“Restore,” in this case, means “getting your data back.” It’s one of the more logical bits of jargon in the computer industry, since the technological meaning is pretty close to the everyday meaning. Restoring data is a bit like restoring a painting: the idea is to put it back like it was and fix any damage. Ideally, however, restoring your data should be faster and less painstaking than taking the smoke and wax off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
If your backups are straightforward copies of files, the restore process is as simple as dragging files from your backup media onto your hard drive. If the reason you need the backup copy is because you deleted the original, then the drag-and-drop should proceed without interruption. If the original file is damaged but still in its folder, you’ll get a dialog box asking whether you’re sure you want to replace the existing file with the one you’re copying. Just tell it “yes” and you should be all set.
It’s often possible to restore individual files from drive images by using an Explorer-like feature included in the backup program. I can start up Ghost Explorer, open a Norton Ghost backup image (this takes a while, as the drive images are both large and spanned across multiple files), then navigate through the file structure to the file I want, right-click, and restore it to its original location or a different one.
Mozy, the online backup service I use, integrates with Windows and shows up in Windows Explorer and “My Computer” as “Mozy Remote Backup.” I can right-click on any file there and restore it to the destination of my choice. This does not remove it from the Mozy backup. (In fact, the only way to remove anything from a Mozy backup is to redefine your backup set, as I discovered when reshuffling my folder structure left me with lots of duplicate files in the backup, and no space left in my quota.)
If it’s the whole drive you need to restore, you normally insert the boot CD or floppy, start the program you used to make the backup, and select an image to restore. This can take some time, depending on the size of the drive image and the type of backup media. If you have to restore from multiple CDs or DVDs, it’s likely to take a lot longer than if you’re restoring over a USB 2, FireWire, or network connection.
In working with Norton Ghost, I’ve found that restoring data is much faster than backing it up. I’m sure the Ur-Guru could tell you why, if you could actually get through to him. (The waves of rubberneckers drooling over his home office page have crashed the web server several times in the past weeks, earning the wrath of the hosting company.)
Because all backup programs are different, I can’t be much more specific than that on how to restore your data. I do want to emphasize the need to test your backups by restoring files, even if you don’t want to take the plunge and restore a drive image right after you’ve made it, to be sure it worked. (This is a bit scary.)
If you can’t restore your data from your backups, you’re faced with the much more expensive proposition of trying to recover it. And anyone who’s had to do that will tell you that it’s no fun at all.