This is a cautionary tale about the trials and tribulations of resetting a Windows laptop, and how the 3-2-1 backup strategy is ultimately a really good strategy to have in place when you need to find data from an old machine.
Recently, the Windows 10 laptop that I’ve been using for the past three years has been showing signs of accumulated crud. After installing and uninstalling a myriad of purchased software, I was unable to print documents from Microsoft Office without the occasional crash and the laptop was stubbornly refusing to install certain Windows updates. No matter how many remedies I tried, the problems weren’t going away.
I realised that I needed to reset my laptop, reinstall Windows 10 and reinstall all my current software applications and data to hopefully solve the current issues. Because nearly all of my files and documents are stored on OneDrive, I thought that there would only be a few items that I would have to retrieve from my regular external drive backups.
The backup software I use is AOMEI Backupper. It’s free for personal use, doesn’t take long to perform a backup and has always worked flawlessly for me. For my off-site backups I use Backblaze. This runs constantly in the background and backs up all my local working files to the cloud. So two copies of all my important files are available, no problem at all.
The resetting of Windows 10 was a really smooth process. My Acer laptop has the option of using a fresh cloud copy of Windows 10 which meant I didn’t have hours of Windows updates to endure after the reset. Once Windows 10 was installed, I could connect my OneDrive account and all my files were visible. So far so good. The Windows update problem had also been solved after the reset so my laptop was now bang up to date on the patch front.
That just left the installation of the various software applications that I use. This was a great opportunity to streamline the applications that I really needed and had to install versus those that I had installed in the past but didn’t use that much and that were just using up hard drive space for no good reason. This took a bit of time but once finished, I was happy with what I had installed and the laptop seemed to be running with a bit of a spring in it’s step. The reset seemed to have done it a world of good. The printing problem was also resolved thanks to the reset which was a big relief.
There were also a few folders that I needed that weren’t part of my OneDrive setup but I was able to find and restore them from my AOMEI external hard drive backup.
There turned out to be just one problem area, and that was Camtasia. I have a lot of video projects that were created with Camtasia and I had made the assumption that the working files it uses (audio recordings and screen video recordings) were all stored in the same place. Ah, not quite. Audio recordings made in Camtasia are stored in the relevant project folder but screen video recordings are saved elsewhere, in a hidden directory. I’d falsely assumed that all the recordings would be kept in the same place.
No problem, thought I. I can just use my AOMEI external hard drive backup to locate the files and copy them back onto my machine. I could locate the hidden directory in the backup ok, but because the Windows reset effectively made me a new user on my laptop, I could not see the contents of the hidden directory on the backup. I didn’t have the admin expertise to get around this problem and thought I would have to recreate a lot of video recordings. That’s when Backblaze came to the rescue.
As part of the 3-2-1 backup strategy, one copy of your data should always be held in an off site location. For me this is done with Backblaze with the additional advantage of it being in a different format to AOMEI Backupper. It meant I could access my Backblaze account online, locate the folder and request it be restored for me. Backblaze then created a zip file for the folder which I downloaded and restored on my laptop.
Now, my old video recordings made in Camtasia are back, my laptop is working as it should and I don’t have to recreate any missing data or files. Big relief.
This is all a long winded way of saying that the 3-2-1 backup strategy really works. It might seem like a hassle to create a backup to an external hard drive every week/month/whatever but it is worth the pain. The setup of Backblaze is even easier as you just set it up and let it run. Once it is in place, it gives me a lot of confidence that whatever happens, I will have more than one location to go to when I need to restore a folder or file.