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We enjoy taking our laptops or tablets with us when we travel. But what do we do when the blue screen of death appears? Or our laptop is stolen. Here are some tips and advice should the unthinkable happen to your laptop while away from home.
Tip Number 1. Carry a bootable flash drive containing your computer’s Operating System.
Flash drives are the modern way of moving and storing data today. An 8Gb flash drive is cheap costing less than $5.00 but is big enough to store a complete computer operating system.
Carrying a bootable flash drive loaded with your computers OS will give you a quick and easy recovery method if your PC crashes and won’t reboot. You will also need your Windows product key to reinstall the operating system. It can be found on a Microsoft label usually on the bottom of the PC. http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/9585/how-to-setup-a-usb-flash-drive-to-inst %0d%0a%0d%0aall-windows-7/: Here’s a link to some setup instructions for creating Windows 10, 8 and 7 installations on a flash drive.
If you have upgraded to Windows 10, your original Windows 7 or 8 product keys will no longer work. You will need your new Windows 10 product key. Here’s a tool for finding product keys after upgrading.
Tip Number 2. Use Software from Cloud Services
Using software from a cloud service is another great recovery method. I use Office 365. But there’s plenty more to choose from such as Openoffice.Org. These services allow you to download Office programs to
your PC from your online account. They’re good way to go as you don’t need to carry backups of your software. I can log into my Office 365 admin portal and download all of my Office programs.
I also buy software from Amazon. Amazon keeps a digital copy of your purchased software with the licensing keys. You log into your account, go to the software library then download and reinstall your programs.
Tip Number 3. Use Cloud Storage.
Using cloud storage is an excellent method of protecting your data from loss. They are two types of cloud storage services available, synchronization and backup. I prefer sync as it automatically synchronizes files from one PC to another.
I use Microsoft’s One Drive as my file synchronization service. Windows 10 comes with OneDrive built in, and I get 1 TB of storage with my Office 365 subscription.
Two other data synchronization services I recommend are SugarSync and Amazon Web Services. I’ve used both but like SugarSync over Amazon because it works with the existing directory structure on the PC.
Another advantage with Cloud Storage is you can access your files from any computer connected to the internet. You should use two-factor authentication with these services as an extra layer of protection for any sensitive documents
or personal information stored.
Tip Number 4. Replace your laptop Hard Drive with a Solid State Drive.
Replacing your laptop hard drive with a solid state drive is an excellent insurance policy. Solid-State drives aren’t prone to mechanical failures like hard drives and are more shock resistant. In addition to reliability, solid-state drives are faster and use less power resulting in quicker boot times and battery life for your PC.
Tip Number 5. Keep Emails on the Email Server.
Regardless of which email client and protocol you use, (POP, IMAP or Exchange) configure your client to store both sent and received emails on the server. I use Microsoft Outlook and have set it to store my email messages on the server for three years. Anything older than this, I move into an archive file and create a backup of it that I keep indefinitely.
I prefer using IMAP or Exchange because these support folders. Should I need to restore my email messages, my email client downloads them back into the original folders I stored them in.
Also, Exchange Server keeps your contact information and calendar schedules synchronize with Outlook. It also acts as a backup for this information should you need to reload Outlook after a computer failure.
Tip Number 6. Set a Hard Drive Password in the computer BIOS.
In a stolen laptop, the most valuable loss is the data stored on its hard drive. There are several encryption programs available that will encrypt your hard drive in case of loss or theft. But they are not necessary as your hard drive has a built-in security protection feature. You just need to activate it!
From the computer’s BIOS, you can set a hard drive password. Once set, each time you power on your computer, the hard drive will ask you for a password before it reads its data.
Most hard drives become permanently locked after 10 failed password attempts. In the case of a stolen laptop, the thief won’t be able to access your hard disk unless he knows the correct password. Programs are available on the Internet that promised to unlock a locked drive. But none of these programs are capable of recovering the data. Also, taking a locked hard drive to a data recovery company won’t help as they won’t be able to retrieve the data from it either. If it’s locked and you can’t remember the password, the data has gone forever.
In addition to setting the hard drive password, I recommend setting windows to either hibernate or shut down when you close the lid of your laptop. This way, when you close the lid, it’s completely powered off and will require the Hard Drive Password before rebooting when powered on.
One final note, don’t confuse the hard drive password with the BIOS password. The BIOS password can be easily reset by removing the small battery from the motherboard. Therefore, it’s not as secure.
Tip Number 7. The software you have on CD or DVD copy to a Flash Drive or Cloud Storage.
If you are using software that has its installation on CD or DVD’s, then I recommend copying these installation disks to a zip file and storing this file on a flash drive that you carry with you, or better yet store it in the cloud. If they are any licensing keys needed to reinstall and run this software, then copy these keys into a PDF file and keep this file in the same place. You can use the same bootable flash drive with your operating system installation to store your software installations.
Following these tips will lessen the pain and enable you to recover quickly should anything happen to your laptop or tablet while traveling. Although I have never had my laptop stolen, I’ve experienced plenty of blue screens of death and the dread that comes along with them. Last time it happened was the day after Thanksgiving when I was visiting family in Michigan. Because I followed the tips above, I was able to get my computer back up and running with all my software and data in less than five hours. I hope this never happens to you. But if it does, remember preparation is key to a quick recovery.