Fate Plays IT…

Things have been a little bit dead around here. Mostly because Fin and I have been hugely distracted from other activities. My main PC was knocked out by a thunderstorm a few months back. Not long after, Fin’s mom lost her computer as well.

Apparently, 2014 wasn’t a good year for the SuburbanReject family’s electronics.


Fin and I discussed things, and decided on building a new PC.

Parts Picture


At this point, I’ve FINALLY finished building / rebuilding / installing / reinstalling and tweaking the system. This was the first PC build I’ve done in a long while. I stopped using custom built PCs roughly 4 years ago, when I decided I had better things to do with my time. Not sure why, but my nerd took over again and I wanted to tweak and customize. For the nerds out there, PCPartsPicker is a fairly cool site that does a good job with organizing a build and finding good prices. I easily saved $200-300 off the retail costs of all these parts over the course of the build through a combination of careful shopping and using that site. I’ve posted the gory details / nerd porn over in a review and write-up at the same site.

Software, Software, Software

Given the death and rebuild of two computers, it seemed like a good team to evaluate software choices and find new / better solutions based on my previous tried and true solutions.

Backup Solutions


I played with multiple different backup software solutions. Previously, my go-to has always been a simple clonezilla image of the post-install computer, and then attempting to burn regular DVD backups.

Loosing my last PC, I discovered that:

  • I don’t make backups nearly as often as I thought
  • Backups are worthless if you lose them

Currently, somewhere within 3 different family houses, there is a DVD binder with years worth of pictures and digital archives. This DVD binder is missing. I’ve been working through multiple old hard drives, saving off backups, and looking for new/old files and trying to restore my previous archive of my digital life.

At the same time, I’ve bought-in to the idea of backing up to the cloud. After looking at multiple vendors, I’ve landed on CrashPlan. It’s got a couple cool things going for it: cloud storage at a decent price and the ability to backup to personal cloud / other computers. The only real gripe I have is that they don’t really give a good method for whole-PC backup / restore. For that, I’ll keep using Clonezilla and burning to BlueRay BDR.


With Windows 8.1, I’ve been a little bit irritated at Microsoft’s Security Essentials package. Not to mention, there’s a lot of knowledgeable people advising against using just that. While I’m generally careful with browsing, I do leave a bit open to the internet (for remote access), and like the idea of at least a basic antivirus program.

After some experimentation and playing with trial software, I landed on BitDefender. There software gets good reviews for detecting malware and the system load is minimal compare to major free  antivirus programs.

I purchased the solution from Herman Street and saved a bit of cash. Transaction was smooth / easy.

Data Recovery

I’m not sure what sad circumstances caused it, but I’ve never seen a data drive quiet as toasted as I received from Fin’s Mom. At first, it appeared to be a lost cause. While physically fine, I’ve not seen the data on a drive so well and truly shredded before. After creating a mirror, I ran the volume through multiple data recovery tools, both free and commercial. Usually, testdisk can work some serious magic.

In the end, after trying multiple system recovery tools, including: Recover My Files, Restorer Ultimate, Recuva, and others I can’t remember, I found *one* just *one* that didn’t resort to raw signature based recovery: Stellar Phoenix.

Stellar’s software works for data recovery. While the UI looks like it’s designed by a two year old, the option selection sucks, and the whole thing feels *clunky*, it managed to process and restore gigs of lost family photos, tax records, and more. And that’s *without* going to the effort of raw data recover where you sort through endless files named Image0001.jpg, Image0002.jpg, many of which are browser thumbnails or mis-matched data.

So, if you have managed to toast a drive without killing the hardware, give it a shot.

Back to your regularly scheduled program…

I don’t make any promises on posting while Fin and I are working an extra job, but… at least I’ve got our computer situation sorted out this week. Next week? Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed nothing new dies.




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