doesn’t kick out a ton of errors if you have to reinstall. Here are some picks for backing up Joomla for free:

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Backup Blogger

Blogger doesn’t have a great and straight forward way to backup your posts. That is one of the major drawbacks on this blogging platform in my humble opinion. Nonetheless, Blogger allows for a super simple way for folks to blog. In any case, here are some ways that you can keep your posts if things go south.

Email Yourself

Blogger has the ability to send you a copy of your blog posts when you post them. You can find this setting in “Settings” and then “Email.” Here is bloggers take on it. Now, that’s great and all, but it’s a terrible solution if your whole blog goes south. How to restore? Yikes.

One Time Backup

Blogger also has detailed instructions for backing up your blog. I got through a paragraph of this thing before saying, “Gimme a break!” I think you will too. There is way too much to do here. And there’s too many ways to kill your blog in the process. And it’s not automated. And how do you restore it? Questions, questions.

URL Backup Method

Thanks to Googlesystem blog, I found a simple method to backup your blog to a HTML file. Now, you need to be on the new Blogger platform to do this, but just enter:

http://blogname.blogspot.com/search?max-results=1000

This shows your posts on one page. Save the page. Still, it’s not a great method.

Scrape Your Site

WebGrabber (Mac OSX) and HTTrack (Windows) give you a way to scrape your site and back it up. You can create multiple, incremental backups. This is a much simpler way to go. Give ‘er a go.

Blogger Backup Utility

Blogger backup is a stand alone program that allows you to backup your Blogger blog. Try it out.

Blog Collector

BlogCollector is an easy way to grab content from all your blogs. It can also roll your posts into a pdf document. Fabulous.

FTP Backup

You can also change your publishing options and change it to backup to FTP. If you have your own FTP server, you can just push it out there. Confused? Well, if you are – settle on a method above.

I hope that helps someone


Backup WordPress

WordPress is a fabulous blog platform. But one of the things that you need to make sure about when you’re making a blog is that you have good backup in place. You don’t want to lose a year of posts simply because you didn’t backup. Most people think that they won’t need a backup plan. They’re wrong. Murphy will come calling when you least expect, and least want it! Do not implement a backup plan that requires you to manually do a backup. You will forget about it.

The great news for you is that there are already automated backup plugins built for WordPress. Sure, you could set up a cron job to handle all this for you, but I’m guessing most people either don’t have access to a shell or they don’t want to be bothered. If you have no idea what I just did, then go the plugin route. Ok, let’s get started.

First things first. Go and download WP-Cron. You will need to extract the files. And you only need to upload wp-cron.php to your plugin directory. Alright, you’re getting closer. Now, let’s go and get the wp-db-backup file. Extract that and upload to your plugins directory. Okay, now log into your WordPress admin panel. Go to plugins and activate those two plugins.

Finally, go to “Manage” and “Backup.” Put your email in the “Email Backup to” fields. You can see the two boxes below. Click the “Submit” button to save the settings. Now you will get an automated backup of your database every night. How’s that for nice? This does not, however, backup any images or plugins that you might upload! If someone has a nice way to do that – I’m all ears.

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DLT Tape Backup Technology

DLT has been around for a while. It was developed by a company called Digital Equipment Corporation in 1984, but was bought by Quantum in 1994. Quantum is the major player in the DLT market, so you’ll see me using their stats a lot. DLT uses a specialized compression algorithm, called Digital Lempel Ziv 1 (DLZ1), that allows for high speed and high capacity data storage. DLT tape drives also record in a linear fashion, unlike former helical scan drives. Helical Scan drives would record lines of data on a slant on drives. This allowed for high density rates, but becomes very unwieldy for error correction.

DLT drives right the first data streams the entire length of the tape. When the drive hits the end of the tape, it starts writing further down the tape width in a backwards fashion. Some DLT drives also write the data in an angled fashion on the track to allow for higher data density. DLT drives also incorporate different tape guidance systems that allow for longer tape life.

Here’s a spec chart for DLT:

dlt-spec-chart.JPG

Source: Quantum DLT Handbook


Backup Media Comparison

One of the first things that you need to decide when coming up with a backup strategy is what media you will use. I hope the chart below helps you come up with a more informed decision. Of course prices vary, but this is pretty accurate. You will immediately see that Zip drives are extremely pricey. Now, I will mention that the new Rev drives from Iomega are much more reasonable, like in the $1.12/GB area. CD-RW’s are very expensive as well. But one thing you really need to keep in focus too is the transfer rate. CD-RW’s are horrid. Look down that list and you will see very nice transfer rates. On the next post we will look at the different tape backup technologies out there.

backup-comparison.JPG
Graph Source: Quantum


Interesting Data Protection Techniques

As we get a start to what is hopefully for you a short work week, let’s begin with some interesting ways that you can guard settings and data.  The first one involves a unique backup scheme that utilizes the unused disk space of computers already on your network.  Most small businesses have immense hard drive capacities sitting on their networks.  I always find it funny when folks ask if 250 megs is enough for word processing.  Anyway, Vembu’s StoreGrid product allows you to set up a peer to peer storage network within your own network.  This takes advantage of these gigantic storage capacities.  Now, this doesn’t save you in terms of natural disasters at the local site, but it does offer something.  And if you aren’t doing any backups, then doing anything is improvement – right?  Ok, let’s move on.

Haven’t you ever wondered how nice it would be to take your computer with you?  No, I’m not talking about a laptop.  And I’m not talking about having the whole operating system on a USB drive, though that is nice.  Portable Apps allows you to take your favorite programs with you.  Here are a list of the programs they are currently offer:

Applications
Development

* Nvu Portable – The easy-to-use Nvu web editor
* XAMPP – Apache, mySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin and more in an integrated package

Games

* Sudoku Portable – the wildly popular and addictive puzzle game

Graphics & Pictures

* GIMP Portable – Photo and Image Editor

Internet

* FileZilla Portable – the full-featured FTP client
* FireFTP Extension (for Firefox) – a lightweight extension
* Gaim Portable – chat with AOL, MSN and Yahoo users in an easy-to-use interface
* Miranda IM Portable – chat with AOL, MSN and Yahoo users in a customizable interface
* Mozilla Firefox – Portable Edition – the award-winning web browser that’s safe and secure
* Mozilla Thunderbird – Portable Edition – the handy email client
* Sage Extension (for Firefox) – A full-featured RSS extension
* Nvu Portable – the easy-to-use webpage editor

Music & Video

* Audacity Portable – A simple audio editor and recorder
* VLC Media Player Portable – An easy to use media player that plays most audio and video formats

Office

* AbiWord Portable – a lightweight word processor compatible with Microsoft Word files
* Lightning Extension (for Thunderbird) – A lightweight extension for your calendar and tasks
* Mozilla Sunbird – Portable Edition – Calendar and task management with a familiar interface
* Mozilla Thunderbird – Portable Edition (Address Book) – Email client’s built-in address book with import/export functions
* OpenOffice.org Portable – word processor, spreadsheet, presentations with Microsoft compatibility

Operating Systems

* Mac-on-Stick – Run Mac OS Classic 7 portably

Utilities

* 7-Zip Portable – File archiver and compressor
* ClamWin Portable – Antivirus on the go
* PStart – A system tray launcher menu (closed source)
That’s a pretty impressive list of applications to pack in.  This is data protection in the sense that it leaves no trace of your data on the computer.  Yes, data privacy with a portable application.  That’s nice.

But what would happen if you actually wanted to put a whole operating system on a flash drive?  I have a linux distro on mine.  But most people want to use Windows.  Well, it just so happens that you can put Windows XP on a flash drive, using Bart’s Preinstalled Environment.  He’s done the hard work for you.  All you need now is a valid copy of Windows XP to use.  Now you have XP on the run!  You just have to boot to USB on any computer and you can be off and running.

Just remember that losing your drive means that someone else may find it.  It’s always best to save any files somewhere else.  Don’t keep sensitive files sitting on a USB drive that you can easily lose!