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Selahgal
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November 5, 2009 - 12:32 pm
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The last few days our RAM has dropped like a rock for no apparent reason. We have WinXP, DSL, use Firefox and IE and the drives aren't overloaded or full at all. We got a new updated modem from our ISP and use a router with four other computers. Yeah, we're a cyber family! heh. But our main computer is the only one doing this! We have a RAM monitor called 'SMART RAM' and it's usually at about 1400 to 1500 'free physical ram' and yesterday it dropped to like 500 and yesterday morning hubby said the dang thing was flashing red cause it hit 400!!! That has NEVER happened before. The SMART RAM is part of the IOBIT free ADVANCED WINDOWS CARE program.

Where should I begin to search to find the source of the problem?

Thanks in advance for all help!!

Marci

P.S. Hubby says it would be a really good idea to backup all our computer's data and I agree with him. What's the best way to backup the data? A 100 CDs, DVDs or an external hard drive or what? We got a Maxtor to back up our computer when we moved across country, then we couldn't retrieve the data from it! ARGH.

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Jim Hillier
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November 5, 2009 - 5:22 pm
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Hey Selahgal - How much physical RAM is installed in the machine?? You are putting a fair bit of trust in the IObit product. I'm not saying it is bad software, just that it might be a good idea to double check the figures before getting into panic mode. You can double check the RAM usage in several ways:

Open [b:3kx6sxbf]Task Manager[/b:3kx6sxbf] and click on the [b:3kx6sxbf]Performance[/b:3kx6sxbf] tab. Bottom left of the window you will see 'Commit Charge' containing three sub headings. Top right (of the bottom half) you will see 'Physical Memory' also with three sub headings. The 'Total' under Commit Charge is showing how much memory the computer is currently using (physical and virtual). The 'Peak' under Commit Charge is showing the highest Ram usage since you logged on to the computer. The 'Total' under Physical Memory' is showing how much physical RAM is available. Obviously, if the Total or Peak Commit Charge figure is getting anywhere near the Total Physical Memory figure, there is a problem.

Now to see which processes are using the most RAM: Open [b:3kx6sxbf]Task Manager[/b:3kx6sxbf] and click on the [b:3kx6sxbf]Processes[/b:3kx6sxbf] tab. Click in the little box next to 'Show processes from all users'. Now click on the column header [b:3kx6sxbf]Mem Usage[/b:3kx6sxbf] so that the processes using the most amount of RAM are displayed at the top.

That is going to tell you how much RAM currently loaded processes are using. Keep that displayed on top as you work and open other applications, keeping an eye out for any process using excessive RAM.

You may have software installed which is leaking memory. IMO, the best way to sort all this out is by using a freeware product from Sysinternals called 'Process Explorer'. Here is an extract from a guide I wrote on how to use Process Explorer:

[i:3kx6sxbf]"A great free program for helping analyse which processes are using the most amount of RAM is

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Selahgal
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November 5, 2009 - 5:43 pm
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Got 2.00 GB RAM .....

Now I'll read the REST of your reply!!! heh

Ok. I checked all the stuff you said to check and it appears that we're only used half of the RAM, so I guess Smart RAM is spazzing for no apparent reason!

As to the Maxtor, I re-installed the software & drivers for it, but it now just stalls at the opening screen which says:

[i:1xqizeka]Welcome to Retrospect Express HD for the Maxtor OneTouch

Updating status .....

0 restore points available[/i:1xqizeka]

and it stays there forever.

I can't click any of the option buttons like SET UP or RESTORE.

I guess I should find the Maxtor folks online and ask specifics instead of bothering you guys about it.

I do have one more question tho. Hubby says if the computer crashes that it will take the external hard drive with it. In other words, that the external hard drive will lose all the data too since it's hooked to the main computer. Is this true?

Thanks, Jim!!!

Marci

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Jim Hillier
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November 7, 2009 - 8:41 pm
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Hey Marci - It sounds as though the Maxtor drive you bought came with proprietary software for automatically backing up and restoring data and the issue you are having could very well be related to that software. In that case, it may well be of more use for you to contact the Maxtor support people. Sorry, I don't know anything about Maxtor and its software.

Now as far as the external drive losing all its data if connected when the computer crashes: No, that would generally [b:zi5ui89o]not[/b:zi5ui89o] be the case. It is the Operating System (Windows) which crashes and that should have no effect on any connected external hard drive. There may be some extraordinary circumstances where an external hard drive could actually suffer because of a system crash but I can't think of any. IMO it would be most unusual for that to happen.

What sort of backup strategy are you currently employing?? My advice would be to forget about the Maxtor's software, format the Maxtor drive (once you are certain it no longer contains any recoverable data), install some sort of imaging software to the main drive and save images to the Maxtor.

Imaging software works by creating an image of the entire system; operating system, personal data, settings, everything....plus options for saving the images to a variety of external media and, of course, the ability to restore an image. I would always recommend an external hard drive as best option for saving images.

I have always used Acronis True Image but it costs $$$. There is a very good freeware alternative called Macrium Reflect which does not include all the bells and whistles but performs the core task very, very well. It also includes the ability to create (from within the program) a bootable disc for disaster recovery.

It is a relatively simple procedure; Create a disk image and save that to the external hard drive. Now, if and when you experience problems with the system which cannot be overcome by any other means, you simply restore that image, thereby restoring everything to a known good, working state. Sort of like a super system restore. If the situation is so bad that you cannot boot to the operating system you just boot from the previously created recovery disc (CD) and restore the image from there.

I always have three images saved. I create and save a fresh image roughly every two months, replacing the oldest image with the new one. There is no real need to have 3 images but I would rather be safe than sorry and they do sometimes become corrupted...although that is rare.

The only other advice I can give is to make sure the machine is clean and tidy prior to creating an image, not much point including useless temporary files/data, etc. Before creating an image I use CCleaner to clean up temporary files and JKDefrag to defragment/optimise the hard drive.

You can have a look at Macrium Reflect (free) here: http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.asp

Cheers now.....JIM

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Selahgal
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November 9, 2009 - 10:36 am
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Currently I am backing up with System Suite [http://www.avanquest.com/USA/software/systemsuite-9-professional-114908?meta=pc-utilities&cat=anti-virus-anti-spyware&sub=antivirus-anti-virus] and overall program with many applications like firewall, defrag, antivirus, etc., that I've used for years. Hubby really is being adamant about putting our data on CDs, but that would take a lot of time and a lot of CDs so I'm trying to get the Maxtor going instead.

You may be right about the SET UP & RESTORE situation with Maxtor, I'm gonna swing by the Maxtor site today. I DID format the Maxtor yesterday. I am going to try the imaging suggestion today. Not quite sure what it means though. Are you talking about creating an icon shortcut or something? Perhaps once I get that program and get into it I'll understand it more.

Thanks again, Jim!

Marci

UPDATE: I got the Macrium downloaded and installed, but apparently the FREE version cannot image FILES and FOLDERS but only complete drives. Since the Maxtor's capacity is 189 GB and my F storage drive is 273 GB capacity, I'm back to square one, unless you have some other ideas?

Is it possible to DRAG and DROP copies of files and folders data into the Maxtor directly? I have it on G drive now. Guess I could TRY IT, eh? HAHA.

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Chad Johnson
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November 9, 2009 - 3:21 pm
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Hi Selah,

If your main drive is using less than the 180ish GB that you have available on the Maxtor, you should be able to image the drive even if it doesn't feel big enough. I've never used that software though, so your mileage may vary.

If you're looking to backup specific files and folders, I recommend Cobian Backup ([url:2wpbry3k]http://www.educ.umu.se/~cobian/cobianbackup.htm[/url:2wpbry3k]). Or, you can drag and drop the individual files.

Offhand, the only thing I can think of that would crash your computer and delete your external drive would be a very nasty virus, or an explosion. Virus protection is key. (and maybe a bomb shelter, lol).

A good option for backups is to is Mozy -- they offer 2GB free of online backups. Or pay 4.95 a month for unlimited (this is part of my backup strategy).

--zig

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Jim Hillier
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November 9, 2009 - 6:38 pm
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Hey Marci - Can you please confirm what your 'F' storage drive is. If I remember rightly, you have one internal hard drive which is partitioned so the operating system and program files are on the main (boot) partition and all personal data is on a secondary partition (F)....is that right?

If that is the case....then you've already gone a long way to safeguarding your personal data by storing it on a separate partition. That is, because it is separate from the operating system, it would not be affected by a system crash. It is the very reason that particular procedure is recommended. The only real risk to that data would be hard drive failure or, as Ziggie pointed out, a serious infection. The risk of hard drive failure, although low, is always present...even with an external hard drive. Also, the total capacity of the 'F' drive is irrelevant, it is the amount of used space which is important.

My own personal backup strategy includes imaging plus backing up any [i:3dhwu665]important[/i:3dhwu665] personal data to either CD/DVD or USB flash drive. Mind you, I have everything on just the one main hard drive, no separation of system files and personal data to different partitions.

There are heaps of free backup programs available, including Cobian and FBackup....however, I have never understood the need for dedicated data backup software. If I have any photos, documents, music, etc which are important to me I simply copy those files to a flash drive or burn them to a data CD/DVD. I don't need any 'extra' software to do that.

In your case, with all you personal data stored on a separate partition I cannot see any reason you could not use Macrium Reflect to create separate images of both partitions. An image of the main (boot) partition would allow you to restore the system in case of disaster. An image of F drive would include [i:3dhwu665][b:3dhwu665]all[/b:3dhwu665][/i:3dhwu665] the personal data on that partition. Macrium Reflect free will not back up individual files/folders but it will backup an entire disk. In other words, all the personal data on F drive in one go, which is what I thought you were after?? From then on, you can just backup any additional personal data to CD/DVD as you go along or periodically create/save a fresh image of F drive and delete the older one.

Your Maxtor is plenty big enough to hold images. The images are used space only, no unused sectors are included so the total capacity of the source drive does not come into the equation. Also, Macrium Reflect [i:3dhwu665][b:3dhwu665]compresses[/b:3dhwu665][/i:3dhwu665] the image so, even though the used hard drive space may be quite large, the resulting image will be a much smaller size. From memory, there are three levels of compression to choose from.

To finish up, let's give an example of why an image of the main (boot) drive is so useful : Your system crashes, it will not operate properly and cannot be fixed. You have personal data only backed up. You would then need to; re-install the operating system from scratch, download and install all the program files, download and install all updates (from the very beginning), re-configure all program settings (e.g. email, browser, internet, etc.).
Now the same scenario with a backup image; restore the image, download and install any updates only since the time the image was created....all done!!

Cheers mate.....JIM

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Selahgal
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November 10, 2009 - 10:43 am
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Thanks guys!!!

Yes we did that partition for exactly that reason in case of a crash, we wouldn't lose everything. Well, now we got TWO backups then! I couldn't get the Macrium working right, but I was able to drag and drop the data into the Maxtor at G drive! Even got room to spare on it.

I guess I'm confused about the image thing. When it takes a picture or creates an image of the drives, is that the same as having the information/data copied to the storage drive? Is it the same as Disk Snapshot??? System Suite has Disk Snapshot too. Or is imaging totally different ??? I think trying to understand this may be more than my brain can handle! Heh.

Thanks again for the wealth of information!!! You guys are the BEST!!!

Marci

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Jim Hillier
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November 10, 2009 - 4:52 pm
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[i:1pmbc84a]"A disk image is a single file containing the complete contents of a data storage medium or device, such as a hard drive. A disk image is usually created by creating a complete sector-by-sector copy of the source medium and thereby perfectly replicating the structure and contents of a storage device. Most modern disk imaging utilities omit unused file space from source media and compress the disk they represent to reduce storage requirements."[/i:1pmbc84a]

Hey Marci - That is a quote (edited slightly) from Wikipedia on disk imaging. I couldn't put it any better so I plagiarized it....

I think maybe the terminology is confusing you somewhat....substitute 'clone' for 'image' and that may help. Putting it in the simplest terms possible...a disk image is an exact and complete copy of a hard disk's content, excluding unused sectors, compressed and saved to a single file.

There are only a few basic steps involved:
1) Select source drive (the drive you wish to copy)
2) Select destination media (generally external hard drive which, when connected, is recognised by the imaging software).
3) Create and save image.

Here is a link to an article I wrote for the DCT news letter. It's a basic guide on how to create and save an image using Acronis but, as I said before, Macrium Reflect is very similar:
https://davescomputertips.com/newsle ... 081115.php

I recently introduced a mate of mine to disk imaging and, ironically, just afterward he experienced a horrible issue with Windows Updates which proved very difficult (if not impossible) to fix. The update did not complete properly and his computer got stuck in a continuous loop as it attempted to finish installing it. He could not access the operating system, not even in safe mode. Once it became apparent there was no easy way to overcome the problem he just restored an image which he had created earlier, all is well again now.

If more people used disk imaging software they would just about put the local computer repair shop out of business...

cheers......JIM

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Selahgal
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November 10, 2009 - 10:27 pm
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Ok so basically you're reproducing or making a copy of whatever drive you want to save a copy of, but how can put 273 GB into 189 GB of space? Compression?

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Jim Hillier
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November 11, 2009 - 3:51 pm
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Hi Marci - Are you reading right through my replies mate??? It is the amount of [b:uw37qu0q][i:uw37qu0q]used[/i:uw37qu0q][/b:uw37qu0q] space which is relevant and [b:uw37qu0q]not[/b:uw37qu0q] the [b:uw37qu0q][i:uw37qu0q]total capacity [/i:uw37qu0q][/b:uw37qu0q]of the drive.

Firstly, when you say 273GB I think you are still talking about the [i:uw37qu0q]total[/i:uw37qu0q] disk size and not just the amount of used space?? I can't see you having 273GB of data....e.g. my main disk (C) shows: Total Capacity = 233GB ----- Free Space = 171GB. Now, if you deduct the amount of free space from the total capacity you will get the amount of[b:uw37qu0q] [i:uw37qu0q]used [/i:uw37qu0q][/b:uw37qu0q]space which, in my case, amounts to just 62GB.

The Free (unused) Space is not copied which means only the used 62GB would be copied to an image.

And secondly; Yes, the program will compress that 62GB so the resulting file will in fact be much smaller.

If I am wrong and you do actually have 273GB of data then I humbly apologise.

Cheers Marci......JIM

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Selahgal
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November 11, 2009 - 4:53 pm
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Apologies, Jim! I am reading your posts, just forgetting half of it and trying to understand the rest. Not your fault, my old age and missing brain cells fault!

Thanks so much Jim & Zig! I do appreciate it very much!

Marci

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Jim Hillier
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November 11, 2009 - 5:10 pm
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[b:29gi58vk][i:29gi58vk]"my old age and missing brain cells fault!"[/i:29gi58vk][/b:29gi58vk]

Now [i:29gi58vk]that[/i:29gi58vk] I can relate to mate!!!!

Funny thing is I can remember something from 20 years back but ask me what happened 18 seconds ago and.....forget about it!!!

My dearly beloved better half reckons I have the memory retention of a retarded tadpole....

So Marci, I need to know...how much used space[i:29gi58vk][b:29gi58vk] is[/b:29gi58vk][/i:29gi58vk] on that drive??????? I won't sleep until you tell me!!!!

cheers and beers....JIM

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Selahgal
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November 12, 2009 - 9:33 am
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My F Drive has a capacity of 273 GB, 154 of which is being used at the moment.

Oh my gosh, I COULD HAVE put my entire F Drive info onto my Maxtor huh!!!

Oy Vay!

Sweet dreams!!

Marci

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Chad Johnson
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November 13, 2009 - 11:43 pm
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well, you're thinking about backups which is a big step ahead of most people.

i only want to correct one thing said above:

the chance of your hard drive failing someday is 100% it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. the better question is: are you prepared? Having backups = prepared.

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