Thursday, March 3, 2016

Backing Up Your Hard Drive

How often are you told that you need to backup your hard drive? And how often do you actually do it?
It’s Sunday afternoon and you’re getting frustrated with your computer acting up. Fine. You’ll just restart everything and get it working correctly again you think. The computer shuts down and restarts. The progress bar appears under the Apple emblem and moves about 1/16 of an inch across the screen. The screen goes black. No matter what you do, your MacBook Pro will not start up again.
So maybe you own a PC not a Mac. Maybe you have a desktop computer or something other than a laptop. It’s not Sunday afternoon. It doesn’t matter, it still might happen to you. That was the way my Sunday afternoon transpired and it was not until Tuesday evening that I had my computer working again. My computer with a nice new hard drive with the operating system on it and nothing else. None of my applications. None of my documents. Nothing but what a brand new computer direct from the store would have on it.
So, let me ask you again: Do you back up your files? It’s been a well known saying around the computer community for years, that it’s not if your hard drive will fail, but when will it fail.
The question of what to back up is a simple one. Anything you don’t want to lose. For most of us, that is everything. Keep the CDs or a copy of the install files for your applications. If you download them through something like the Apple store or similar, you have access to download them again from there. Make at least one copy of all your documents. Those priceless family pictures and endless papers of research you have? You better believe you should make copies.
How do you make backups? There are many ways to do so. All Apple computers come with the option of using Time Machine, an Apple product that will back up files automatically to a hard drive. You can also manually make copies onto a removable hard drive or a thumb drive. If you have a CD player, you can burn copies to CDs. There are also companies that you can pay to have them automatically backup over the Internet to remote servers. All of these have pluses and minuses that you need to analyze for your own personal situation. No one solution is right for everyone. One caution, the thumb drive solution is usually only good for a quick, short-term use. Not only are they extremely easy to lose, but they often have the largest failure rate of any of the ways I mentioned.
Personally, I use a combination of two back ups for my computer. I have a removable hard drive that I back up all my documents to, usually once a week. I also have a subscription to Backblaze that backs up across the Internet to remote servers automatically whenever a document is changed and there is a connection.
How often should you back up your files? It really depends on how often you are creating and changing documents. Also, how much are you willing to lose because you haven’t backed them up yet. Monthly, weekly, daily or continuously are the schedules many choose. I do the back up to the hard drive once a week. It is a Friday chore for me. Backblaze, as I mentioned, does it continuously in the background. They’re creating a backup of my new hard drive as I’m writing this. As it is a complete one of all files, this will take some time, possibly a week. After that, it will be quick as it is only updated files.
So, I lost my entire hard drive. Everything gone. What did I actually lose after backups? I have reinstalled all except for 3 applications from what I had available. I did not have a Quicken install available and had to buy a new (but updated) version of this. A freebie game that I liked to play occasionally is gone-- it was discontinued. Lastly, I’m waiting to get some help on reinstalling a digital copy of Evidence Explained, as I’m lost about a license file that I need. As far as data files, I quickly moved copies of what I had backed up on Friday onto the new drive and went to Backblaze and copied only a small file of what had been updated since then. If the removable had not been available, I could have downloaded a larger zip file of everything. Two documents I’d downloaded minutes before it crashed needed to be found and downloaded again. The only real data lose I had, was my address book had never been backed up, so I had recreate that from some other sources. Not bad for what could have been a total loss.

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