Jun 26

Are you backing up your data?

I often come across customers who have lost their important  documents to a computer disaster. Most times they didn’t have a backup strategy in place, or they did, but they weren’t implementing it. I always stress this to my customers. Backup your data. Set up a backup strategy and stick to it. One key aspect of a successful backup strategy is keeping your data in as many places as possible.

Most operating systems include some sort of backup feature that allows you to set up a backup schedule. There are also services that backup your important documents online (services such as Mozy Backup or Carbonite for instance). You can always purchase an inexpensive external hard drive and copy your files manually or with a backup utility. Anything you choose to do is better than not doing anything.

If you are running any flavor of Windows 7 on your computer, you have access to an easy to use and reliable backup utility. It takes a few minutes to set up, and you just need to plug in an external hard drive. Getting two external hard drives and alternating between the two is not a bad idea either. As I said, keeping your data in as many places as possible is a key part of a successful backup strategy.

If you run a business, it is a good idea to hire a professional to help you come up with a reliable backup strategy that fits your business needs and policies. You can always give us a call. I may post something related to business backup strategies in the future.

On your personal computer, a backup strategy is something simple to set up.You just need to use a backup utility to set up a schedule and make sure the backup runs.

You can always use a third party utility or copy the files your self, but, if you are running any version of Windows 7, you can set up the backup schedule in a few easy steps.

Click on the start menu and type “Backup” in the search box. One of the items you will find is called “Backup and Restore” – click on it. This will open the Backup and Restore center. In this window you can check the status of your existing backup schedule if you already have it set up. You can also modify the backup settings or set up up a new backup schedule.

Plug in your external hard drive or thumb drive (make sure there is enough space to hold your data or complete system drive). Click on “Setup Backup.” This will open the Setup Backup Wizard. The wizard is pretty straight forward. Just select the destination on the first section (the external hard drive.) Select what you want to back up (you can let Windows choose for you or select the option to choose yourself if you want to add locations outside of your libraries – documents, pictures, videos, etc). Modify the schedule on the next window. Then click save settings and run backup. That’s pretty much it. Now you just have to make sure the computer is on and the hard drive is plugged in whenever the backup will run.

Mar 14

Creating and using a password reset disk in Windows 7

It happens to all of us. We forget our passwords. Whatever the reason is, forgetting your password isn’t pretty. If you forget your Windows password and you have no other accounts on the PC that can reset your password, you have no way of accessing your account other than resetting the password.

Depending on the network  environment your computer is on, the password reset process can be simple or complicated. If your computer is part of a domain, and the account you lost the password to is a domain account, then your Network Administrator can reset the password for you.

If your account is a local computer account and there are no other accounts on the PC with administrator access, the process gets a little bit more complicated.

There are third party utilities that allow you to reset the password in this situation. The most effective utility I’ve used in these situations was ERD Commander by Winternals. This utility allowed you to boot on to a disk and attach your self to the Windows installation. This effectively allowed you to run certain tools and utilities on the installation. This was useful when you wanted to troubleshoot boot and other ralated issues. There are other free utilities similar to ERD commander that allow you to do just this, but I haven’t used a lot of them. the ones I’ve used haven’t been very successful. I may write an article in the future about these other utilities.

Winternals was acquired by Microsoft back in 2007. Microsoft made most of the utilities offered by Winternals available free of charge. They stopped offering ERD commander as a stand alone product and started offering it under the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. They also changed the name to Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). The only problem is that they made this software available only  under the Software Assurance program or to holders of an MSDN or Technet subscription. This means that most end users who may have this problem don’t have access to these tools. I may write an article about creating a DaRT boot disk and using it to solve specific issues in the future.

Now back to what this article is about. Microsoft made it simple for an end user to get out of a lost password situation if the necessary steps are taken. Windows allows you to create a password reset disk. Most versions of Windows have this option, and the process for creating the disk is similar in Windows Vista and Windows 7.  I will focus on Windows 7 in this article. If you want a guide for older versions of windows, email me or post it in the comments, and I will create one.

A password reset disk allows you to recover your password if you forgot it. It is a simple process to create and use, and everyone should have one.

What do you need to complete this process?

  1. Windows 7 Installed on your PC
  2. Removable Media – a USB flash drive or a Floppy Disk. I recommend a USB flash drive.

To create the password reset disk follow the next steps:

  1. Insert your USB flash drive or Floppy disk in the computer.
  2. Go to user accounts by clicking on the Start Menu > Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety > User Accounts.
  3. Click “Create Password Reset Disk” on the left pane to open the Forgotten Password Wizard.
  4. Click Next on the Welcome to the Forgotten Password Wizard Page.
  5. On the next window select your removable media and click next.
  6. Type in your password on the next window and click Next.
  7. On the next window the wizard creates the reset disk. Wait until the progress bar reaches 100% and then click next.
  8. Click Finish on the last window and you are done. Store the flash drive in a safe place.

To use this flash drive to recover your password click on the Reset Password link that appears after you enter the wrong password on the Windows Log In screen. Insert the password reset disk and follow the instructions on the screen to create your new password. If you lose this password again, you can use the same reset disk to reset the password. There is no need to create a new one.

I hope this proves useful. If you have any questions feel free to email me or to post a comment.

Until next time.