computer backup and tips

I'm often called by friends when they have computer issues and these are sometimes related to data loss. Many times precious data has been lost forever - an easily preventable occurrence

I explain on this page how to setup your computer properly so that you have a backup strategy. You also need backup images of your boot drive so that you can get back on line quickly when your computer fails
hard drive

hard drive failure is inevitable

Standard hard drives are a mechanical component and therefore fail more frequently than newer solid state devices [SSD's]. These SSD drives are improving the situation of speed and reliability, but are still an enthusiast product and can become corrupt and fail too

Your computer can be hit with a bad virus or data corruption. With all these very real threats, it's obvious that you need to backup your data. The fact is the vast majority of people do not attempt a backup until they have lost data first hand. Losing memories and work files are hard lessons to learn and can be quite expensive if you engage data recovery services

Despite the willingness after a meltdown, without understanding exactly what to do and what software to utilize, you are prone to lose data once again. Below are some easy steps that will enable you to regain your data and operating system integrity after hard disk or OS failure
Backup Strategy Overview
  • Data files should be stored on a second physical hard drive, not on your boot drive. C: should be for is OS related files only

  • At least 4 times a year, make an image of your C: drive. If it corrupts, or you get a virus, it will take HOURS to reinstall and reconfigure your OS. Instead, use your image to be back online in 15 minutes

  • Keep your data files organized on your second hard drive, in 1 folder with appropriately named subfolders. You should frequently back up these files to an external drive, DVD/BluRay disc. Optimally, a 3rd. hard drive should be installed and auto backup software setup

  • If you don't invest the time now, you will spend 100x more time later during your troubleshooting and installation, plus you likely be without your current data files

Never Lose your Irreplaceable Photos and Files Again
#1 - Computer Hardware - First, you must have at least 2 hard drives [1 disc with 2 partitions doesn't count as it won't protect you from hard drive failure]. C:/ Drive is dedicated for your OS and programs. The second drive will store your data. This is essential. Do not store personal data on your C: drive !

#2 - Drive Imaging [OS backup] - There is software available that will make an image [a complete copy] of a hard drive or partition. This is typically used for your boot [C:] drive which holds the OS and programs you have installed. You can't just copy this, there are hidden files like the master boot record [MRB] you can't copy within Windows

If you store your data on C:, it will get huge. As a result, images will get huge and take a long time to make. This is a big part of the reason that you need to have more than 1 hard drive. Forget MS Restore points, get a real program designed for the job

#3 - Auto backup your Data Files with Software- Backup software is essential. Once set up, it will automatically scan a given directory and copy only the changed files to another designated location

As an example of this, I have all my business files located in 1 master directory. Every 6 hours this directory is scanned [automatically and in the background] and only the files that have changed are backed up to the designated location

#4 - Off Site Storage - Key information needs to stored in a secure location off site. If you do not employ this strategy you could lose all those precious digital pictures in a fire, flood or theft etc. I use optical discs, which have a longer life span then hard drives, and also hard drives that can be inserted in an external hard drive dock. Hard Drives are faster and offer more storage. Having the data backed up is great, but it needs to be organized or you will spend days just trying to find and copy it all back. Use a cataloging program like "Advanced File Organizer"

Example Backup Protocol

I have a removable drive bay where all my key data is copied to several times a day by automatic background software. Every month, I swap out the bay drive for my second bay hard drive which I store in my safe.

Weekly, I backup files to my small portable HD, and copy them to my shop computer which is off site. I also every 2-3 weeks, backup files to my second main computer over the network. If my main computer goes down, I won't miss a beat

I also burn BluRay discs and have many hard drives I store off site with irreplaceable data like home video, photographs and business files. With this multi tiered approach, I really can't lose any files. To catalogue everything, I use Advanced File Organizer which can scan any data. This way you know what is where and you can also access dates etc.

Great free software

To make all of this come together requires the right software. I am a stickler for good software and have tested many different programs. My main criteria are stability, functionally and logical operation. Shockingly, even at this point in time a lot of software is lacking in rudimentary functionality

Paragon Backup
This is the software you use to "image" a hard drive. It is free, although you must provide an email address. It works well, I bought the paid version. Macrium Reflect is also very good

They have both free and paid versions. The free version is quite powerful. This program can automatically backup files at time intervals you set. "syncback freeware"

A free burning software that supports DVD as well as BluRay burning. Very few coasters, clearly shows you how much space you have left on the disc

Advanced File Organizer
This is a paid program. This will index all media sources into a fully searchable data base. It works well. I have tried programs that seem to work, but fail. Then you are left to re index 100's ? of discs again

Other great software
Arsclip - free clipboard utility
Azz Cardfile - great for organizing random information
Axcrypt - free file encryption with password decryption and automatic encryption upon file closing
Firefox - a great free web browser
Open Office - why buy Microsoft Office ? fully compatible and free
Xplorer2 - replaces windows explorer in a big way