Voice of experience: Back up your #%$& computer

Voice of experience: Back up your #%$& computer

Man, what a dope I am.

I have backup software – three different brands, actually – installed on a laptop I use mostly for work. So what happens? The hard drive dies.

When I'm not even doing anything. Ok, I had just installed Google Earth so I could figure out how it works.

I lost no data, because I stored it on external hard drives, and I have those backed up a couple different places.

But I just lost most of two days finding and reinstalling software. Windows. Office. Mapping software. Antivirus software and the infinity of updates for a fresh install.

I know it’s smart to make backups. I know this as thoroughly as I know my name.

So why didn’t I make a full backup of the hard drive?

Because I’m a dope. I didn’t have time. I satisfied myself with making copies of the files I needed. The documents. That’s better than nothing.

But look: Your hard drive will fail. It’s going to happen. And when it does, it will not be at a convenient time.

So make a backup. Make a backup of the backup. And repeat the exercise at intervals that make sense based on your usage of your machine. Weekly, monthly, whatever seems right: make a schedule and stick to it.

And make copies of your data on a separate hard drive, too.

This is not difficult. It’s a matter of training yourself, of believing this is important enough to command your attention. And really, there’s no excuse. Storage can be had for so little. Tuesday, newegg.com had a  1TB external hard drive for $52.99. That will probably hold the backups of three machines, maybe more, depending on what’s on the machines. I have backups of my desktop and this laptop and together they take about 300 gigs of space.

If your time isn’t valuable, then don’t back up.

If it is valuable, then act like it.

Really: do you want to be as dumb as I?

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Tyler Jackson wrote on July 28, 2010 at 11:07 am

Any ideas on backing up 5TB..?

Mike Howie wrote on July 28, 2010 at 11:07 am
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Beyond my level of experience. Storage never gets more expensive, though.

DenaS wrote on July 28, 2010 at 11:07 am

I tend to put swappable drive bays in my desktop systems (laptops are too small, obviously). That way the main HD can get backed up to whichever swappable drive has enough space -- or to a series of them, if you're using older/smaller drives for backing up newer/bigger ones. Can give links to the drive bays in question if you want.

Mike Howie wrote on July 28, 2010 at 12:07 pm
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Yes, please do. My desktop has an empty drive bay. Thanks.

DenaS wrote on July 28, 2010 at 12:07 pm

If you've got old IDE drives, here's the sort I use with those:
SNT-1122 Removable Rack (Tray+Bay) w/Fan for HDD ATA66/100/133 (Beige) (made by several manufacturers, this is just the first instance I found -- but make sure you get matching bays if you have more than one drive to swap. Most of mine came from Startech.)

Here's a fancier one with more bells and whistles:
ICY DOCK MB911APGF Full Aluminum 3.5

I haven't got any new SATA drives to experiment with, so I haven't done much hunting for a SATA equivalent since I've got more than enough old IDEs for a good deal of backups, but in case that's what you're after:
SATA 3.5 swappable bay

DenaS wrote on July 28, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Also, for Windows users? SyncBak has both a freeware version and an inexpensive shareware version. Even the freeware version lets you define which folders to back up and set it to do so on a schedule.

So, again for a personal example, all my work files get backed up to a swappable drive every day at 5 pm and I don't have to wonder how long it's been and I should never lose more than a day's work. (Assuming whatever it is that goes wrong doesn't manage to fry BOTH drives at once, of course.)

choco640 wrote on July 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm

That is fine for the people who are technologically smart...but what about the rest of us? I didn't understand one of the posts! How about telling people how to do this instead of just telling people to do it? I have a HP desktop with Widows XP..how do I back it up? What needs to be backed-up?
Help anyone?

Mike Howie wrote on July 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm
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You make an excellent point. I'll give a detailed response in the next day or so. Some versions of Windows XP have a built-in backup utility; I don't know if your version does.

But at the very least (and without knowing more about your computer setup) you should know where files go by default when you save them, and make copies of the files that are there. In most Windows machines, that's "My Documents." If you can find that folder, and use the right mouse button to click on it, you'll get a popup menu. At the bottom of that menu is "properties." Click on that, and you'll get an idea of how many files there are and what the total size is.

That will help you decide to get external storage - an external hard drive or a "flash" or "thumb" drive, which would connect via USB port - that will be big enough.

More on this in the next day or two.

Tyler Jackson wrote on July 30, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I use mostly Seagate externals, and they each came with Acronis Home for backup purposes - set it and forget it for the most part.

Grab a 1TB drive, set it up, schedule incremental weekly or daily if you need it, and enjoy.

Mike Howie wrote on July 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm
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Also, if you want to look at a bit more information, here's where Microsoft talks about the backup function built in to Windows XP.