Friday, June 21, 2013

Back up your computer!

I've been using PCs for 30 years and I was terrible about backing up my work until the last few years*. I admit it. BUT, I have an excuse. I've been using computers for 30 years. In the early days, backing things up was a major undertaking, so it often didn't get done. Once you get into any mindset, it's hard to get out of it. Today, there's no such excuse**.

You are reading what follows at your own risk. I accept no responsibility for what you might do after reading this post.

Sorry for the scare tactics. Backing up your files is A Good Thing (tm), but it is possible to get into all sorts of trouble.

I use SyncBack. When I was looking for backup software years ago, I went to their user forum to get a sense of the program. I found a post in which the writer complained that the software had erased her entire hard drive. And yes, it's possible. However, she had to do the software equivalent of a Rosemary Woods to do it. She likely accidentally configured the program to erase her files, but the program told her that it was about to erase them. It then asked for confirmation...and she gave it! Was it the user's fault for ignoring the warnings or did the program confuse her? Some might argue that a user should have to jump through so many hoops to erase an entire drive that even the least sophisticated user could not do it by accident. In any case, you might want to find your own software by running a search for "Windows backup software".

There are a few points to consider.

  • Backup medium: If you can afford it...the Cloud! which is just a fancy name for someone else's file server. For most of us with large amounts of data to back up, the solution will be a hard drive of some sort, although a large flash drive might suffice depending on one's needs. Since I was concerned with backing up my desktop, I chose a large external drive with its own power supply so that I don't tax the computer's motherboard and USB ports.
  • File format: Many programs use proprietary formats. This supposedly allows them to be faster and more efficient. Maybe it does, but it also means that the files cannot be recovered without the software that backed them up. This poses a problem if the backup software itself is compromised or when restoring to s different computer. SyncBack stores files in their original format as though the files and folders were dragged-and-dropped to the backup medium. But, that's me. YMMV. Rumor has it that Windows 7 may have all the backup tools one needs.

Like Nike says, "Just do it!" You will rarely need to access the backup, but when you do, you will be so glad it's there. And should disaster strike (spilling your coffee into the keyboard, dropping your computer or having it stolen, or having the hard drive fail), you will thank your lucky stars (and me?) that all was not lost.

*I wasn't a complete reprobate. My backups were spaced months apart rather than days, and most of my files were duplicated on my home and office computers. Still...

**There is a new own, however. Many use only a notebook or netbook of some sort. They are rarely connected to the backup hardware. Don't let it be your excuse. Resolve that whenever you charge your computer overnight, you'll plug in your backup device, too. (Maybe Sunday night?) Wireless backup will eventually resolve this issue if it hasn't already.


  1. I really can't understand why you have to place that scare tactic of yours, Jerry. Hehe! All I know is that backups are very important especially when you're dealing with confidential files, work-related documents, and even personal accomplishments. Whether you're using your computer for decades, or just recently, you have to make sure that your data is safe from identity theft. Moreover, your data management skills should include how to secure your data on your computers and other networks. :)

    Ruby Badcoe @ Williams Data Management

  2. That was a very catchy warning, Jerry! Creating back-up files might take time, but it can save you big time of not losing your important documents. Computers can crash anytime, and just a blink of an eye, can take away all your documents. Back-up your files and make no regrets.

    -Manda Maldanado @ Scality