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Do as I say, not as I do

Having a hard drive full of games can be a breathtaking joy. Unless, that is, your computer goes kaput and you realized that you haven’t backed up anything for a long, long time.

LISTEN UP! This is the voice of experience. I am about to save you from the worst misery a gamer can experience.

Here on the East Coast this summer, we had the pleasure of suffering through a blackout of major proportions. Coincidentally, I was at my PC, doing my best to better my high score in “Dynomite” when my beloved game machine suddenly went dark. Half a day later, everything was back to normal…except for both of my hard drives, which steadfastly refused to function. Even Gateway tech support–after several hours of futzing with my BIOS and fiddling with my cables–suggested I throw in the towel. The drives were dead, they said, but the good news was that they could be easily replaced at no charge because my machine was still under warranty.

That was the good news. The bad news was that I hadn’t backed up either drive in over a year. Gone were my 2,000-plus MAME games, my impressive collection of shareware titles, all my saved levels from every game I’d ever reviewed and…and…you don’t want to hear the rest. Somebody shoot me. Quick!

But this tale of woe has a happy ending. Despite my admiration for the fine folks at Gateway, I chose not to listen to them and found myself an independent tech guy whose mystical healing powers brought both my drives back to life. But, like a fairy godmother, he gave me a stern warning–not that my carriage would turn into a pumpkin if I wasn’t back by midnight, but that I’d better do a backup pronto because, next time, I might not be so lucky. I started calling around to see what backup software my buds use.

Would you believe I couldn’t find anyone who backs up with conventional backup software anymore, like the now-defunct Norton Backup? The few wise souls who did any backing up at all use disk imaging software but no one could explain to me why that was a superior method.

This is what I learned: Disk imaging produces mirror images of your drives and can be used to recover from a disaster far more quickly than with conventional data backups. The former will bring you right back to where you were when your system went down. The latter requires you to reinstall all your program disks (if, in fact, your PC came with them) plus all the subsequent patches and updates. Disk imaging software also duplicates the vital information in your primary boot partition where all system files and settings are stored.

I spoke to Stephen Lawton, the director of marketing at Acronis Inc. which produces Acronis True Image 6.0. Unlike other software, his product works within Windows and can even copy open Windows programs, allowing gamers to create a disk image without losing a nanosecond of firepower. In comparison, other products force users to reboot to DOS to make an image of the system partition, effectively bringing the PC’s productivity to a screeching halt.

Do I feel better now that I’m all prepared for disaster to strike? Well, let’s just say that I have Acronis True Image 6.0 sitting right here on the floor and–I swear–I intend to load it up and run it first chance I get. Will that help me in case my system grinds to a stop in the next minute or two? Hey, let’s not talk about that, OK?

What I will leave you with is this: You don’t want to experience what I did. Believe you me. And while you could do far worse than have this Game Master as your role model, being as big a procrastinator as I am is not recommended. Trust me.

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