Back it up, more than once

Back it up, more than once

I think the worst of winter is behind us.

I think the Cardinals might win the National League Central, even though their best pitcher is out for the season.

I think gas will be back below 3 bucks a gallon before we know it.

I’m not a pessimist.

But I assume my computer will crash. A hard drive will fail. A power surge will fry it. I’ll manage to misplace the DVDs of pictures I’ve saved. (Hey, I moved a few months ago and just last weekend found stuff I’d forgotten about. It can happen.)

What made me think about this was Julie Wurth’s wonderful blog entry about the unexpected gift of finding video of her family from decades ago.

She has a DVD of that video footage, and that’s great. But she dang sure better make a backup of it.

And you dang sure better make a backup of what you would least like to lose.

Look, computer storage is remarkably cheap and getting cheaper all the time. It wasn’t that long ago I went to our IT department bragging about finding a terabyte hard drive for under a hundred bucks, and they had found them for $89. A couple months ago I bought a two-terabyte external drive for under a hundred bucks.

(I imagine our IT department regularly laughs at me. That’s ok. They help me when I need it. I'm happy to provide amusement.)

The fact is it’s easy and cheap to make duplicate copies of your digital records.

You can do this any number of ways. By copying/cloning your entire hard drive or by copying your documents folders. By following Microsoft's instructions. Doesn’t matter how you do it. Just do it.

But don’t just make one copy. Here is where being pessimistic pays off. Assume you’ll lose your original and your copy. If you have another copy, you’re good. The chances of all three going bad are ridiculously small.

And don’t keep all of them in the same place. What if your house burns down? I know, that’s awful to think about. But think about what you can’t replace, and if your digital photos are on that list, get a copy of them somewhere other than your house.

If you are using a Windows computer and you accept Microsoft’s defaults – which I wouldn’t necessarily agree with in all cases – backing up is easy. You just need to make a copy of the “My Documents” folder, because Microsoft will put everything in that folder by default.

I use my home computer for work, so I have files of different kinds – including mapping files, and a fair amount of spreadsheets, Word documents and databases of different flavors – and they’re in more disparate places.

But I also use my computer to store basically three other kinds of records: video, photos and audio.

I’m going to ignore the work files here and stick to what really matters: video, audio and photos.

(I’m not qualified to write about how to backup a Mac. I have issues with Macs. I hear it’s fairly easy, but I’ll let someone else handle that.)

But here’s how to make a copy of your “My Documents” folder on an external hard drive.

Step 1: Get an external hard drive. Make it at least a terabyte.

Step 2: Plug it into your computer. (The connector probably will go into a USB port.)

Step 3: Format the hard drive and tell the computer it’s there.

Step 4: Double-click  “My Computer.”

Step 5: Right-click “My Documents” or “xxx Administrator Documents,” whatever the name of the folder is where everything goes by default (assuming you haven’t changed the default).

Step 6: From the popup menu, click “copy.” Or just hit the “Ctrl” and “c” keys at the same time.

Step 7: Go back to “My Computer” and find the external hard drive you’ve plugged in and double-click it to open it.

Step 8: Hit the “Ctrl” and “v” keys at the same time. This will “paste” the “My Documents” folder into your external hard drive.

Step 9: Repeat daily, weekly or monthly, depending how often you add new pictures, video or audio. If, for example, you back up monthly, and your computer crashes, then the most you lose is the last month’s files.

Here's more guidance. There is no single perfect solution, since we all use our computers differently. You may have to adjust your technique or strategy, based on how you use your computer.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.


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