Back-up Your Solid-State Hard Drive!

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I was recently assigned a new Samsung Notebook Series 9 and was excited to hear the new system had a 128 GB Solid-State Drive (SSD). I have heard about these new drives for the last couple years, and was looking forward to the fast data transfers the devices provide. However, the tech who handed off the device offered some sobering news. He explained that data would be nearly impossible to restore if the drive ever failed.

Unlike hard disk drives, this new solid state drive has no moving parts and I thought my data was going to be safe; however, that is not the case. SSDs have higher vulnerability abrupt power loss, magnetic fields and electric charges compared to normal HDDs. Additionally, SSDs have a limited number of write cycles, the ability to write to the device will eventually wear out, thus leading to potential data loss. I also quickly discovered there was no CD drive on my new system either, which presented another obstacle I needed to overcome.

Fortunately, there are some great tools to keep your information safe and easily accessible from almost any device (even non-Windows):

Windows Live Mesh

Windows Live Mesh is part of the Windows Live Essentials 2011 collection of free applications from Microsoft that includes tools for managing photos, movies, instant messaging, email, social networking. All the tools come bundled as one download; however you can selectively install only the applications you need.

With Windows Live Mesh and the Devices website, you can finally stop emailing files to yourself, carrying them around on a USB drive, or worrying whether the version you have with you is the latest.

Once Live Mesh is installed you can setup synchronization between multiple devices, your SkyDrive and even a Windows Mobile phone.

Below is a screenshot that shows the Devices view on the Web.

Microsoft OneNote & OneNote Web App

OneNote Web App makes it easy to share files with people who work on earlier versions of Microsoft Office for Windows or Mac, or even with those who don’t have Microsoft Office on their computer.

Save your OneNote notebooks online and then access, edit, and share them from virtually any computer with an Internet connection.

  • Simultaneously edit the same shared notebook with others who are using OneNote Web App or OneNote 2010.
  • Create new pages and sections and use other familiar features that you know from OneNote, including AutoCorrect, spell-checking as you type, font and paragraph formatting, text styles, tags, and more.
  • See who authored specific content in a shared notebook and access previous page versions.
  • Insert pictures, tables, and even ClipArt.

Below is a screenshot that shows how I use my own OneNote notebook collection. The GREEN icons show that a notebook is connected to the source (in this case my SkyDrive), the GRAY icons show the notebook is not connected. If a notebook is BOLD, that is an indication that the file has been changed.

Office Web Apps—including OneNote, Excel, PowerPoint, and Microsoft Word Web App—give you flexible access, a familiar editing environment, and a selection of features that you already know to help you get your work done on your terms. I suggest you keep all your OneNote notebooks in the My Documents folder of your SkyDrive. This is the default folder that OneNote will first sync with when you log into the application with your Windows Live ID.

If you want to sync with an individual notebook from your SkyDrive, first open the notebook in your Web browser, then click on the Open in OneNote icon.

MagicDisc Virtual CD Drive

Another inconvenience is the lack of a CD drive. You can overcome this by using ISO images that emulate a CD disk. Here I diverge from Microsoft solutions.

There are a few different tools for mounting ISO images that will work on Windows 7. The one I like is called MagicDisc v2.7.106 and CNET have a free download available on their website.

According to the CNET website, MagicDisc supports creating up to 15 virtual drivers. You can run games, software, see movies (VCD, SVCD, DVD), and hear music directly from your hard disk without inserting and swapping CDs and DVDs. MagicDisc allows you to use almost all CD/DVD image without burning them onto CD or DVD in order to easily access your favorite games, music, or software programs. It works like a real CD/DVD-ROM.

Once the MagicDisc application is installed it lives in the Notification area of the Task Bar.

According to the MagicDisc Web site, the application is very helpful utility designed for creating and managing virtual CD drives and CD/DVD discs. For anyone who deals with CD-based programs – it is a MUST. MagicDisc allows you to use almost all CD/DVD image without burning them onto CD or DVD in order to easily access your favorite games, music, or software programs – it works like a real CD or DVD drive: you can run programs, play games, or listen to music from your virtual CD-ROM. It even allows you to run your game images at over 200x faster than from a conventional drive.