We Cannot Clone Ourselves, But…

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

Maria Helena Brenner Kelly (PLD Member)

PLD_tech-cornerReading Ines Bojlesen’s post about her backup nightmare prompted me to write the last post related to my fault tolerance journey.

My first post in this series mentioned what keeps me awake at night and talked about Restore Points, the least “invasive” fault tolerance procedure for Windows systems, applicable when one encounters software problems, particularly the kind related to malware and/or software installation/upgrade. On my second post, I talked about system image. You can use it if you have hard disk problems, or in a situation when your operational system becomes so corrupted a restore point can’t solve the problem.

Today, I want to cover my strategy for that moment if—or, better put, when—any essential part of my hardware (and my main system is a laptop) fails. It has three main components: my data backup, a HDD clone and my second laptop, which has the same configuration as my main machine.

A clone, the system image big cousin and, to me, a better option than system image, is an exact physical duplicate of your HDD; a bootable, “ready to go” drive. To create a clone, the software copies HDD-1 to HDD-2 in such a way that HDD-2 is identical to HDD-1. If something happens to HDD-1, I can just unplug it, plug HDD-2 and my system will work exactly as before, no questions asked. There are many programs that create clones. The one I use is a free version of EaseUS®, but you should look around and see which one is more suitable to your needs. I recreate my clone every Saturday. If something happens to my system during the week, I will lose the changes made in the software/configuration since the previous Saturday. Obviously, the data in the clone will be as it was the Saturday before.

Probably, we all back up our data (our work!) in nearly real time to an external HDD or to the cloud. The software I use for that is GoodSync, but there are dozens out there. Therefore, after plugging your clone in, you will restore the data from your latest data backup.

So, if/when my main laptop fails, I ask myself:

  • Is this a problem created by a new software install/upgrade (or malware)? In this case, I use Restore Points to try to bring back my system to an early situation when it was running smoothly.
  • Is this a HDD malfunction or a complete software corruption? if so, I swap the main HDD with the clone, restore the data backup, and I can go on with my work.
  • Are the HDD or other parts of the hardware malfunctioning? Was the laptop stolen? Did the dog eat my laptop? I swap my second laptop HDD with the clone, restore my data and I can go on with my work. In this particular case, some application software might identify the different machine and ask to “validate” the license (MS Office is a case in point). However, the validation is a very simple process involving a phone call to get a code and typing it in the new computer.

And with this strategy, which by no means is bullet proof—nothing in this arena is—I get a pretty good night sleep.


Maria Helena was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. She holds a bachelor’s degree in statistics from the University of São Paulo, a graduate degree in business administration from Fundação Getúlio Vargas, and a certificate in translation from New York University. Her work involved both the areas of finance and IT for 25 years, ten of which at IBM in the US. She is a freelance translator and lives in the state of Bahia, in Brazil.

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