Monthly Archives: January 2009

SysAntivirus 2009 – Removal Instructions

Blender2 A local musician friend of mine, Jim Cope, who is a reasonably computer savvy user, was commenting this morning on the avalanche of rogue security software currently descending on unaware Internet users.

We happened to be discussing one of the most recent and sophisticated rogue security applications we are now forced to deal with – SysAntivirus 2009. As Jim so succinctly put it “It’s easy to be bitten by a dog like that”.

He’s right – unfortunately. SysAntivirus 2009 can be installed on a computer system without any action on the part of the user.

Delivery methods used by this parasite include Trojans, and Internet Browser security holes. It can also be downloaded voluntarily, from rogue security software websites from “adult” websites.

sysantivirus2009

Once installed this parasite can impact a computer in a number of ways including changing Internet browser settings, connecting to the internet, delivering adware, disguising itself to remain hidden from the user, and running as a background process.

The objective of SysAntivirus 2009, which is the objective of all Rogue Security Software, is to convince the victim to pay for the “full” version of the application in order to remove what are, in fact, false positives that this program is designed to display on the infected computer in various ways, including fake scan results, pop-ups and system tray notifications.

Rogue Security Software unfortunately, is generally very sophisticated and can write itself into multiple parts of the operating system, and in many cases, it can hide its files, registry entries, running process and services, making the infection difficult to find, and extremely difficult to remove.

If you are a victim of SysAntivirus 2009, or other Rogue Security Software, the following removal solutions will be invaluable.

Removal Solutions:

Bleeping Computer is a web site where help is available for many computer related problems, including the removal of this particular rogue software.

Malwarebytes, a very reliable anti-malware company, has created a free application to help keep you safe and secure. RogueRemover will safely remove a number of rogue security applications.

You will also have the option of downloading the free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, (I recommend that you do so), a highly rated anti-malware application which is capable of removing many newer rogue applications, including SysAntivirus 2009.

SmitFraudFix, available for download at Geekstogo is a free tool that is continuously updated to assist victims of rogue security applications including the removal of SysAntivirus 2009.

Please note: A high degree of computer operating system knowledge is a prerequisite to the successful removal of SysAntivirus 2009, as it is with the removal of any Rogue Security Software. If you lack this experience, it would be preferable that you enlist the aid of a computer savvy friend, or a professional.

Despite using any, or all, of the recommended tools, you may find that SysAntivirus 2009 is still resident on your system. This is possible due to the number of variations involved with this malware. In such a case, reformatting of the Hard Drive and a clean installation of the operating system may be the only alternative.

Comments Off

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Rogue Software, System Security, trojans, Windows Tips and Tools

SpySkype.C Trojan Wants to Talk to You!

Panda Security’s weekly report on viruses and intruders (1/30/2009) provides details on a recently discovered Skype Trojan classified by Panda as SpySkype.C. The initial objective of this malware is to steal the user’s login details.

According to Panda, the Trojan achieves its ends by convincing the user that a new Skype plug-in, Skype-Defender has been loaded onto the potential victim’s computer. As is common with this type of parasite, user action is then required to complete the infection.

Skype 1

Following the acceptance of the installation of the Trojan, users are instructed to enter their user name and password on a spoofed web page which are then transmitted to the malware’s author.

Skype 2

Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs, explains the ultimate objective of the SpySkype.C Trojan is to use the newly infected account to spam the victims Skype contacts through the messaging service. According to Corrons “these messages can include a copy of this malware, or a different example of malware”.

To keep ahead of malware threats, go to Panda Security’s malware information site. For additional information on Skype scams read TechPaul’s Skype — “Windows Requires Immediate Attention”.. Not!

4 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Malware Advisories, Skype, trojans, VOIP, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

Valentines Day Spam – You’ve Been Warned!

Valentine gif Ah, the power of love!

In real life love can leave you with a broken heart. In Internet life (not that it’s not “real”) love can leave you with a broken heart, a broken wallet, and much more likely, now that Valentines Day is almost upon us, a broken computer.

It’s time once again to be on the lookout for Valentine’s Day spam, and to be particularly cautious this year, of any emails that contain the subject line words “Me and You,” “In Your Arms” and “With all my love”.

Unaware users who click on the embedded link contained in these spam emails will be rewarded by having their computer infected with the Waledec Storm worm. As an added reward, the worm will gather email addresses stored on the victims machine and attempt to infect the relevant computers.

valentines day 3

(Click pic for larger)

Researchers at many of the major security vendors believe, this year’s spam campaign is being brought to us by the same folks who used the Storm botnet in both 2007 and 2008, to flood the Internet with Valentine’s Day spam.

It’s estimated that this year, 8 per cent of “romantic” emails, or one in every 12 emails, is likely to contain malware.

You know what to do, right?

Install WOT (Web of Trust), an Internet Explorer/FireFox add-on that offers substantial protection against questionable or unsafe websites, and as a bonus, offers protection against questionable or unsafe links in your email. For more information on this impressive security add-on please read “Love WOT And It Will Love You Right Back!”, on this site.

Don’t open emails that come from unknown sources.

Don’t click on any links included in email messages, even though they may come from reliable sources. Instead, type link in the address bar.

Don’t run attached files that come from unknown sources; especially these days.

Stay alert for files that claim to be Valentine’s greeting cards, romantic videos, etc.

Make sure you have an effective security solution installed, capable of detecting both known and new malware strains.

1 Comment

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browser add-ons, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, Internet Safety for Children, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

Recover Damaged CD/DVD Data – Free CD Recovery Toolbox

damaged_cd So how many coasters do you have that started life as critical backup CD/DVD’s, or the CD/DVD’s that you entrusted to store a lifetime of photo memories? Well if you’re like most of us, you may have more than one.

As a long term file storage medium, CD/DVD’s are, in effect, all-purpose, durable and, generally inexpensive. The difficulty in relying on this storage medium however is; they aren’t always as reliable as we sometimes seem to think.

Recently, I experienced CD failure when testing a system using a special boot CD called, “The Ultimate Boot CD”, which ironically failed to boot despite the decisiveness of its name.

There I was stuck with an unreadable CD; but being the “geeky” kind of guy that I am, and having been through similar situations in the past, I’ve learned to double up on all my diagnostic tools. Later, I confirmed that the unreadable CD had not been burned correctly – the deadly “bad burn”.

So you’re not alone in turning what you may consider to be, unusable/unreadable CD/DVD’s into expensive coasters. But there is a solution that can help you to recover damaged data that you may have considered unrecoverable. Stepping into the picture is CD Recovery Toolbox, a free CD/DVD file recovery tool.

cdrecovery_page03normal

(Click pic for larger)

This small, free application was designed to recover damaged files on CD, DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-Ray disks. It can recover files that have been lost as a result of physical damage to the disk, (scratches, chips, and so on), or as a result of a bad or inaccurate recording.

The program scans damaged CD and DVD disks and produces a listing of files and folders on the media, which it can recover. Be aware however, that depending on the degree of damage, there may be files that the application cannot recover.

In testing this product’s file recovery ability on a severely scratched and chipped disk, I’m happy to say that it recovered 934 files out of a total of 936, that Windows could not read, and it did this in less than 2 minutes

Data recovery is generally a complex process, but even beginners will have an easy time with this application based on it’s step-by step wizard, which makes the use of the tool very simple and convenient.

I have read a number of unrealistic complaints from some users, who have noted this application is “slow” at recovery. Instead of being thankful that a free application such as this can in fact recover what would normally be unrecoverable, and perhaps irreplaceable data, they whine and complain. Here’s some advice for those users – give your head a shake, and learn to be thankful!

Quick facts:

Recovers files/folders from CD and DVD’s

Recovers files larger than 4 GB

Detects lack of free space on the designated storage hard drive

System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2K/XP/2K3/Vista

Download at: Download.com

6 Comments

Filed under CD/DVD Recovery Tools, CD/DVD Tools, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition – Layered Malware Defense

stolen-laptop SUPERAntiSpyware – the name says it all. In a world of hyperbole, exaggeration, overstatement, and embellishment the SUPER, in this case, means just that.

Given the increasing number of Trojans, Spyware, Virus’, Phishing Scams, Identity Theft Scams, and other threats we now face, there is no one anti-malware tool that is likely to identify and remove all of this rogue malware that infests the cyber world. So to ensure maximum safety, it’s important to have layered defenses in the ongoing fight against system infection.

The free edition of SUPERAntiSpyware (last updated December 31, 2008), is an excellent choice, as a secondary line of defense in this battle. This free version of the award winning program, with its easy to employ interface, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers.

SuperAntispyware 1

(Click pic for larger)

While SUPERAntiSpyware is well known for its high malware detection rate, it has not in the six months I have been testing it, discovered anything which the other anti-spyware programs, that I use have not found. This speaks to the high quality of many competing anti-malware applications, and not to any short comings in SUPERAntiSpyware.

A simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface makes SUPERAntiSpyware straightforward to setup, customize and run, for both less experienced and expert users alike.

One extra feature in this anti-malware product caught my attention however; a repair function which allows the user to recover settings frequently wrecked by malware, and which are often not recoverable despite removal of the malware process. These settings include Internet connections, lost desktops, the ability to edit the registry and frustratingly, access to the task manager.

SuperAntispyware 2

(Click pic for larger)

Since SUPERAntiSpyware does not provide real time protection against infection, like many free versions of anti-malware programs, I would not recommend then, that you use this free version of SUPERAntiSpyware as a stand alone security application since it simply will not offer you adequate protection. Instead, use it only as an on-demand canner.

Despite this real-time protection shortcoming in the free version, SUPERAntiSpyware deserves its reputation as a first class security application, and it’s definitely worth considering adding to your security toolbox as a secondary line of defense.

As a full fledged security application, with all of its features unlocked; real-time protection, scheduled scanning, and scheduled updating, SUPERAntiSpyware is very well priced at $29.95 US.

SuperAntispyware 3

(Click pic for larger)

Fast facts:

High malware detection rate

Small footprint and low resource usage

Easy to setup, customize and run

Custom scanning of hard drives, removable drives, memory, registry, and more

Detects and removes spyware, adware, malware, Trojans, dialers, worms, keyloggers, rootkits and hijackers

Free for personal use

Prevents potentially harmful software from installing or re-installing (paid version only)

Examines over 50 critical system points on start up and shuts down (paid version only)

System Requirements: Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista or Windows 2003

Download at: Download.com

Alternative free anti-malware applications reviewed, and downloadable, on this site:

Spyware Doctor Starter Edition

Spyware Doctor Starter Edition from PC Tools is an excellent choice, as a secondary line of defense. This free version of the award winning program, with its easy to use interface, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers; it’s reported there are a million+ additional downloads every week. Be aware however, there is no real-time protection offered with this version and this is the reason I recommend this application as a secondary scanner only.

Spyware Terminator

Having tested virtually all of the major anti-spyware applications over the past year or more, I’ve settled, for now, on Spyware Terminator primarily due to its strong real-time protection against spyware, adware, Trojans, key-loggers, home page hijackers and other malware threats. Spyware Terminator excels in strong active protection against know and unknown threats. If anything, I find it perhaps a little overly aggressive. On the other hand, better this than the alternative.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

AVG Anti-Virus Free now incorporates protection against spyware through a new combined anti-virus and anti-spyware engine as well as a “safe-searching component” which has been incorporated into the new AVG Internet Security Toolbar. This program scans files on access, on demand, and on schedule and scans email incoming and outgoing. I recently added this application to my Windows 7 (beta) machine, and to this point it has performed flawlessly.

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware is an excellent choice, as a secondary line of defense. The free version of this speed demon (it’s faster at scanning than any anti-malware program I’ve tested in the last 2 years), with its easy to employ interface, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers.

8 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Software, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

Downloading Fake/Rogue Software Hurt$

Being a member of the Blogging community has a major upside. It allows me to have direct contact with a great many other Internet users; many more than I would have the opportunity to communicate with, in any other way.

One of the benefits is the real life issues that other users are dealing with, come to my attention quickly. Overwhelmingly, these issues and experiences are positive, but given the current state of Internet security the negative issues that affect Internet users are an unavoidably part of the package.

Over the last year or so, I have written 40 or more articles concerning rogue security software. Here’s why.

adware 3 There is an epidemic of rogue security software on the Internet at the moment; much of it using social engineering to convince users’ to download an unsafe rogue security application.

Rogue security software uses malware, or malicious tools, to advertise or install itself on an unaware user’s computer. After installation, false positives; fake or false malware detection warnings in a computer scan, is the primary method used to convince the unlucky user to purchase the product.

After all, a dialogue box that states “WARNING! Your computer is infected with spyware! – Buy [XYZ] to remove it!” is a powerful motivator. Clicking on the OK button takes the user to the product download site.

To make matters worst, the installation of rogue security software frequently leads to a critically disabled PC, or in the worst case scenario, allows hackers access to important personal and financial information.

So what does this mean to real people; people like you and me? Let me share with you the following factual stories on the impact that rogue software has on people, brought to my attention by the very people who have been victimized:

Victim #1 - “What do you do if you were duped into buying the XP Antivirus software? Should I take any precautions such as canceling credit card and/or email passwords etc.? Is my home edition of avast! 4.8 Antivirus enough to keep me safe from bogus and/or rogue software???? Please help…my computer is my life! Thank you”.

Victim #2 - “Unfortunately I fell for the “virus attack” after trying to remove it, gave in and bought the XPAntivirus. They charged me not only for what I had bought but charged me again, $ 78.83 for something which I hadn’t ordered, nor ever received. It was a nightmare trying to get in touch with anybody, and I finally connected with a guy with an accent, who told me to E-mail the billing service re: my problem. I wrote them tried to call, it’s been a week, and they still won’t contact me to clarify what occurred. I printed off a purchase order from them when I bought the XP which verifies what I received. Anybody know what state their in, I’ll notify the states attorneys office. These people are crooks”.

banking1

If you are a new computer user or relatively inexperienced on the Internet then the following recommendations are for you.

A good partial solution to the problem is to ensure you have installed, and are running, an anti-malware application such as ThreatFire, free from PC Tools. This type of program operates using heuristics, or behavioral analysis, to identify newer threats.

As well, Malwarebytes, a reliable anti-malware company has created a free application, RogueRemover to help you remove rogue software and to help keep you safe and secure.

A further resource worth noting is the Bleeping Computer web site where help is available for many computer related problems, including the removal of rogue software.

The following recommendations are repeated particularly for new or inexperienced users.

What you can do to reduce the chances of infecting your system with rogue security software.

Be careful in downloading freeware or shareware programs. Spyware is occasionally concealed in these programs. Download this type of program only through reputable web sites such as Download.com, or sites that you know to be safe.

Consider carefully the inherent risks attached to peer-to-peer (P2P), or file sharing applications.

Install an Internet Browser add-on that provides protection against questionable or unsafe websites. My personal favorite is Web of Trust, an Internet Explorer/FireFox add-on that offers substantial protection against questionable or unsafe websites.

Do not click on unsolicited invitations to download software of any kind.

Additional precautions you can take to protect your computer system:

When surfing the web: Stop. Think. Click

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.

Install a personal firewall on the computer.

Install anti-virus/anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet

Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments

4 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browser add-ons, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

Monster.com Hacked – Irresponsible Response

monster OK, so let’s say your Doctor’s (substitute a professional of your choice), office was burglarized and all medical records, including yours, were stolen.

Your Doctor, nice guy that he is, didn’t want to cause you unnecessary anxiety, so he didn’t advise you that your confidential records were now out in the wild blue.

Can’t, or won’t happen, you’re thinking. Think again.

Monster.com, a web site that bills itself as the “world’s leading career network” is a web site used by people looking for a new job. Information required to register with the site includes, user IDs and passwords, email addresses, names, phone numbers, and some basic demographic data.

According to Patrick Manzo of Monster Worldwide, Monster.com suffered a database penetration (sometime this month – no date given), during which “certain contact and account data were taken”. So let me rephrase that for you – Monster was hacked and personal information stolen.

Simply put – if you have an account with Monster.com, your confidential information is now freely available to the vast hoards of cyber criminals who trade in this currency.

Your minimum expectations, if you are registered with Monster.com, should be that you would be notified of such a serious breech. Not too much to expect, I would suggest.

But no, Monster’s view is, since there is no direct evidence of misuse of the stolen information (yet), a small notice of this occurrence posted on their main page is sufficient notice. No other notification that your personal information is now at risk. Bizarre!

Note to Monster: Hey, don’t worry about this massive penetration of your data base – these cyber criminals just dropped in to have a look around your obviously under protected database environment.

Your attitude flies in the face of reality. Get real! You obviously need to be dragged, kicking and screaming into the real world of cyber crime.

As a consequence of this penetration, if you are a Monster.com customer, you need to do the following at once:

Change your password for ALL your accounts, not just Monster.com.

Be on guard against “phishing” fraudulent emails, and fraudulent telephone calls in the near term.

It’s not very often that I’m struck speechless by the shenanigans pulled by some of the larger Internet entities but this one; well it’s just too calculated, too condescending, too….. too damn stupid!

3 Comments

Filed under Application Vulnerabilities, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Networking, Online Safety, Privacy, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Does Using FireFox Make You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

I run a number of website tools that provide the type of information that allows me to make available a better experience for readers of this Blog, than I might otherwise be able to provide.

One of these tools makes available information on which web browser readers of this Blog use while visiting. It’s of no strategic value really; but it does provide some interesting statistics nonetheless. I’ve noticed over the course of the last year, or so, that by far the most popular browser used by readers of this Blog is, wait for it, and yes it’s FireFox.

Take a look at the chart below and you’ll notice that in one two hour period, this week, the browser wars went like this:

Browser Stats updated

(Click pic for larger)

So, 47% of visitors to this Blog use FireFox/Mozilla in one flavor or another. You might think that these are isolated or non representative numbers. In fact, these numbers with reasonable small changes up, or down, characterize the daily Browser activity on this Blog.

It struck me, that given the fact that FireFox currently has approximately 21% of the Browser market, then why are approximately 47% of this Blogs readers choosing FireFox?

Is it because they’re smarter, more technically knowledgeable, more security aware, more net savvy than the average IE user, or more familiar with the services/products that the Internet has to offer?

I think all of the above are more than likely true. Well perhaps not smarter. But it would be hard to argue that they’re not more technically savvy: after all this is a tech Blog.

I’d love to know what drives users to FireFox, so if you have a personal observation, let me know. I’d be glad to hear it.

7 Comments

Filed under Browsers, Firefox, Freeware, Google Chrome, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer, Internet Safety, Safari, Safe Surfing, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

How to Protect Your Child on the Internet

Instant Messanger changed There is little doubt that the Internet neighborhood can provide a rich educational and cultural experience for children of all ages and backgrounds.

But, would you drop your child off in a neighborhood where more than half of the buildings were adult stores, and was potentially full of predators? Well of course you wouldn’t.

If you let your child explore the Internet unsupervised, or without having communicated to your child information about potential on-line dangers, this is close to what you’re doing.

According to the FBI in the United States, the following are some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent can take, to enhance your child’s safety on the Internet.

Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line dangers.

Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.

Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.

Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.

Parental Control Bar 2

Since computer-sex offenders are a very real danger on the Internet, the FBI suggests that you instruct your children to:

Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.

Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.

Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

Never download pictures from an unknown source; there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.

Never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.

Parental Control Bar 4

An important aspect of ensuring that your child is safe while using the Internet, (recommended by the FBI and child safety experts/organizations), is the installation of parental control software. Parental controls will provide you with the advantage of being able to:

Block access to materials (text and pictures) identified as inappropriate for kids.

Permit access only to materials specifically approved as safe for kids.

Specify what types of materials are appropriate for your child.

Monitor your child’s activity on the Internet by storing names of sites and/or snapshots of material seen by your child on the computer for you to view later.

Set different restrictions for each family member.

Limit results of an Internet search to content appropriate for kids.

Enforce time limits set by parents.

A free solution, available as a download from the Internet is Parental Control Bar, a browser toolbar which works on the most popular Internet browsers.

Parental Control Bar is provided free of charge to the public by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free, effective internet control tools.

Parental Control Bar Features:

Child/Parent Mode

This status indicator makes it easy to tell if your computer is in Child-Mode or Parent-Mode. When in Child-Mode, control features are enabled and web sites are blocked based on your parental settings. When in Parent-Mode, control features are disabled and you, the parent, have unrestricted access to the Internet.

Parental Password

A single password makes it easy for you, the parent, to enable or disable Child-Mode. There is a hint to help you remember your password, or if you forget it completely have it sent to a parental email address.

Help Menu

Clicking this button opens the toolbar menu where parents can access tutorials, help menus or change your password.

Change Parental Settings

Clicking this button opens the parental settings menu where you can specify the types of content you wish to block your family from accessing in Child-Mode. You can also manage your personal list of ‘blocked’ and ‘child-safe’ sites from this menu.

Easily Block Adult Sites

The toolbar helps block a significant amount of adult-oriented websites. In addition, you may select specific sites to block by clicking this button. Once you have added a website to the ‘blocked sites’ list it is only accessible in Parent-Mode

Parental Alert

When the toolbar is in Child-Mode, this parental alert blocks your child from accessing adult-oriented websites (based on your parental settings).

Add Web Site to Safe List

Clicking this button adds the website you are currently visiting to the ’safe site’ list. Once a website is added to the ’safe site’ list it can be accessed from either Child-Mode or Parent-Mode (regardless of site label).

For parents looking for a cost-effective tool to help give their children controlled freedom on the Internet, Parental Control Bar is a safe way to go.

System requirements:

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP

Internet Explorer 5.5 and above

FireFox 1.5 and above

Safari 10.4 and above

Download at: WRAAC.org

For more information on Internet safety issues for parents and /children/teenagers, I encourage you to visit CNET. This site includes information on the following.

Developing safe and smart Internet citizens

Parents, tech outdo lawmakers on Internet safety

Parental controls that keep tabs on young Web surfers

User-generated videos challenge parental controls

Growing concerns over cyber bullying

Readers address online safety for kids

8 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Firefox Add-ons, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Safari add-ons, Safe Surfing, Software, Utilities

Hard Drive Back Up – It’s All About the Data

This is a guest post by Mark Schneider of the Techwalker Blog, who brings a background as a high level super user, to the blogging world. Mark has written this article to emphasize the importance of data back up on a regular and consistent basis.

Why not pay a visit to Mark’s site today.

Hard Drive Diag Today’s computers are amazing, especially when you consider the processing power available, and the amount of storage you can have for incredibly little money. You can easily build a $500 desktop computer today that has a multi-core processor, and a terabyte of storage, which has the power to edit video, or play graphic intensive video games.

But whether you’re running a $7000 custom high end gaming machine, or a $399 special from a sale at the local retailer the most important and precious thing in your computer is your data. Data is everything, it’s your kids baby pictures or your entire music collection.

The problem with data is, even though it’s the most important thing on your hard drive, it’s frequently the least considered. To protect your data generally isn’t very hard, but its very easy to put off. People rationalize that since the hard drive from that Windows 95 machine still runs that their current machine will be fine for now and I’ll just do that backup next week when I have time.

Unfortunately just when you least expect it, your hard drive crashes the night before you finished the report your boss wanted first thing in the morning or you lose the pictures of family members that can’t be replaced.

So now you know, backing up isn’t an option.  Backing up isn’t hard, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. If you’ve never backed up before it can be as simple as buying an external hard drive, or even a large thumb drive, and dragging your important files over to the external drive periodically.

Saving your important files to a external drive is the first step. The next step will be to implement an automated system of backing up at least once a week. For that you need software. If you are running Windows Vista and you want to keep it simple the built in “Backup and Restore Center“ will help you set up weekly backups of all your important data. It’s very simple and works well, I’ve successfully used it to back up and restore all the important data on my daughters computer after a disaster.

For a more thorough backup solutions I prefer third party programs. Acronis True Image Home, is an excellent program. It has more capabilities that many users may want but it has the capability to make an entire image of your hard drive as well as do incremental backups periodically, afterward.

AcronisTrueImageHome11

Programs that create an image, allow you to take the hard drive you backed up on, and put it in you machine and boot up like nothing ever happened. It saves your operating system, all of your programs, your settings and your data. The new version of Acronis has great new feature, it will perform dual backups to both a disk and hard drive at the same time.

This leads me to my last point, backing up to more than one location is very important. A simple solutions is to use two separate external hard drives, swap out one and backup to the second while you keep the other off site. This could be at work, at a friends house or anywhere away from your home.

Another effective off site backup is to do a backup to an online service of some kind. Microsoft offers a free 5 gigabyte storage service called “Skydrive” available to anyone with a Windows Live account. Amazon S3 service is another reliable online backup service, S3 isn’t free but you pay only for the space you use unlike some flat rate services.

skydrive_overview.2

Backing up is necessary inconvenience, developing a routine that fits your needs will make it relatively painless, and some day it will save you a lot of heartache. Remember there are two kinds of hard drives, those that have failed and those that will fail.

Many people get serious about backing up only, after they’ve lost all the pictures or music on their hard drive. There are many very good programs for backing up, either to local storage, or to an online service. I mentioned two which I’ve had experience with and trust, but there are many very good ones out there.

One last point.Some people using a new online backup services which offered “free” online storage from relatively new and unknown companies suddenly got a surprise when their online storage recently went offline forever, leaving them with no backup at all. So staying with companies like Amazon for your online “cloud” storage feels like a safe bet.

So backup early and often, because it’s all about the data.

8 Comments

Filed under Backup Applications, Backup Tools, Online Backup, Software, System Security, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools