Be prepared

Save yourself pain and suffering when things go wrong by taking precautions while things are going right.

We’ll talk about backups in another column, but you should do two things immediately.

Create Recovery Media

If your computer will start Windows, you will *probably* have access to built-in tools that can help you recover from problems.

But if Windows won’t start, the only way you’re going to get to the tools is with an actual Windows installation disc or with a recovery drive that you’ve already created.

This is not a backup (which you should do often); it’s a toolkit to recover your computer from serious failures. Make your recovery drive when you first set up your computer.

You don’t have to do that again until you complete a major Windows upgrade. (Did you upgrade your computer from Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10?

You need to create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive. Did you upgrade your Windows 10 to the latest version? You need to create a new Recovery Drive.)

In Windows 10:

  • Type recovery into the Search box.
  • Click on Create a recovery drive.
  • Answer Yes to any User Account Control prompts you might get.
  • The Recovery Media Creator opens, offering a brief explanation and a choice. Put a check in the box that says Back up system files to the recovery drive.
  • Put a flash drive into a USB port, and then click Next. (You will likely need either a 16 GB or 32 GB flash drive. The Recovery Media Center will tell you.)
  • You’ll see a warning that everything on the drive will be deleted, and it will be/ So, make sure this drive has nothing on it you want to keep. If you have more than one external drive plugged in, make sure you’re selecting the one you want to use as a recovery drive. When you’re ready, click Next.
  • You’ll get another warning. When you’re ready, click Create.
  • This will take some time. When the drive is ready, you’ll be notified. Click on Finish.

Safely remove the drive, label it, and store it someplace where you can get to it in an emergency. Helpful hint: If your computer is a laptop, take the recovery drive in the bag with you.

Are you still running Windows 8.1? Your instructions are here

Windows 7 was different. You need a system repair disc. See this Microsoft article.

Keep track of your passwords

Every day, someone tells me passwords are confusing. Every. Single. Day.

I already know that. That’s why I write them down. A friend put this sign on my Facebook page:

My short-term memory is terrible. And so is my short-term memory.

That’s also why I write them down.

People. Please. Write down your passwords. Write down what each password is for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen scraps of paper in a pile.

Each scrap has a password on it, but no clue what the password is for.

There are plenty of programs and browser extensions and systems that will keep track of your passwords for you. Each of those has a learning curve.

The easiest system I’ve found that does not involve learning anything new is a piece of paper and a pencil. You can get as fancy as you want. You can get as simple as you want, too.

Try something like this:

  • WHAT FOR           SIGN IN                      PASSWORD                 NOTES
  • Email                     [email protected]      Perfectst0rm                 Changed May 2015
  • Facebook              [email protected]      IllNeverTell
  • WiFi                       My_Network                Ph0neh0me2n1ght      Home network
  • Bank Account        124586499064739     UnderTheMatre$$       Chequing

Do you also want an app to manage your passwords? Each has its strengths and weaknesses; keep going until you find something you like.

And while you’re experimenting — Write down your passwords

When you find a program, you like — Write down your passwords

Here are some password management tools:

If you want a worksheet like the one above, you can download it here.

How do you keep track of your passwords? If you have a system you like, please send email to  [email protected] and let me know if I can share it.


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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

Computer Care Kelowna

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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