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Any Computer Experts? (Backing up a failing hard drive)

Old 01-29-15, 08:10 AM
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Any Computer Experts? (Backing up a failing hard drive)

Yesterday, I got a warning message from Windows saying it detected that my hard drive was beginning to fail and I should back it up before I permanently lost my files and programs. I didn't have an external drive at home, so I'm bringing my personal one from work home tonight to back things up.

The thing is, the backup utility I use (Cobian), just essentially copies and pastes all the files into a folder on my hard drive. It doesn't copy the settings or programs or anything.

Is there a way to take a snapshot of the entire hard drive and then later copy it onto a new internal hard drive when I get one so I don't have to reinstall everything?

Or better yet, is there a way to directly mirror everything onto a new internal hard drive and then just swap the new one for the old one and go about my business as if nothing happened? What would I need to do this?

Given that my desktop wasn't a top of the line thing when I bought it ~5 years ago, I could just replace the whole thing, but that seems wasteful as I really only use it for surfing the web, storing/editing photos, and using microsoft office for the occasional doing work stuff on nights and weekends, so if I can just put in a new hard drive and go about my business, that'd be great.

I'm pretty much a novice at all things modern computer, and the full extent of my hardware experience is putting in a new video card to my work computer a few months back, but I'm not afraid to try.
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Old 01-29-15, 08:26 AM
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Can't you just use Windows back up utility to create a back up image and then buy a new hard drive and install using the windows repair CD (you might need to create a repair CD with your current system? I also assume you have the Windows installation disk.
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Old 01-29-15, 08:36 AM
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I'm not sure whether I still have the windows repair cd or installation disk (or if I ever got one). Will have to check.
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Old 01-29-15, 09:47 AM
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you can copy all your music/pics to a thumb drive, and also back-up your computer to the external hard drive using windows back-up. Once you do that, go to your control panel, select "systems & security" (this is where you'd go to do that backup), and click on "system and security" - a whole list of options pops up - 1st go to the "action center" and select the 1st option.....
BTW - how did you get the windows message? a thing on your screen, or an email? if e-mail, ignore.
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Old 01-29-15, 09:54 AM
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Could try to Ghost it, but if it's already failing I would suggest quickly getting all the things you WANT and can't replace off, and FAST.
Most often it's a better idea to get new HD and do a clean install and put back the programs you wanted with your installation software.
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Old 01-29-15, 09:57 AM
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It was a pop up on my machine. I had been on the internet at the time so I considered the possibility it was a popup from a website, but I run Chrome with a popup blocker, I'd just done a virus scan and the two previous days the computer had shut off on its own overnight without shutting down (the black do you want to start if safe mode screen popped up when I turned the computer back on) so I figured it was legit.

As far as getting a new internal hard drive, are the all pretty much the same size? My case is full width.

Probably I'll try copying my pictures folder off first, and then doing the whole thing, just to make sure I do get to save all the pictures of my kids that I don't have anywhere else.
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Old 01-29-15, 10:01 AM
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Pop-up blockers don't get rid of everything. I'd run Scandisk and see what it says before panicking too much. As far as an ultimate repair, I'd just take it to a repair shop that can do both an image and install a new drive for you. The whole process will be MUCH simpler that way.

You can't really do it easily on your own without a program like Drive Image or something similar. It's not just the files you want, but the registry and other things that are difficult to individually back up and restore.
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Old 01-29-15, 10:11 AM
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those pop-ups are usually just trying to sell you something.... run your utilities & see what your computer tells you. I've been using PCs since the 80's, and have NEVER had Windows actually tell me that my hard drive was failing. They just up & crash.
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Old 01-29-15, 10:20 AM
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I'm no computer expert but when we were replacing a failing hard drive last year we got a Seagate hard drive and they have a clone utility program on their website that I was easily able to copy everything, including Windows, over to the new hard drive. It made an exact copy of the old hard drive and I did not have to reinstall anything.
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Old 01-29-15, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by apclassic9 View Post
those pop-ups are usually just trying to sell you something.... run your utilities & see what your computer tells you. I've been using PCs since the 80's, and have NEVER had Windows actually tell me that my hard drive was failing. They just up & crash.
If it weren't for the mysterious computer shutting down on it's own without doing the normal shutdown (and oddly freezing some other times), I'd agree with you.
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Old 01-29-15, 11:18 AM
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I have an external back up drive hooked to my machine and a program called ShadowProtect that does auto back ups of my data.

You might also consider a cloud based storage solution for auto back up.
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Old 01-29-15, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by himespau View Post
If it weren't for the mysterious computer shutting down on it's own without doing the normal shutdown (and oddly freezing some other times), I'd agree with you.
That does indeed look like the problem you describe. I'd get it to a tech that can image that drive and put in another one for you. I had an external drive that was failing on me and was able to get all the data recovered for under $100 plus the cost of the drive. The cost you'll pay depends on how much they have to do. If a tech can use an off-the-shelf tool to recover your data, it will just be their time cost. In some cases, they have to send hard drives off to companies that specialize in data recovery and that can get very expensive quickly.
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Old 01-29-15, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by cafzali View Post
That does indeed look like the problem you describe. I'd get it to a tech that can image that drive and put in another one for you. I had an external drive that was failing on me and was able to get all the data recovered for under $100 plus the cost of the drive. The cost you'll pay depends on how much they have to do. If a tech can use an off-the-shelf tool to recover your data, it will just be their time cost. In some cases, they have to send hard drives off to companies that specialize in data recovery and that can get very expensive quickly.
Yeah, most of the pictures I care about I have uploaded to picasa online, so, if I lost the drive, I'd just have lower resolution versions. I wouldn't care enough to get super data recover on those.
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Old 01-29-15, 02:12 PM
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Just a thought. If you have got a bad hard drive it is possible it has already corrupted some of your files including your O/S. You might be copying over flawed programing to your new hard drive. That's why I'd start with a fresh install with reloaded programs after backing up your files.
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Old 01-29-15, 08:54 PM
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Hard drives are pretty cheap now, check sites like Newegg, etc. A "Full" size typcially uses a 3.5" HD. I think you had said your computer was 5 years old, so it's likely a SATA drive (rather than IDE) so be sure to look at that with replacements. If you aren't concerned about how fast or big the hard drive is, they are WAY cheaper than a new computer. Assuming you have your install disks it's a breeze to set it all back up. If not, a local shop should be able to get you set back up pretty cheaply.
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Old 01-29-15, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by punkncat View Post
Could try to Ghost it, but if it's already failing I would suggest quickly getting all the things you WANT and can't replace off, and FAST.
Most often it's a better idea to get new HD and do a clean install and put back the programs you wanted with your installation software.
Agree.
Highest priority is getting the important data backed up. Just plug in the new drive and drag and drop folders to it.
After that you can try cloning the old drive to a new one.

I've cloned drives before. Buy your new drive, install it in the computer, use the program that comes with the drive to mirror from one drive to the other, remove the old drive and let the computer boot from the new drive. With a laptop you can buy an external USB enclosure to put the new drive in, do the cloning, then take the new drive out of the enclosure and put it in the laptop.
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Old 01-29-15, 09:59 PM
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I used to use Ghost to clone hard drives all day long. Ghost is now a "suite", whatever that means: https://buy.symantec.com/estore/categ...C_V2.5_12MO_PC
As long as your existing drive is still running, Ghost will copy every little bit of data from one drive to the other, including files and installed programs. The only trick is to remember to not copy the new blank drive onto the existing data drive. Been there, done that.

I'm getting a new PC soon. Since my old one is running XP (and still working fine), I'm going to extract the hard drive, install it in the new computer as a secondary drive, and just pull off files as I need them.
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Old 01-30-15, 07:13 AM
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Might better make sure what format you are on before trying that Jeff....things aren't (always) the same between XP and 8/10
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Old 01-30-15, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by punkncat View Post
Might better make sure what format you are on before trying that Jeff....things aren't (always) the same between XP and 8/10
Right on that. Generally, Windows 7 and 8 will use the NT File System when formatting a drive. If memory serves, most consumer XP installations used FAT 32. I'd check to make sure and use a conversion tool if necessary. I always used Partition Magic, but it appears Norton discontinued that as a standalone product after buying Symantec.
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Old 01-30-15, 08:36 AM
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I was able to successfully copy all the pictures on the hard drive (and videos of the kids onto my external). Tried doing a system image and full backup and for some reason the backup failed (hard drive didn't crash though), so I tried it again before leaving for work this morning. Turns out it's not a full width tower, just a mini tower, so I need to take that into account. I don't have a windows 7 disk because it's a separate partition on the hard drive or something. The system did prompt me to burn some system recovery cd's when I first bought the computer however (3 CDs sound about right?), so maybe those are what I need. I also burned a windows 7 system restore disk last night while trying to make the image and backup on my hard drive. Is that enough that I could just swap in a new hard drive for the old if my backup and system image work this time? Otherwise, I'll try to keep usage to a minimum until I can buy a new internal hard drive (hopefully there is room for two at once so I can mirror things over.

I haven't run the disk scan yet as I figured getting everything backed up was my top priority.
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Old 01-30-15, 08:53 AM
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Assuming I measure my tower and it would fit, is this what I want?
Western Digital WD Blue Hard Drive 1TB WD10EZEX 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" | Internal Hard Drive - Newegg.com
and if so (and assuming I have slots for them), would it be a good idea to get 2 of those and have the second one just run backups from the first one regularly so I don't have to worry about losing everything if one goes down?
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Old 01-30-15, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by punkncat View Post
Might better make sure what format you are on before trying that Jeff....things aren't (always) the same between XP and 8/10
I'm a-gonna outsmart Microsoft. My current drive is NTFS, but my "new" box will be Windows 7. I should be OK.

When Windows 7 sunsets, I may upgrade to Windows 13 or whatever is current. Probably Windows 666 or Skynet OS or something.
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Old 01-30-15, 10:56 PM
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I had good luck with Carbon Copy Cloner. My HD was acting up so upon advice from a fellow imac owner, I backed everything up to an external HD. One week later the original HD was kaput. Loaded the clone onto the replacement HD. Well worth the $40 + the replacement HD cost.
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Old 01-30-15, 11:05 PM
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Those random shut-downs have me thinking there's something more than a HDD failure afoot.

I'd probably get Acronis installed on another computer, put the "failing" harddrive and another empty harddrive in there, and Image failing HDD onto empty HDD.
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Old 01-31-15, 12:17 AM
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I've also heard good things about SpinRite saving bad drives. Never used that one, though.
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