How to prepare in advance for a computer failure

(MoneyWatch) The very nature of computer failures are that they are inherently unexpected. For the most part, you can count on your desktop PC or network to operate smoothly and uneventfully, lulling you into a false sense of security. But it's always a matter of when -- not if -- something catastrophic will happen. And it doesn't matter if it's your hard drive or your network router that fails. Either way, you'll have to scramble to fix it and get up and running again.

The thing to keep in mind is that it's fairly painless to plan ahead. With just a few precautions, you can dramatically lessen the impact of a computer failure, and make it a snap to get up and running much faster than you might otherwise. As detailed over at eHow Tech, here are the key details to keep in mind:

Have a dual backup. It goes without saying that a reliable backup is essential to any computer recovery. But don't put all your eggs in one basket: Have both a local backup, which makes it easier to recover after a data failure, and a remote or cloud-based backup, so you're safe if your PC is ever stolen or your computer is consumed in a fire.

Build your own recover checklist. This should be stored on paper -- not on your computer -- and contain a list of all the settings and other details you'll need to rebuild a computer after a hard drive failure. The document should tell you everything you need to know to get connected to email, for example, as well as how to tap into the network printer.

Build your network with the simplest solution in mind. There are several solutions to any tech problem, and often you'll opt to Band-Aid a network problem or PC glitch. Unfortunately, that makes the whole system less stable, more fragile, and harder to restore. Whenever possible, go with the simplest solution, even if it costs a few dollars more.

Remember to only change one thing at a time. Don't fix or upgrade a PC by changing three things at once. If something doesn't work right, you'll then spend six times as long troubleshooting the issue because it's difficult to tell what change caused the new problem.

What strategies help you recover from computer failures quickly? Share your advice and experiences in the comments.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Justin Marty