Rebuilding a computer

Okay, here is a simple one that most people know, but was performed by someone in my office this week. When backing up a computer before you rebuild it (format the hard drive, replace the hard drive, whatever), be sure to perform a reliable backup of the system. At a minimum, reboot the computer and run NTBackup which is included in Windows XP – you will need to install it from the CD if you have Home Edition, but it is still available. Other tools can be more intuitive or faster, but NT backup really does a good job.

However what our technician did was a simple Windows file copy from drive C:\ to a USB drive. The problem is that this does not create a reliable backup and any errors along the way can result in a less-than-complete backup. The primary three reasons this does not work as expected is that Windows file copy cannot:

  • Backup open files
  • Backup some protected windows files
  • Backup files you don’t have access to

So when it comes time to restore, you may not get everything back.

While on the topic, a couple of things you’ll want to make sure you have/document before you rebuild a computer, although this is not all-inclusive:

  • All software media/download to reinstall your application (Windows, Office, Adobe applications, etc)
  • All software license keys or serial numbers
  • Drivers for your particular hardware saved to a CD-ROM or other accessible media
  • Settings and passwords for your e-mail client (Outlook) or other programs
  • A list of what is on your computer (software/hardware) so you know what you’ll need to put back on the system
  • The name of the computer and domain or workgroup
  • The name of local users on the computer (exact name, spelling and casing) and who is a member of the administrators group
  • Check for Encrypted File System (EFS) and mitigate if necessary

Good luck!