Keeping a diary of your computer can be a valuable asset if ... goes wrong. Imagine for a moment the ... if your hard drive failed or worse, someone stole your ... And whilst havi
Keeping a diary of your computer can be a valuable asset if something goes wrong. Imagine for a moment the consequences if your hard drive failed or worse, someone stole your computer. And whilst having a reliable and recent backup is an essential step on your way to recovery, having a diary is a major advantage.
If you use a computer for your business then like me your computer has probably become a tool that you rely on. I am in the internet business and frankly without my computer I am out of business. Picture the consequences to your business and your livelihood if suddenly you arrived home to find the place on your desk where your computer was a blank space.
Thieves love computers. They are reasonably portable, and readily salable. If the owner stores all their CDs in an attractive rack close by, that's easy to carry away too, and all the better the price.
So why would you keep a diary, what is a diary, what does it contain?
Why keep a diary?
Let's assume worse case; you're computer is stolen. Replacing it is reasonably simple; a visit to the local PC shop and in all likelihood a far better (and cheaper) machine than you had before. But now you have the new computer home, how are you going to set it up so that you can have all of the things you had before? Your email messages for example, that proposal you were writing for Monday's deadline, and that E-Book that you're halfway through and will make a fortune in six months time.
You'll have probably had a dozen or more projects in progress (can you remember what they all were?). What about your web site and the software you use to make changes to it? And there may be accounting records for debtors, inventory and purchases.
Most backups don't include software. Backups are almost invariably copies of the data files. My message is that as well as restoring all of your data, you also need to restore your 'software environment'. Without this you can't work with your data.
So the purpose of a diary is to keep a track of what your software and hardware environment is made up of.
What is a diary and what does it contain?
I have a simple notebook in which I enter changes that are made to the physical computer (it's hardware) and but especially changes or additions to the software. There is a single page for each component (software and hardware of the machine).
For example if you needed to install a new software program then you would create a new page heading and make a diary entry of the purchase. This would include the name of the software product, version, and where it was sourced, date and payment method. Some software has a serial number so this should also be recorded. And if you register the software also keep a note of the date and method of registration.
The source of software might have been the purchase of a CD from a shop in which case recovery is a simple matter (assuming you've kept the CD somewhere safe). But if you download software, or the CD was stolen with your computer, then getting another copy and reinstalling can be difficult and frustrating.
If you downloaded the software then you at least need the URL where you purchased the software from.
If you have a record of the software's acquisition then you can prove to the original supplier the fact of your purchase and most suppliers will provide a copy (perhaps with a small handling charge). Obviously if you can't prove your purchase then bad luck you're going to have to buy it again!
As an aside, whenever possible make a backup copy of all software you purchase before you install it. Most software is readily copyable, both technically and legally. Every software license agreement I have ever seen allows the software to be copied for a legitimate backup purpose. And as with any backup, it should kept at a different location than the computer.
In addition, if you make any upgrades to the software then full details of these should also be recorded.
Similar records should be maintained of your hardware. As a minimum, record serial numbers of all hardware items, along with cost, date and where purchased. For an insurance claim or Police report these are vital facts.
I also find it useful to keep a page devoted to my internet connection. This includes all the details needed to connect such as TCP/IP address (or phone number if on dial-up), sign-in and email address and passwords, server details such as pop and smtp names and any security options you've selected. Whilst all of this information is relatively simple to setup again, without the details it can be very time consuming.
Another page should be devoted to the operating system. My current computer was purchased about 18 months ago and came with a copy of Windows 98. I subsequently upgraded to Windows 98 SE, then earlier last year I bought an upgrade copy of Windows XP. And so to rebuild the software environment I'd need to reinstall Windows 98, perform the upgrade to SE and then perform the upgrade to Windows XP. Without a few notes in my diary I'd probably not remember the sequence of events. Likely my new computer would have a copy of Windows with it and so this page would be unnecessary. But if you're only replacing a failed hard drive then this information is necessary.
Perhaps you think hard drives don't fail. I live in a small town with a population of 30,000 people. A good friend owns the only computer shop. He advises that not a day goes by when at least one person doesn't come in with a broken hard drive.
One last thought, throughout your diary make notes of any special options or features that you install or set.
Grant McNamara has over 20 years experience in IT,and specializes in multi-lingual web site and software development and training. His web sites are http://www.selling-it.com/ and http://www.translateme.co.nz/ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org