How To Build A Mobile Rack

There's no (good) reason for losing valuable PC data

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The most important reason to back up a hard drive is, of course, hard-drive failure. Nothing compares to the pain of losing data. That's where a cheap mobile-rack backup system can help.

The increasingly popular method of using a hard-drive partition to back up the OS, a few critical apps and configurations doesn't provide the slightest bit of protection against a catastrophic hard-drive failure. It only protects against file corruption. Instead, your customers should both mirror data to a backup drive and make off-site backups with a DVD-R or tape. Installing both a mobile rack and a DVD-R or tape drive in every system lets you sell systems with greatly increased security at a premium price.

For this recipe you'll need a:

  • Mobile rack: I favor a low-cost mobile rack called the Genica GN-210 that is available for only $6.90 at ComputerGeeks. There are many other possible choices; simply Google on "mobile rack" as a search term, or go to PriceWatch.

  • Hard drive: I recommend a drive the same size as the PC's original drive to allow drive mirroring. This allows the easy restoration of individual files or directories without having to run a backup program.

  • Backup software: There are many choices. Because I run Windows 98 SE, I use XXCOPY, a low-cost, shareware imaging backup facility. (For more backup programs, turn to page 140.)

  • Customer-reminder software: Use an inexpensive, shareware calendar-based reminder program to tell your customers when it's time to run a backup. I use xReminder, which is a freeware program that runs on any Windows system.

  • Customer instructions: Write a Quick Start Guide that briefly describes the backup and reminder software and explains how each works.

    Now it's time to put it all together:

    1. Put the hard drive into the drive tray.

    2. Plug the internal drive-tray connectors into the hard drive; screw tight.

    3. Insert the drive rack into a free 5.25-inch drive bay, then screw tight.

    4. Plug a free IDE cable connector into the back of the drive rack.

    5. Boot the computer, access the BIOS and make sure the drive type for the removable drive is set to Automatic Detect.

    6. Partition and format the drive for the OS your customer uses. In a typical installation for Windows, drive C: will be primary, and the mobile rack will be assigned to drive D:.

    7. For Windows 9.x/ME: Go to Control Panel > Disk Drives > D: (or whatever the new drive is) Properties, and check the DMA and Removable Drive boxes. Install the reminder software, and set the alarms for whatever intervals you think are best.

    8. For Windows 2000/XP: Go to Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > System > Hardware (tab) > Device Manager > log on as computer administrator > double-click Disk Drives from Device Manager > double-click the new drive icon to get Drive Properties > Policies (tab) > Optimize for Quick Removal.

    9. Install the backup solution.

    A. Lizard is an Internet consultant based in San Francisco.

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