Recovering Programs after a Disk Crash

Running InfraRecorder, select "to a Disc Image"
When I'm traveling on the ICW I use my iPad for about 90% of computing power on board and it has served me well. However, the remaining 10% is very important and consists of publishing the blog every night and occasional route planning. So it was very unsettling when my laptop died with a hard drive crash. That experience led to the previous article on how to recover from that disaster when isolated on a boat.

I now want to cover how to better prepare (than I did) for such an unsettling experience. Following the previous article, I now had my laptop up and running with the new hard drive but nothing was loaded except Windows 10. I had all my old passwords stored on my iPad so at least that was not a problem. I started loading programs:
- Email:  I just used the mail program which comes with Windows 10. It's not very pretty but it gets the job done.
- Browser: Win10 comes with window's Edge browser but I like Google Chrome, available for downloading (I used Edge for that first download)
- I signed into Google's Blogger site and I was up and running on my blog.
- Cloud Storage: I downloaded Google Drive and after sync'ing I could access all my old data, nothing was lost. I also had access via my iPad without interruption during the crash.
- I downloaded the latest Norton Security program and activated it with my Norton password.
- I downloaded Quicken (no charge for the download) and activated it with my Quicken password. Now I was reconnected to all my accounts although I already had access via my iPad.
- Next was a download of InfraView, a very useful free, photo editing program for about 95% of my photo editing needs (cropping, resolution reduction for the web, etc.)

After clicking "to a Disc Image" you get to name it and where to save it
At this point I started to run into trouble. I use Adobe CS4 for more advanced photo editing and that disk was at home in New York as were the disks for Microsoft ExcelWord, and Publisher. On the iPad I just use the Apple corresponding products of NumbersPages and Keynote (but not a Publisher counterpart). They work well on the iPad but I needed a PC solution. I've found the Microsoft Office 2000 versions of Excel and Word have more than enough power for my uses and they're paid for, no monthly fee like the new products. My copy of Adobe CS4 also has no monthly fee, a thing to be treasured.

I never found a way around the problem of not having the installation disks while on my boat. One option is to download Apache Open Office  as suggested by Fred Brillo with the same capabilities as the Microsoft Office suite and best of all it's free. All data can be exchanged to and from the Microsoft suite, the formats are fully compatible. However, if you still want to stick with your favorite office suite as I did, then I did find a solution and it may be of interest to those cruising in remote places when you suffer from a computer meltdown. Whether it's just a disk crash or a complete loss of your laptop, you will need those installation disks for your fix. I don't know if you've noticed or not but most new laptops do not come with a CD or DVD reader anymore. Luckily, you do not need one if you plan ahead. The solution is to read all installation disks you might need while at home on your desktop computer with a CD reader attached. Use InfraRecorder to transfer the contents of the disk to an ISO file. The program is free and does not contain malware or ads like many similar programs. Let's be clear on one point, this is perfectly legal since the programs are protected with product keys which you have to know to activate the programs. You're just making a more convenient format for installation on your laptop. If you don't know the program keys anymore (lost, forgot, etc.) then they can be recovered from a computer with the programs already installed, like your desktop at home. The best program to use is Belarc Advisor. It prints out a complete listing with product codes of everything stored on your computer and more. It is free and safe, no malware or viruses. Needless to say, store the output in a safe place. I put my copy in the cloud on my Google Drive where I can always access it.

To install a program, right click on the ISO file and select "Open with" and "Windows Explorer"
I then opened InfraRecorder and inserted the first installation disk, in my case I started with Microsoft Word. For each disk it will ask you to name it and where you want to store the resulting ISO file (that's the file type, e.g., xxxxx.iso). So I transferred Word, Excel, Publisher and Adobe CS4 as ISO files to my Google Drive which I can access anytime I have an internet connection. I can also just store the ISO files on a USB thumb drive if desired or on my iPad for easy access.

After right clicking on "Windows Explorer" you're presented with the disc contents. Click on an EXE file, either SETUP.EXE or INSTALL.EXE
Now comes the best part. Windows 10 can read an ISO file just as if a CD drive was reading the disk. The path to do this depends on whether or not you have another program as the default program to open ISO files. You won't see the option to Mount the ISO disk if you have another program as the default choice in Win10. To get around this, just right click on the ISO file you want to install and hover with the pointer over "Open with" and you will see a selection labeled "Windows Explorer". Left click on that option when the mouse pointer is over that option. Then double click on either Setup.exe or Install.exe, the choice differs between install programs. You can now proceed to do an install.

So the next time (hopefully never) I have a crash or lose my laptop, I can reload my Microsoft and Adobe programs from the ISO files stored in the cloud on my Google Drive just using Windows 10 as described above.