Thursday, September 25, 2008

DIY: Personal Disaster Recovery Backup Server part 1

DIY: Personal Disaster Recovery Backup Server
Part 1

Chances are that you found this DIY post from Google. You were searching for terms like "I just formatted my Hard Drive" or ''My Hard Drive crashed'' and you probably need your files and pictures back ASAP! You can hear that voice telling you "I told you so..."

Well, now is the time to build your own Personal Disaster Recovery Backup Server so you will always have a backup of your personal files.

Yes, you can use online services, most of them cost, and there are a few that are free with plenty of storage. But the biggest drawback is your computer needs to be connected to the internet, which is hard to do if you don't have an Operating System on it.

First, we will go over 2 types of data loss

Type 1: You deleted some files on accident or on purpose,
not realizing what you were deleting.
Here, you are able to boot to your OS and use Online recovery s
ervices or some of the following suggestions:
- Check the Recycle Bin
- Use System Restore (doesn't recover data files, just system files)
- Run a "File recovery program" see below

Type 2: Failed Hard Drive - you can’t boot to your Operating System
Here, the computer fails when it boots, and either can’t find the Hard Drive or can’t read from it.
Simple steps to try in this scenario:
- Take out the Hard Drive and put it in another computer, as a "second" Hard Drive
- Put the Hard Drive in an external usb/firewire case and try in another computer
- There are a lot of tools on Hirens Boot CD that could be helpful

Quick story about a failing Hard Drive

I had a friend take his computer to Geek Squad, because his computer didn’t boot, and he had a lot of family pictures that he didn’t burn on CD. They told him that his hard drive failed because the platters could not get up to speed and he needed to buy a new one. He told me about it and I asked for the hard drive and plugged it in my computer, and all his files were still there. Something happened to Windows where it just wouldn't boot to the desktop. Nothing was wrong with the hard drive at all.

Part 1

I have not needed a file recovery program in a long time, but I did find that I needed one last month when I was "cleaning" up my hard drive. I was selecting multiple folders at a time and hitting Shift-Delete, which skips the recycle bin and deletes them right then.
Unknowingly, a couple of business project files had been deleted and I was not the only person that needed them.

After a little research, I came across a program called Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery Software which had the feature that I was looking for and many more.
One of the features it has is to recover deleted files after recycle bin has been emptied, or use of Shift+Delete. That's exactly what I needed and was able to recover my files.

After installing it, it took about 7min to scan my hard drive and recover the files I needed. It also found some accidentally deleted family pictures - and recovered them also.

Here's a list of Key features

  • File System supported: FAT and NTFS
  • Windows Support: Windows Vista, XP, 2003, 2000
  • File Types: More than 300 types are recognized along with the option to add new ones
  • Photo Recovery: Recovery for almost all camera file formats
  • File Preview: Great for sorting through deleted images
  • Options to Recover: Can be saved as compressed file or to a FTP server
  • File Filter: Search quicker using masks and filters

Below are some very helpful screen cast of the product in action

Recover files quickly and easily

Recover deleted partitions

Preview delete Photos before restoring them

Save a recovery scan for later restoration

Coming Up in Part 2

I will show you how to build a home backup/recovery server from an old computer. After all, you know you are getting a new one for the holidays :)

(who knows how many "old" computers you have laying around)

Possibilities are Endless

- A Stand-alone server always ready to be used no matter what time of day.
- If your hard drive crashes, replace it and have all your information back on the new drive in less than an hour.
-Peace of mind knowing that your information is safe and accessible anytime
-Doing all of this yourself and saving big $$$

Make sure to leave you suggestions and comments below

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Free Remote Access Software Setup and Review

How-To Setup Remote Access software for connecting to any computer across the internet when your on a budget.

This is my experience using different software products and what I found out about each of them.

Products included in this article:
(Click the logo for a quick jump to the information)

LogMeIn [link]

RealVNC [link]

GoToAccess [link]

I do a lot of remote access troubleshooting for clients, and so I wanted to share what I have learned about various remote access software programs that I have used and some quick tips on each.

I have a few things that I look for in remote access software, which include, but not limited to: price, ease of setup, required customer interaction, file transfers, firewall setup, router setup, speed, and others. I will be focusing on Free versions in this post.

Let me show you how to install and setup each program and I will also give a bit of commentary on each.


There are different versions available on their website, some with 30-day a trial, but I will be focusing on the Free version.

To install:
  1. goto LogMeIn website
  2. create an account using your email and password
  3. sign in your account
  4. click Add Computer
  5. select product (FREE)
  6. download the software and install
  7. after running the setup wizard your good to go

What i like about LogMeIn is that you can have multiple computers added into your account, so you can keep track of them all an never have to worry about remembering IP address.
You are able to organize all of your computers by putting them in different groups. for example: you can have groups for you parents, relatives, friends and enemies.
Also, and probably my favorite feature is that its runs as a "Hosted Service" meaning you (or your client) don't have to mess with any router/firewall settings.

That's about the limit of the free version, so what if you need to transfer a file, well thats when you rely on an Instant Message program, like Yahoo/MS Messenger, Google Talk or AIM. Sign on IM on both computers and transfer files through IM.


RealVNC is the fastest and uses the least amount of memory of the three reviewed programs, but it is a little harder to setup, especially if you're not computer savy. The downside is that you have to modify firewall settings to allow connection and forward ports if your behind a router. But once its setup, it is very simple to connect and control.

To install
  1. download the software from their website
  2. run the setup program
  3. after installation is complete, configure a password
  4. configure firewall programs to Allow VNC access to internet
  5. configure Router to Forward the port 5900 to the computer's local ip address (most cases
  6. after the server (remote pc) is up and running, all you need to do is connect from your local computer.
Now VNC can be setup to run as a service (always on) but you will still need to know the IP address of the remote computer to access it. Unless your client likes looking up his own IP address every time you want to connect, you need to setup a / service. These services provide an easy-to-remember constantly-updated IP address. So instead of remembering an IP address like, all you have to remember is
  • One thing I noticed is that when you are controlling a Vista machine, you will get kicked off every time the UAC box pops up on the remote machine and you cannot reconnect until the client closes the UAC box or disables it altogether.
As with LogMeIn, these free versions do not allow file transfers, so you have to rely on IM or a website where you can host your own files.

GoToAssist Express

GoToAssist Express is new for me, and, at the time of this post, it is in a public beta stage, meaning that it is a FREE download and install. I stumbled across this program via [youtube] Chris Pirillo gives a fine video review on it.

To Install
  1. sign up for the beta program here
  2. download and install the program
  3. once you get it running it will open a new session with a key associated with it
  4. instruct you client to go to the website and input your session key
  5. thats it. Your connected!

Clients install
(Java is needed on clients computer)
  1. go to the link
  2. enter name and support key
  3. software is download and installed
  4. asked to share your screen
  5. thats it

Unattended setup
After you connect to the clients computer, you can setup an unattended session, meaning you can connect whenever you want. You have to initiate the setup, but the client needs to be present to confirm the action taken.
After it is setup, there is a dialog box that asks for connection confirmation, that has an auto-accept timer. So there is no need for the client to be there.

Here's what I like with this program: Simple setup, minimal client knowledge needed to install, and you can get a detailed diagnostic report from the remote computer.
Best of all, this Free version allows file transfers!

  • There is a FREE training Webinar that will teach you how to use GoToAssist Express to your best advantage.
  • Video HERE (requires media player 9)

This post was written to cover Free versions of versions for remote access. There are many more options that were not covered, like Windows built-in Remote Desktop, and different flavors of VNC. Also, all the PAID services were not talked about because this is a DIY blog.

Please leave comments that will help readers make informed decisions about FREE products, and dont leave comments like "LogMeIN sucks!" rather "LogMeIn does not work on a PSP, but VNC does"

Any comments that have to do with software not covered in this post, should be specific and may be moved to the post itself.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fix that LCD Flat Panel Monitor

Fix a faulty LCD Monitor Power Supply

Problem: You have a LCD monitor that either does not turn on or turns on and off randomly. There might even be a high pitch squeal when it is on.

Solution: Replace the power supply of the monitor.

1) get a new monitor (cost: too much)
2) get a new power supply (cost: too much, that is, if you can even find one)

I will show you how easy it is to fix it with the scrap parts you already have.

I received a FREE lcd monitor (remember the cost) that would turn on but after 15 minutes or so would turn back off and would not turn on unless it was unplugged then plugged back in. After opening it up, I noticed there was a bad capacitor on the power supply. So I dug through all my spare components to find an identical (rated) capacitor.
When I got it changed out and powered back on, it still had a high pitch squeal and random power problems. So I just replaced the whole power supply.
The power supply of the monitor had 6 connections. 3 ground, 2 12volt and 1 5volt. I have several old computer power supplies, so I used one of them (cost: Free)
All I had to do was strip it down to what I needed.
Next I mounted the PS on the back of the monitor. Using the existing mounting points (for wall mount) Make some custom connections (cost: Free), so the monitor can easily be taking apart.

Connected it all together and fired it up.

Now I have a working LCD Flat Panel Monitor for a total cost of $0

Thursday, January 24, 2008