Remember when I talked about using a USB flash drive for diagnostics? Well, most of the Linux versions used for diagnostics has a handy, dandy program called Gparted. Gparted is used strictly for creating a new (or removing, be careful) partition.
Booting from the flash drive I talked about in previous issues, you can then select Gparted from the menu and be allowed to create a whole new partition of your liking. This can be either quick or a test in patience, depending on the size of the hard drive and partitions.
Once you have created the additional(s) partitions, you can then start copying your data from the OS partition over to the new partition. There is also an added bonus to all of this: saving your system and software settings.
By knowing what configuration files have your OS settings and which files are used for your various software settings, you can easily copy these files to a separate folder in your data partition so that when you, inevitably, have to reinstall your OS and software, you can copy these files back over to your OS partition from your data partition. Knowing which files you want to back up depends on the OS and the software being used. This is far too comprehensive to be covered in this column. The best way to find out is to use Google and search for “configuration files for...” whatever it is you're interested in looking to backup. Replace “...” with the name of the OS or software.
By doing these simple things and staying on top of them, you can save yourself a lot of aggravation and weeping. For myself, when I have to do the inevitable, it usually starts with a few choice words at my computer followed with the resignation that it has to be done, but at least I didn’t lose anything of value, just a lot of time.
I have been doing this for all my friends, family, and customers since about 20 years ago. I have actually had customers come to me on their second crash and need of recovery in which I showed them that the first time I took care of them, I set up a second partition for their data and changed all the defaults to save there so that they still have their data. They then wept, not in anguish but in joy and were practically dancing out the door.
Now this only works for an OS crash. It doesn’t do anything for a hard drive crash, which is a failure in the physical hardware. That usually means there is no chance of any recovery and a whole new hard drive needs to be installed. The best advice I can give to prevent the loss of data in this scenario is to do what everyone is saying these days. Back up, back up, back up. But you only need to back up the data partition, which is easier than backing up an OS partition, and usually quicker.
Robert M. Laine has been working in the IT industry for 30+ years. He has a B.S. in Computer Science. He has worked for the Chicago Tribune IT group and as the in-store technician for Staples. You can email him with questions or comments at BobLaine_sw@mail.com and visit LaineTech.blogspot.com