Spring Cleaning


I’m going to depart from my typical posts to share some insight with my readers. When was the last time you backed up your computer? How about reinstalling the operating system? Well let’s talk about some hows and whys.

First off you probably didn’t plan in advance that you were going to one day have to start over with your computer. Most people just assume that they can keep loading up with stuff and all will be fine. Well, hard drives fail or your system can become sluggish due to registry errors. In fact there are all kinds of reasons to clear out your machine and start fresh. So where do we begin?

One thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to worry about the applications that you have loaded. You can always reinstall from disc or download, but have you kept a list of what you use? Perhaps now is a good time to review what you really use and what you loaded that never gets opened. No point in installing software on your nice clean machine that is only taking up space.

Next and way more important is what can’t be replaced? Your photos, documents and things you have stored on your computer that you simply can't just download should your computer die. This is what you want to have backed up. What to know a trick? Keep all this stuff in a folder like ‘my documents’ so you can easily find it all. If you didn’t with your current setup, good luck finding everything and backing it up. Once you have done your restore you can start afresh and be better prepared for next time. I’ve also figured out that a folder that basically says new un-backed-up stuff can help. Whatever you call it, its purpose is that you backed up all your other stuff and having tons of copies is kinda pointless. So back up what isn’t already archived someplace. Besides you will now be able to look and see what you could lose and determine if it’s time to get that stuff off to a safe place.

There are lots of ways you can back up your virtual belongings. CD’s and DVD’s can store your stuff provided your computer has a burner. An external hard drive can be a great choice since they are fast and coming down in price. For your documents you might consider something like Google Drive. A free service that will hold your documents and even let you update them in a web browser. This is a great solution because you can access them from anyplace you can get web access. I was asked about a calendar application and how it stores its data. This got me thinking of what I use and how much easier my solution is. I use Google Calendar; it’s free and again I can access anywhere I can get internet, it also syncs to my phone so I can access it on the go. Another way you can backup your stuff requires a little more computer knowledge but makes everything accessible anywhere would be to get yourself storage online. I use Doteasy.com hosting and have ‘owncloud’ as well as unlimited space for storage of all my files. This is a simple back-up backup plan as whatever you upload from in the folder gets copied to your server and therefore accessible wherever you want. A free alternative but limited in size would be a service like Dropbox that will store your stuff online and even let you share your stuff with friends.

So now your stuff is secure. Why bother reformatting and starting over? Well, most operating systems will become sluggish over time from corrupted registry files to things you installed that you simply don’t use that are taking up space. It simply gives you a fresh start. This is a much cheaper alternative to buying a new computer every few years. Truth is most of the time your computer has more power than you need and buying the latest is just a waste of money. While you're at it I would suggest considering at least seeing what a Linux operating system can do for you. Free and easy to use, you can make a bootable thumb drive and see if it does everything you need. My old laptop seemed so slow and useless till I swapped out Windows for Linux Mint and discovered it had lots of life left in it. And with so much free software I could do more and not have to spend a dime. If you still need your old operating system for an application you can’t do without, perhaps consider making your computer a dual boot. This is a way to have the best of both worlds. You may need more skills to make this happen, but likely someone you know who can walk you through the steps.

So here is what I did...
First to format the Mac’s hard drive I needed to download a mac boot up so I could boot from something other than the hard drive that I wanted to format. This is important because you cannot erase a drive you're using.
Once it started up I made 3 partitions. This was a simple decision considering Apple and Linux both run on a different type of formatted drives. The Linux seems to be able to see what’s on the Mac, but the Mac has trouble looking at the Linux side. Regardless, even if you're using Windows, having a space where you can drop files like images you want to edit using software from either side or music that can easily be found is useful. A partition dedicated for sharing between both your operating systems is the way to go.
After the formatting was finished, I reloaded the Mac OS on the space I allotted for the Mac; sadly this takes a while but a fresh new OS is one less likely to give you troubles. Once that was all happy and up and running I installed rEFit to make the computer have the choice of what OS to use at the startup. Ahh we are getting so close I can smell the success.
Next is the bit of fun you're going to have to decide on your own. I chose Linux Mint after a test run and saw that it had everything I was looking for. The good news? Linux is free to download and like I mentioned earlier, you can boot from a USB drive and make sure things like sound and video will work for you before you commit to what one to use. Ubuntu is another great distribution you might consider. Whatever it is you will need to make that USB boot drive. I used an app called YUMI that runs on a Windows device (had access, so why not). It takes what you downloaded from your Linux choice and makes the thumb drive bootable. Once I had it all ready I rebooted and saw my 2 choices. Open Mac from hard drive or the penguin icon from the USB drive. Just like that, Linux loaded and there was an Install on the desktop waiting for me. I double clicked and told it to format the area I had dedicated for Linux to the Linux format ext4 and proceeded with the install. A reboot showed that I could boot Mac or Linux from the hard drive.
That third partition... It got formated to ms-dos(fat) so it was accessible from the Mac as well as Linux.

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