Computer Backup Hell

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My new HP i7 laptop screen died at 2 months old. I'd purchased a 3-year service contact with Fry's Electronics – including a loaner – so I didn't worry too much about it. But I did call Fry's to see what would be necessary to drop it off and pick up a loaner, particularly since Fry's is over 100 miles away.

It was a bit over 90 days from purchase before Arizona was cool enough to even consider driving from Sedona to Phoenix – 90 minutes one way with no traffic or delays. First thing I was told when I got there was there was a 24-hour delay between dropping off a computer for repair and picking up a loaner.

No. That's not going to happen." I stated firmly.

The service tech did not require much persuading. (The loaner exception must have been what the manager told me to mention, but I didn't find my notes on the back of the warranty paperwork until I got home from the exchange.)

Knowing I would be without my own computer for two weeks, I took these preparatory steps:

  1. I planned the service to coincide with the last week of work before vacation and the week of vacation. That would ensure I'd be slowed down only one week and be back and fully functional the catch-up week after vacation.
  2. I downloaded and installed Paragon Software's Backup and Recovery program which provided for either image backup (the last image I took wouldn't restore to a differently-configured hard drive) or a clone. I chose the latter, because the former hadn't worked previously; albeit, from a different software company.
  3. Though I have three external hard drives connected to my PC, one with over 350 Gb free space, I decided to play it safe and buy a new external hard-drive for just this operation. I bought the Western Digital Passport Essential 500 Gb for $79 plus tax.
  4. Though as friend warned me to "allow some time" for the cloning process, since I had only about 100 Gb on the laptop – including operating system and programs – I figured 2 hours tops. WRONG. It took a long time.

At Fry's, after MUCH preliminary talk and paperwork, I asked the tech to make my tiny little Passport drive the boot disk. That was the first time I was allowed to leave the counter area. He gave me 30 minutes to go do my other Electronics shopping. When I returned, he asked for another 30 minutes. In all, I was in the store 3.5 hours, and the loaner computer would not boot from my cloned hard drive. After driving to the store, I was five hours into the process. I was tired and hungry. I told him to skip it and let me go.

So far, my investment was $300 for the three-year service contract with loaner, and just under $90 for the external drive including tax, plus the 90+ minute drive to Phoenix when it was 110 degrees.

I spent most of Monday trying to boot from or restore from the Passport USB drive. Then I called a computer tech. Since my database of trusted geeks was unavailable to me, I rode my bike down the street to one such geek, though he is a Mac person. He wasn't home. His girlfriend suggested using the phonebook. I prefer calling "referred" people, but that gave me the idea to look for other comrades in Internet Marketing in the book. I was referred to Jeff. He couldn't come right away, then called back that his pressing paying job had  to be postponed and he could come right away.

It seemed he'd never heard of Paragon software. I suggested he use whatever restore software he was used to. He said I was too far into the process to switch. I gave him the sheet of instructions the Paragon sales guy gave me. Jeff couldn't make them work. There was a link on the Paragon site we were unable to get email from. (I probably typed my e-dress wrong.)

Nearly $200 later, I was none the closer to operational. What Jeff had convinced me of is that if your backup configuration and your destination configuration vary by even just a little bit, there's a very good chance your backup will not be able to be restored. It seems one problem is nuances in how Windows is installed. No problem: Paragon will modify the operating system.

I began studying the documentation today myself. Yes, Paragon Hard Disk Management Suite will modify the Operating System as you copy one drive to another. That's why I bought it ($49). But upon more careful reading, I noticed it modifies the source drive, not the destination drive! What's the point of that? I need to run it off the destination (loaner laptop) drive!

I tried swapping physical drives, but the plug in components were different. One was card-like. The other drive had only pins. Not even close!

Had the Fry's loaner been the same make and model of the 'broken' computer, none of this would have been an issue. In fact, I even had to modify Windows 7 to give me enough administrator privileges to try to make this transfer work.

If I'd simply mailed my laptop back to Hewlett-Packard for 12 days, a least I would have known I was off work, instead of sitting at the desk for two days trying to make work possible!

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