Backup, Backup, Backup!

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    A good thing to check when you are buying that new computer is whether or not it comes with a manufacturer’s rescue disk. Some vendors provide a rescue disk that will restore your computer to its original state the day you took it home. Some provide an invisible rescue partition on your hard drive to serve the same purpose.

    Backup, Backup, Backup!

    It is better to have both, because if your hard drive dies, the rescue partition on your hard drive becomes just a memory. If your computer does not come with rescue disks, ask the salesperson to show you the utility program on your computer so you can make your own rescue disks when you get home. Make it a top priority to create those disks when you do arrive home so you can enjoy a safer computing experience.

    Once you have your rescue disks, and tuck them away in a safe place, it is a good idea to obtain a good backup program, and use it!

    You can purchase backup software such as Acronis True Image or Norton Ghost that will create an image backup of your hard drive. Backing up is the most important thing you can do to safeguard your precious data. Backup, backup, backup, backup. This should be your mantra.

    You may or may not be surprised that few people make a practice of backing up their hard drive. Most people do not think about backing up until disaster strikes. While your rescue disks can restore your hard drive to the same state that existed on the day of your purchase, it will not restore all your data files, software, photos, movies, or games you added to your computer. After you add your favorite software, photos, etc., make your first image backup, and schedule routine backups thereafter, the frequency of which should be based on your own specific needs.

    You can make your image backups to an external hard drive – you can pick up a 2.5 inch USB 250 GB for as little as $79.95 - $89.95 or a 320 GB for around $99.95 (the 2.5 inch is compact enough to carry in your laptop bag). Or you can buy a 3.5 inch USB 500 GB for $99.99 or 750 GB for around $119.99 - $129.99.

    Image backups are compressed, so if the used space on your hard drive is, for example, 72 gigabytes, your image backup will be smaller, such as 58 gigabytes, which was the case in my last image backup. While one image backup is great, two are even better. With two backups, you increase the likelihood that 1) at least one of the backups will properly restore everything, and 2) you can store one of the backups at another site in case of unexpected trouble. Of course, for off site image backup storage, you would need a second external hard drive. At the very least, make copies of just your user files on DVD-RWs for off site storage.

    Just a few years ago, our family suffered the loss of everything but our automobiles when our home was destroyed by fire. However, copies of my wife’s data were safely stored at the college where she was teaching. Don’t wait for a very painful lesson, back up that hard drive! Always remember your data is not chiseled in stone.

    I would also recommend the purchase of an 8 or 16 GB USB memory stick for the copying of files you frequently edit on your laptop or desktop in between image backups. 16 GB USB sticks are available for $39.95 now at our local Wal-Mart, while $39.95 is usually a sale price for Best Buy or Office Depot – their regular prices range from $79.95 to $89.95. In this way you can have fresh copies of your user files immediately after updating them.

    What kind of backup stories can you share with us?

    Any comments or questions?

    Safe Computing!
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 15, '15
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  3. by   VickyRN
    What do you think about Carbonite, Captain?
  4. by   CaptainPC
    Thanks for your question, Vicky. While I have never used Carbonite or any other online backup solution, if I were to subscribe to one it would be Carbonite as it has the most going for it in terms of ease of use and effectiveness. Carbonite makes it easy to diligently backup your data because once you set things up, you never have to remember to backup again, and therein lies a strength and a weakness in using Carbonite. For many who never remember to make backups, online solutions such as Carbonite are their only protection from data disasters. For those who do backup their data locally, it will require some discipline to continue to do so, as it would be easy to just rely on the online backup.

    I keep multiple backups of my data at home, and a local off site backup. I also carry all my critical data wherever I go on a 16 GB USB thumb drive. However, if I generated much more data I would subscribe to Carbonite as a supplement to my own backups rather than as a replacement for local backups. Maintaining an offsite backup has obvious benefits, but I would never fully depend on an online solution.
  5. by   Pierrette
    Thanks for the blog, Cap'n!

    My daughter and I have both bought new computers. Last week we each bought 320GB portable hard drives for backup. Nice and quick and convenient. We will have to remember to run the backup program each week, though.