How to be a Windows mad scientist, AND avoid software problems.

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  1. Ghot's Avatar
    Posts : 15,685
    Win 10 Home 10.0.19044.1466 (x64) [21H2]
       #1

    How to be a Windows mad scientist, AND avoid software problems.


    Not everyone will be able to implement these suggestions.
    This is mainly for a stand alone computer, with one user in the Administrators group, on a local account.

    The secret here, is to try to figure out everything that "could" happen, and to then create a setup that makes those problems easy to avoid.




    Some "Rules of Thumb" (will be called ROT from now on)

    1. Use backup software, and only make FULL operating system backups.
    2. Keep the total amount of data on your Windows drive... to a minimum. (This makes for faster backups and restores)
    3. Be able to access your backups, even when Windows won't boot.

    These three "rules of thumb" make it fairly easy to avoid the devastating effects of 99.99% of all software problems.
    No matter what happens (other than hardware issues), repairing your Windows install, is as easy as restoring from a backup.



    Secret Ingredients...

    1. Install most software, on a different drive entirely. Just put the shortcut to that software on your Windows drive.
    2. Keep your chipset driver, up-to-date, and do this manually. Avoid ALL tools or programs that update drivers for you.
    3. Only update the "graphics drivers" if you absolutely need to for some program.
    4. Try, as hard as you can, to leave the other drivers... alone. They very rarely "need" updated.
    5. Whatever Security program(s), you use, keep it up-to-date and keep it simple.
    6. Unless absolutely necessary, just avoid "sharing". Use a USB flash drive to "share" things.
    7. AVOID all snake-oil programs. There is NOTHING that can fix everything in one click.
    8. Before you do anything like Windows Updates, experimentation, playing with iffy programs... make a backup. [See ROT]
    9. Always save (export) your bookmarks/favorites to a different drive.
    10. The biggest cause of "software problems", is lack of patience. Do yourself a favor, and have... patience.




    I'm sure you've all seen pictures or cartoons, of someone "painting themselves into a corner". This is what we want to avoid at all costs. ALWAYS leave yourself a way out or backdoor, etc. 99% of the time, this will be accomplished with backup software and it's proper use. The other one percent of the time, avoiding disaster is accomplished by patience and planning ahead.

    If your friend calls you up, or texts you, and says: "You really have to try this. Install it and tell me what you think".
    DANGER Will Robinson, DANGER! Is your friend or the app dangerous? Probably not. But if you don't have a "current" backup, you should make one, before experimenting.

    If you've kept the data on your Windows drive to a minimum [ROT], making or restoring from a backup will take less than 5 minutes. Making backups takes a lot of patience. To help make this easier, start the backup and go get a some coffee or a smoothie. Maybe make a sandwich. If you sit there and just watch the progress bar, you will be that much more resistant to making backups, the next time you need to do so.

    Just about all backup software comes with bootable Rescue Media. You can create this bootable media on a USB flash drive or DVD. This bootable media will "save your bacon" when Windows won't boot. It will allow you to access, and restore from, your backups.

    If you pay attention to [ROT], and follow the "Secret Ingredients", you can do just about anything, and still be only 5 minutes away from fixing whatever you may have broken. Backup software is like a "Get out of jail, free" card.




    Every time you are going to do something out of the ordinary on your computer... THINK.
    Think... what is the worst thing that could happen, if I do this.

    If the answer is something you can't or won't want to have to fix... make a fresh backup.

    Currently, Macrium Reflect (free) is my favorite backup software.
    Get Reflect 8 Free, here: Macrium Software | Reflect Free Edition



    Quickie guide...
    How to be a Windows mad scientist, AND avoid software problems.-000000-macrium-2.jpg
    Last edited by Ghot; 27 Nov 2021 at 06:16.
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  2. Megahertz's Avatar
    Posts : 3,487
    Windows 7 HP 64 - Windows 10 Pro - Lubuntu
       #2

    Ghot, you may add:

    Keep your computer as "Simple" as possible.
    - Don't install unnecessary applications or programs, specially those that start with Windows. If they do, try to disable the start up configuration (msconfig and Task Scheduler).
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  3. TairikuOkami's Avatar
    Posts : 5,042
    Windows 11 Home
       #3

    Ghot said:
    3. Be able to access your backups, even when Windows won't boot.
    This one seems unnecessary, but it is actually very important.

    I had system backups, but I did not create a recovery partition nor a recovery USB.
    I also blocked SYSTEM from reading my backup partition, so it could not access backups.
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  4. Megahertz's Avatar
    Posts : 3,487
    Windows 7 HP 64 - Windows 10 Pro - Lubuntu
       #4

    Add this one:

    - Never, ever store your backups on the source drive. If the drive fails, you loose everything.
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  5. MaloK's Avatar
    Posts : 1,403
    Windows 7 Pro
       #5

    Making simple registry backup before attempting anything, can be a life saver.

    Maintaining a good set of Registry Backups can save you instantly from any kind of registry corruption without having to restore a whole backup.
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  6. cereberus's Avatar
    Posts : 12,863
    Windows10
       #6

    Rule number 1 is ROT (as in rotting). Differential and incremental image backups are very useful.,

    If I am installing something new, or messing with registry settings etc, I always make an incremental backup first with Macrium Reflect (I have paid version). Then if anything goes wrong, I restore this using latest incremental, and it usually takes less than 2 minutes with the paid version due to Rapid Delta Restore feature. I never use unreliable system restores anymore.

    Equally, I never need to faff around with registry backups as per @MaloK suggestion, as that is implicit in image backups.

    A far better sort of strategy is a say a weekly full backup, and daily incrementals. This way, you update frequently with minimum time impact or storage impact.

    If you only have free version, you can use differentials instead but it is not as space efficient and takes longer to restore, but of course, time is not as critical as reliability of restore.

    I do agree with Rule 2 - always better to keep data on a separate drive. However you need to independently back up data.

    In the end, the Rules of Thumb are too simplistic, as each user needs to devise a strategy that suits them.

    Mine is like this (it suits me):

    1) data on a separate partition to C drive

    2) Full Image Backups once a month

    3) Incremental images weekly or as needed

    4) critical data copied to onedrive, and periodically to external drive

    5) important but not critical data , periodically to external drive

    6) non critical data (i.e. stuff I can redownload), I sometimes backup to external drive but not that frequently/

    Of course, every user is different - they have to devise their own strategy. Some may do it full weekly, images daily. Some may only do full backups.

    For example, users with an emmc 32GB drive, it is impractical to partition drive really as not a lot of space. Here use of SD cards can help, but they are less reliable, so using onedrive is (imo) a better solution for storing data, but too slow for image backups as files are large.


    Re. secret ingredients, I agree with some, but not with others. Again, it all comes down to personal preference.

    1. Install most software, on a different drive entirely. Just put the shortcut to that software on your Windows drive.
    Totally disagree - this makes image backups and windows repairs complicated. Only programs that can be installed on other drives are portable

    2. Keep your chipset driver, up-to-date, and do this manually. Avoid ALL tools or programs that update drivers for you.
    Sort of but then of course, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind.

    3. Only update the "graphics drivers" if you absolutely need to for some program.
    I rather disagree here - updates usually fix bugs that you may have just been lucky not to encounter.

    4. Try, as hard as you can, to leave the other drivers... alone. They very rarely "need" updated.
    Not true - it is often Windows updates itself that forces updates needed for drivers.

    5. Whatever Security program(s), you use, keep it up-to-date and keep it simple.
    Of course, security should be kept up to date, or pointless bothering.

    6. Unless absolutely necessary, just avoid "sharing". Use a USB flash drive to "share" things.
    Really depends on what you are sharing. U|SB flash drives are only of use if you are doing things locally.

    7. AVOID all snake-oil programs. There is NOTHING that can fix everything in one click.
    Agreed.

    8. Before you do anything like Windows Updates, experimentation, playing with iffy programs... make a backup. [See ROT]
    Agreed.

    9. Always save (export) your bookmarks/favorites to a different drive.
    Never done this ever, or needed to do this - far easier just to sync them online to a user account


    10. The biggest cause of "software problems", is lack of patience. Do yourself a favor, and have... patience
    True enough but imo, bigger issue is people take Youtube videos etc. as being gospel.

    So here are my Golden Rules:

    1) Backup system and data regularly

    2) if there is any doubt, refer back to Rule 1.
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  7. Posts : 117
    Windows 11
       #7

    @Ghot A great post and should be required reading for any new user to the forum.

    Some minor comments:
    1. Install most software, on a different drive entirely.
    I agree with @cereberus that this makes the restore more complicated (for a typical user). The OS and programs need to be kept in sync, so if both are being backed-up at the same time then keep them in the same partition.

    8. Before you do anything like Windows Updates, experimentation, playing with iffy programs... make a backup.
    Unsaid but implied that Windows Updates option should be set to Notify so that a backup can be made before completing the update if there is no recent version.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Megahertz said:
    - Never, ever store your backups on the source drive. If the drive fails, you loose everything.
    Makes sense but could be a problem for users that only have a single drive in their PC and no LAN connected storage devices. Better to have a backup on a separate partition than not having a backup. In this case a USB connected drive is recommended.
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  8. Ghot's Avatar
    Posts : 15,685
    Win 10 Home 10.0.19044.1466 (x64) [21H2]
    Thread Starter
       #8

    @cereberus
    You must have skipped over the 2nd sentence on this page.
    I'm against differential and incremental backups and scheduled backups.
    I don't like backing up anything that I haven't "cleaned" first.

    I know there are situations where these types of backups are necessary, but I don't "hang out" in those situations.





    @quandary
    When I say install programs on a different drive, I mean HUGE programs like... games.
    Small programs we use all the time can be kept on the Windows drive.
    IMO, the Windows drive should have no more than say... 60GB on it.







    This guide is for a simple setups, that a person can pretty much not worry about, after it's set up.
    There are plenty of guides, already, for more complex arrangements.
    If anyone wants to construct a more comprehensive guide... there is plenty of blank e-pages available.
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  9. cereberus's Avatar
    Posts : 12,863
    Windows10
       #9

    Ghot said:
    @cereberus
    You must have skipped over the 2nd sentence on this page.
    I'm against differential and incremental backups and scheduled backups.
    I don't like backing up anything that I haven't "cleaned" first.

    I know there are situations where these types of backups are necessary, but I don't "hang out" in those situations.





    @quandary
    When I say install programs on a different drive, I mean HUGE programs like... games.
    Small programs we use all the time can be kept on the Windows drive.
    IMO, the Windows drive should have no more than say... 60GB on it.
    Nope I did read it. Your Rule 1 is simply based on your personal dislike.

    You have no sound basis for saying only make full backups.

    I have never had a differential or incremental backup fail on me.


    If you wanted daily backups, to do fulls every day would be extremely wasteful in storage.

    Also how can you say size of C drive. It really depends on users needs. My work pc is around 125 GB, my home pc around 40 GB. Either way, only portable programs are really suitable for relocation. That might keep OS drive lean and mean but simply moves backup needs to another drive.
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  10. Ghot's Avatar
    Posts : 15,685
    Win 10 Home 10.0.19044.1466 (x64) [21H2]
    Thread Starter
       #10

    cereberus said:
    Nope I did read it. Your Rule 1 is simply based on your personal dislike.

    You have no sound basis for saying only make full backups.

    I have never had a differential or incremental backup fail on me.


    If you wanted daily backups, to do fulls every day would be extremely wasteful in storage.



    As I said... feel free to make your own topic, with your own recommendations.
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