Some tips on preparing for a PC or laptop disaster, just in case: Part 2. Advanced precautions

Swiss Army knife

In the first part of this two-part series, I looked at some basic precautions that would be really worthwhile implementing in preparation for a major PC problem. Here’s some advanced precautions aimed at those who want to roll their sleeves up and try and sort out the problem themselves. Bear in mind that this is written by a non-PC repair specialist but I hope it gives a reasonable round-up of suggestions at a more advanced level.

Don’t forget the utilities you already have on your PC. When trouble strikes, it’s easy to forget what’s already in place on your PC. Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 all have a built-in Event Viewer for viewing event logs. This may help to identify your problem. Here’s a good overview of Event Viewer. Vista and Windows 7 also have a Reliability Monitor and here’s a post about that on How-to Geek.

Turn off automatic reboot so you can read ‘Blue Screen’ (BSOD) error messages. When Windows XP crashes with a Blue Screen it will automatically reboot, often too fast for you to read any error message. Turn this off now to avoid automatic reboots when you have problems. Here’s how to turn it off in XP so you can read the error messages and here’s the Vista instructions.

Bookmark Windows error messages. So you don’t have to go hunting around when you have a problem. Here’s a site for searching for error messages.

Bookmark Windows stop messages. Have a look here or search stop codes here.

Print out beep codes for your BIOS. In Part 1, I discussed how to access your BIOS. Make a note of your BIOS manufacturer and print out a list of beep codes for your BIOS. As with the earlier info you gathered on your system, put this in your folder in case you can’t access the internet when you need this info. Or put Beep Code Viewer on your USB stick.

Load up your USB stick with portable repair tools. Get a suite of portable repair apps on your USB drive, just in case. Here’s a ready-made Portable Repair Utility Kit with a whole bunch of great repair apps to give you a head start. Currently, it’s a two-part download of 102MB and 77MB so may take a little time to download on your system. And for good measure here’s another selection from TechRadar. Technibble is a great resource for PC repair technicians and they have been highlighting a repair tool each week for a couple of years now. Beef up your repair kit even further with a selection of these on your thumb drive. For example, BlueScreenView for analysing what caused a ‘Blue Screen of Death’ crash. I’ve set up a Google search here to list the repair tools recommended on Technibble.

Tool up with some rescue CDs. In the first part, we talked about having a Linux rescue disk on hand in case of emergency. Knoppix is another good Linux rescue disk for disaster recovery. Here’s a post on Computer first aid using Knoppix.  The Ultimate Boot CD is also worth getting hold of. Here’s a quick tutorial on UBCD. Podnutz have released an audio podcast on UBCD for Windows and Technibble have a great video showing some uses for UBCD: Recovering Windows from Common Errors that Prevent it From Booting.

Flowcharts for PC repair. There are flowcharts at Foner Books and Boing Boing for PC repair. Print them out and put them in your folder ahead of any trouble.

Save time in a reinstall after a disaster by slipstreaming OS updates and service packs into an updated install disk. Use nLite (for Windows XP) or vLite (Windows Vista) to create a customised Windows install disk before disaster strikes.

Invest in a spare power supply unit and RAM. If you don’t have access to a backup laptop or PC and you rely heavily on one machine, you might do well to invest in a backup power supply unit (PSU) and memory (RAM) for peace of mind. If you run into boot problems, Memtest86 will check out your PC memory and you can have new sticks installed straight away if this is the cause of your problem. Get a PSU with the same (or better) specs as your currently installed one so that if your PC suddenly dies (and replacing memory doesn’t help), then fit the new PSU. Okay, Sod’s law, it may be a motherboard failure but hopefully not, and your spare hardware may have done the trick. If not perhaps later when you do buy a new PC, you can replace the hardware in your old machine at some stage with the new PSU and RAM to extend its life as a backup machine.

Listen to some PC repair podcasts. If all this had whetted you appetite for PC diagnostics and repair, I can highly recommend the archive of Podnutz Daily PC repair podcasts. A fascinating insight into the detective work involved in PC hardware troubleshooting, virus/spyware removal and life in a PC repair shop.

Further reading

The Complete PC Recovery Toolkit

Expert guide to preventing PC disasters

How to fix Windows 7 when it fails to boot

If I’ve missed anything important in these two posts, please drop a comment below. What steps do you take to prepare for a PC disaster?

Some tips on preparing for a PC disaster is a post from Tech and Life. If you’re reading it in full elsewhere, it’s been copied without consent. Please go to Tech and Life to read the original post and many others in the archive.

Image credit: herzogbr

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