How do you back up your important files?
Well it happened. My hard drive crashed last week and I don’t have much in the way of back up. Lots of stuff gone. All sorts of writing at various stages…musings…ideas…drafts…stalled starts…
It’s my own fault. I never did listen to people who said “back everything up”. I’m listening now. People have told me they have two hard drives installed and only work on one. Others say they burn CDs weekly, or daily. Zip drives. Computers networked together.
So what do YOU do? How do you back up your stuff that matters? I’m all ears and taking notes. Thanks for the advice.
Knowing you, your habits, your abilities, and the value of what you lost... I would recommend the following.
Buy a cd burner.
Buy an extra hard drive. Or, alternatively I have a one or two gig hard drive, that I can give you. All you need is two gigs at the most for backing up the important stuff. You don't need to constantly back up all your programs, just the stuff that you create with them.
Backup everything that you have, right now, to cd's. Then burn a new cd, or couple of cd's, (or a half dozen), whatever it takes, to back up your whole hard drive, every week.
In between, backup all your important stuff... The stuff that you have created, the stuff you have downloaded, your bookmarks, etc... To the secondary hard drive.
Once a week, when you backup the whole primary drive, then you can empty the secondary hard drive, and start over again.
It may seem like a waste of time to make all those cd's, and to juggle the files in between times. It may also seem a lot easier to just have a secondary hard drive that is as big, or bigger than the primary, and just make constant backups to it. But I can testify that neither is the case. You know that I lost a computer... It had two hard drives. Both became doorstops at the same time.
Not taking the time to do the intermediary backups means the loss of anything in between. Not taking the time to do the full backup weekly, no matter how long you have to keep feeding cd's, means you will essentialy have to start over from scratch, as you already have. And if you do that, but only have the 'important stuff' backed up, you will find yourself spending a heckuva lot more time reinstalling programs, setting them up again, and then trying to get the old info reintegrated again... Than you would have spent, just feeding cd's at backup time.
With full backups on cd's, you can lose your entire hard drive, as you did. Then format. Pop in the cd's, and copy everything back onto the hard drive, and yer good to go in a couple hours.
If you want, I can come over with the hard drive, and can walk you through the rest of it.
What was the cause of the hard drive crash ?
Should I lecture you on having a good anti-viral, and firewall ?
edited to add:
If you start burning cd's, I recommend that you stay away from the re-writeable disks. When I had a burner, I found a lot more disks coming out of the machine that could only be read by the burner when finished. In other words, the disk couldn't be read by any other cd drive. To me, that is not a good thing.
Edited 1/13/2003 8:54:49 PM ET by Luka
I just had the computer that held my business inside it start acting really weird. Scary.
The good news, it was all backed up on a Zip. CDs are good too, though.
Even with that, it took about 4 evenings of fighting with the new computer to get at all the old files and get everything working again and get all my stuff back the way I wanted it.
The point: backup is crucial but not enough.
Even if it hurts, keep up with the new technology, upgrade your operating system every few years if you need to, keep all the relevant drivers handy, and keep a hard copy of anything mission essential.
BTW, I think Norton Utilities has saved me a few dozen times too.
It's worth it.
However you end up creating your backups keep them some place other than where your pc is located. Someplace like a firesafe in another part of the office or at home or someplace so that if your pc burns up in a fire (God forbid) you don't loose the backed up data sitting right next to the pc.
I understand that there is software that allows you to "ghost" a hard drive. I guess every time you save something it saves it on both drives automatically. This would save you from what sounds like happened this time but would not from a fire and might not if malicious virus got in the box and started tearing things up.
First of all, save all of your files under one folder. For example, create a folder called Files, then under there you can have folders called Spreadsheets, Word, CAD, etc to store the files for each program you use.
Then add a second hard drive. They are cheap now days so I'd go ahead and get a 20 or 30 gb. And get a new one because a used one is already starting to wear out. Then all you need to do is open Explorer and drag the Files folder over to the second hard drive and everything will be backed up. For future backups most of the files will be there so you can either delete the files on the 2nd drive first for a clean back up or just click yes to over write the existing files. Or get a program like FileSync that will show you which files need to be backed up and only back up those.
The best back up is to have another computer on the network that has the second hard drive.
I don't bother burning CDs, hard drives are pretty cheap these days.
And if you need help on that network from a pro let me know :-)
Zip 100 meg
old but great
Save your software in a separate location from your working files.
I'm running 3 hard drives: One with everything on it; One with software (programs) only; One with duplicate working files.
Warning: even after making safety copies of software as part of the initial installation routine, I have had occasions where I was unable to re-install software following a catastrophic crash, whether from the original factory diskettes or from backup diskettes (haven't suffered this misfortune with programs purchased on CD - yet).
Can't beat CD's, in my mind. 700 megs per disc, about 20 cents apiece. Burning them is idiot-proof, and any current computer comes with a burner and good software. If you do any design work, you never have to worry about that ugly "disk full" box popping up.
A second hard drive is the most convenient and reliable for me. A cd burner is good, but not as automatic as saving all your work on the 2nd hard drive.
Hard drive 1): programs
Hard drive 2): your personal files
Don't rely on CD-RW's, CD-R's are cheap and dependable.
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.....
All the ideas above are good. Let me tell you what I do.
My hard drive (30 gig) is partitioned into a "C", "D", and "E" drive.
"C" is the operating system ONLY and the files that the other programs throw on to there. Nothing else! When a program asks where to install, I always go to "D". The partitioning is done by "Partition Magic" a PowerQuest program. "C" is about 2gb large.
"D" is my program drive. It has everything from my mail and authoring programs, including a mirror of "C". For the mirroring, I use (again) Powerquest DriveImage, and the image of "C" is burned EVERY MONTH. It keeps everything up to date on the Registry so I don't have to add too much if I need to restore. "D is about 26 GB.
"E" is my data drive. Only 1 gb, but all my data fits there including stuff I don't care about, like personal correspondance. The actual space used is about 600 mb. This, I burn a cd for every week and keep it for 3 weeks, then throw it away.
Hopes this helps your options.
At my age, my fingers & knees arrive at work an hour after I do.
Aaron the Handyman
You've got plenty of good advice so far, but let me add a couple of things.
When I upgrade computers, I always keep the primary hard drive from the old one and install it in the new one. That does 2 things - It allows me to keep copies of stuff I have alread done, and it's automatically in the new computer. It also allows me to use the second hard drive for backups.
One other thought - I use email for backups. I have a folder on my hard drive at work called "Stuff from home". Stuff that I don't EVER want to lose I just email to work and leave there. That way the stuff will be available even if my house burns down. ie:I have the "My new helper" pic backed up at work.............(-:
A CD burner would be hard to beat for a backup medium. It's also useful for making music CDs, and transering large files. If you use one, make sure you label what's on them and when you backed them up. Nothing's worse than having a bunch of backups and having no idea what's on any of them.
I intend to live forever.
So far, so good.
Got a Sony CD burnr off the net for $60, came with a number of software options, one of which is called Retrospect 5.6, very simple to backup files to CD. Takes about 5 minutes for 500 MB. Also keep a number of hard drives in a drawer with the basic programs loaded.
Also have a second computer with 2 hard drives networked for backup, it only has 2 GB hard drives, but only cost $8 at Boeing surplus.
BTW for those in the pacific NW, the surplus store has been selling pallets loaded with 40ea 233 MHz computers (Dell GXi) with the 2 GB hard drives for $40 for the whole lot - lots of backup hard drives (mostly Maxtors) available that way <G>
You may, depending on what happened internally, be able to send your hard drive to a data recovery service. Sometimes it is just a bad controller or a FAT table error and not physical damage to the disc surfaces. This may cost some $ but think of all the time you've got invested in that little box.
I'm switching from ZIP disks to the Portable USB Storage Devices. They're available in 64, 128 and 256 Meg versions. Most of your stuff is probably text files and some pictures. You got any idea how many text files will fit on a 64 meg storage device? Office Depot and Office Max are practically giving these 64 meg devices away with in-store and mail-in rebates. The CDs aren't a bad idea, but are real suseptible to physical damage. (Heat, scratches, cracks, etc.)
PS: Did you ever find a way to market that sawdust pile you got in the back yard?
The files on the drive that crashed may be recoverable - there are companies that specialize in just that.
Keep multiple back ups - one "accessible" to the work place, one somewhere else (and others as per below.)
My experience is that for magnetic media (floppies, tape drives, azip drives) the back ups only last so long, they start to lose details and the files become corrupted.
So, as you change back up media, convert the backups to the new media. (I have floppy backups, tape backups zip back ups and hard drive backups. Everything is on CD now.)
Try to avoid proprietiry backup programs - you'll be stuck with that program for extraccting backups, some of them become obsolete overtime.
Create specific backups for files you know are important, and routine overall backups for eveything.
The lengths to which you go will depend on how important those files are.
"I may have said the same thing before... But my explanation, I am sure, will always be different." Oscar Wilde
Use a CD Burner; cd-r are so cheap these days, it's pointless to do anything else.
BUT, having learned the hard way: TEST the first one you do, on another machine (or several). Don't just test it by seeing that there is a listing of files, actually try to open them. I backed up my machine, and tried each CD; sure enough, a full listing of all the files that I copied. Did I try to open them from the CD? No. Guess what. Not a single file was actually useable. DO NOT USE THE FASTEST SPEED YOUR BURNER WILL RUN. What I discovered was that if the burner was copying at 8x, the disk was useless. I burned them at 4x or 2x, they were perfect. Do this before you need the files.
And by the way, you may be able to find a geek who can salvage your hard drive long enough to recover what you need. There are lots of computer guys who will take things apart and kludge them enough to get what you need.
Thanks, everyone. I'm paying attention, just don't want to interupt the flow of ideas.
The thing that seems odd to me about installing a spare hard drive is, whatever attacks one could attack the other, couldn't it?
Luka - and anyone else who asked - the computerphile who sold me a new hard drive and doubled my ram at the same time said sometimes they just go bad after a couple years. That's all he could tell me when I asked why it died. I did send the old hard drive to a recovery place, but had less than satisfactory results, still considering my next move in that regard.
EBorg2 - No takers for that sawdust/chips pile yet. I keep thinking "I gotta build a pole building over that pile this summer", but I haven't done it yet. Heck, I STILL haven't redone the floors in my house and I've been talking about that out loud for 4 or 5 years now...this will be the Spring for both projects...na, probably not.
Art - should have guess you'd have a source for used equipment like that. You should write a book, man, "Living the Frugal Life" or something.
J>>> "whatever attacks one could attack the other, couldn't it?"
Yep, if you are talking a virus.
J>>> "the computerphile who sold me a new hard drive and doubled my ram at the same time said sometimes they just go bad after a couple years."
I don't know if you mean memory or hd, but it doesn't matter. I've had parts bad out of the box, and I just had an hd go feet up after 2 months. You never know, and I don't want to tell you how unpretty that hd crash was.
J>>> "I did send the old hard drive to a recovery place, but had less than satisfactory results, still considering my next move in that regard"
Stick a fork in it, unless you want to spend several thousand dollars to recover the info cluster by cluster, and then sort it out. I have a couple of programs that might help you get the doc files back, but anything large is going to be fragged all over the place. Does that pretty much describe the results from the recovery? A file here or there, all small?
There has been some good advice here, like back up to cd. Ok, that was the only good advice. Update your virus software, clean, and backup. You can't use partitions on the same drive, do I have to even tell you why? The drive goes down all is lost. You can't put your vital info to a second drive for the same reason, all the programs are on c:, but the data is on d:, d: can go bye bye as fast as c:. You Can backup to a second drive, the theory being only one drive will go at a time, that works. You have a c drive and back up to a d drive, (I'm ignoring partitions to keep this simple), now your info is stored on both, and if one drive goes you can put things back together. I have a hard drive dock and use it like a zip drive, put in an hd and boot. Back up to it, or transfer data off it. I like this because the extra drive used for backup isn't spinning when you don't need it.
Your info has to be stored in two different places. Be that two hd's or on an hd and backed up to a cd.
Sorry friend, but you mistake a total drive failure which can, and does, happen, with backing up and keeping things straight.
Having logical drives allows you to back up the stuff you need and to not worry about what you don't.
You have what we used to call a raid type system, which is good. Better is an external drive used for mirror backup, but they are expensive.
The reason I use this system is because I have all the programs here - I can put them on whatever hard drive I buy down the road.
The Operating System, extensions and Registry are backed up because they go bad more often than just programs and data. If I have to re-install Windows, I also have to reinstall all the programs because the registry and extensions, common program files etc. are lost.
The data, now THAT's important. Back to CD, weekly.
I've had 2 drives in my systems. Windows goes nuts, never sees it properly and it often becomes a nightmare.
The safest, surest way is to back up to an Internet back-up facilty. If my system fails, I may even have to do that.At my age, my fingers & knees arrive at work an hour after I do.
Aaron the HandymanVancouver, Canada
Ahm, sorry friend, didn't Jim just have a hd failure? I was just trying to tell Jim a few things, and keep it simple.
Did I screw up?
I am all ears for someone that crashes Windows...
(grin) I can crash Windows regularly.
Correct for your ideas, and don't get me wrong - I have used second drives since MTBF (mean time before failure) was in the low thousand hour area. A drive can die anytime, but often it is not the drive, but a controller and/or chipset failure. I have found that if the second drive goes south, there are more problems restoring data than if one entire drive goes. Hence my bias. BTW, my next computer will have 2 drives in it, but not for that reason. AND, they must be configured correctly, and on different cables, etc. etc. Unless you order the machine to spec and get a guarantee of suitability, retrofitting a machine with a second drive will cost more in hours and parts than a new computer.
At the end of the day, we all marry different people and have different breakfast food. Whatever works as long as you can produce records for the IRS, or CCRA (revenue canada).At my age, my fingers & knees arrive at work an hour after I do.
Aaron the HandymanVancouver, Canada
Blah blah, I was trying to give Jim advice, I don't have time to straighten you out.
Crash away, and save however you want. No biggie.
I wish I had the time to talk, you sound like you have a bunch of things to add. Maybe some other time...I really don't have the time to get into all of this right now.
"The thing that seems odd to me about installing a spare hard drive is, whatever attacks one could attack the other, couldn't it?"
Maybe - If you get a virus or worm, it could affect both drives. Depends on which virus/worm you get. But if your main hard drive pyhsically goes bad, the second one would likely be fine.
" the computerphile who sold me a new hard drive and doubled my ram at the same time said sometimes they just go bad after a couple years."
I don't buy that at all. It was probably a manufacturing defect, and the guy just doesn't want to be bothered with trying to get warranty serice on it. Since hard drives are fairly cheap, it may not be worth the trouble anyway. But hard drives are much, much better than they were just a few years ago. They should last a heck of a long time.A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.
Lots of information to sort through here. Everyone has there way of doing things just like they do building homes.
Yes, hard drives will go bad, they are mechanical. I've lost several over the past 20 some years. But everything will die eventually, or become obsolete. Especially CDs, Zip drives and USB devices. You can still use a hard drive from 10 or more years ago in your system, they haven't changed much except for speed. Which is why a lot of us use second hard drives, there is very little effort putting it into another computer.
As far as something going bad affecting the second drive, that can happen with a virus but usually not if it's mechanical. But if you have a virus your CD or whatever back up will be infected as well if the virus wasn't caught in time. Keep in mind all backups are only as good as the data being copied to them.
The ultimate solution is a second drive on a server. I wrote up a quick overview that describes the different options http://www.seametrix.com/backup.htm
Even with a backup it's painful. Good luck!
I send files back and forth to work & home via E-mail.
I have a file at work that has "building backup" as a name. Cad files and Mscl e-mail & spread sheets reside there.
As for work backup. We do have an IT guy that covers our collective bacon. All the same, I take my business project information and back that up on the home HDD. Space is so cheap that you might as well move those files back & forth. Just don't move more than 1.5 to 3 meg per forwarding. Larger files than that are "read" by the ISP as viral or malicious files. (they tie up the server and everyone's e-mail) I just forward about 1 meg per e-mail. A cad file is about 1/3 of that dependant on how much info you have on the drawing and if it is a nested (drawing pasted in a drawing...) type of CAD file then you may be able to send only one at a time (or you'll need to zip it).
I've got 3 boys that find innumerable ways to crash the computer. 99% are innocent and most relate to using those cereal box cd's & dvd's along with win 95 games they pick up from their friends and that sort of crud.
I tell you, the worst is losing the video. A dead HDD can be replaced and reloaded. Video is 3x longer to figure out and fix. A spare Video card has been my savior more than once.
External 80 gig firewire drive: 200 bucks
Retrospect express backup software: 50 bucks
I recently swapped out an old 6 gig internal drive for an 80 gig external drive.
Backed up the whole disk to the external,
Took out the old disk.
Put the new disk in.
Restored from the external, and had the identical setup running with zero problems.
Restrospect will back up only the stuff that has change since last time, so backups of the whole disk, after the first time, are fast.
A big external drive allows me not to have to worry about what to back up and what not to. I just back everything up and lose no sleep.
I also back up my Powerbook on the external drive as well the desktop iMac.
I partitioned my hard drive like Aaron, with Partition Magic. F is my data drive and I save all my files to that drive, all Word, Excel, outlook....everything. Microsoft has an add on program for Outlook that makes backing it up very easy and sends it right to my data drive (all the .pst files). Everytime I close outlook it automatically backs it up. I've networked several computers in my home so I just save my data drive to the wife's computer.....and she saves her's to mine. In addition, we back-up weekly to CDR-Ws.