Backing it up

24 11 2010

When a computer breaks down, it’s not so much that the computer has karked it, they all do eventually, but that there could be a terrible loss of data if the fault lies with your hard drive.

I’m an old computer user and I’m very familiar with the bustic innards of my machines, it often amazes me that new computer users don’t even realise what a hard drive is, and are very often unaware that this device is prone to stuff-ups which could mean severe loss of data.

For those who are unaware, your computer is made up of electronic and mechanical gadgets, just like your car.

The hard drive is a small, metal box containing small discs which sort of works like a record player. it’s here that all your data is kept.

The discs are magnetic, just like audio tape, and an arm with a record/playback head scans across the discs as they spin, reading (playing) or recording data to them.

When people say that something has been installed on their computer, what they really mean is that it’s on their hard drive.

If you bought your computer, rather than made it yourself… which is a lot easier to do than you might imagine… then your computer has at least one hard drive. It’s probably a fairly chunky thing if you have a desktop computer, or quite a bit smaller and flatter if you own a laptop, but it is there.

If you built your desktop computer yourself then it’s possible that you have two or more drives in yours, or perhaps you bought an extra hard drive from the local computer shop and had it fitted.

Now this equipment, like anything else, is liable to break down at the drop of a hat, and if it does, you’ll lose a lot of your own work, so this is to be avoided at all costs.

It’s not so much the files that you downloaded from the internet, in most cases those can be replaced, provided you can remember what they were and where you got them.

But it’s losing the special files that hurt the most.

These may include photos, artwork, or video. or important documents such as essays, exams or entire novels. which you created yourself, things that have never been online and that nobody else has a copy of.

Now a LOT of people get a bit lazy and just leave everything on their hard drive, this is a mistake, and will eventually end in tears.

So backing up your files to something else, like CD-R is helpful, provided you’re the type of person who carefully archives their discs safely away in their proper plastic cases. but, lots of people don’t take care of their CDs, either leaving them out of their covers to get all scratched, or losing entire discs, it’s easier to do than I would have imagined. In the end, burning CDs but not *caring* for them, renders any effort to safeguard your files, pointless.

One option is to upload photos and artwork to Flickr or Photobucket which are online versions of ye olde Photo Album. With a free account, you can upload around 200 photos.

I’ve had a Flick account for years and have found it very handy indeed, for several reasons which include:

* You can access your photos anywhere.
If you’re at a friends house and you mention the last holiday you went on, and you find yourself trying to explain what that boat you went on looked like, and then you remember that you have a photo of it, but you don’t have it on you, you can access that image with your iPhone straight away via Flickr, or you can ask your friend to look at your Flickr page on their computer.

* It’s another backup.
While CDs and External Hard drives are great, you can still have a major catastrophe such as a house fire, and still lose all your photos… but if you have Flickr, your photos will be safely preserved.

* It saves sending lots of photos to people.
If your photos are on Flickr, and you add another 20, just send your friends and family the address and they can look at your photos whenever they like, this is great if your friends have limited broadband.

There’s also services like Dropbox and Mediafire which can safeguard other types of files like video, audio or text.

But let’s get back to CD-Rs and DVD-Rs for a moment.

I have used a massive amount of these over the years to store my photos, artwork and movie files which I make myself, and ok, I may have files backed up, somewhere, but where? It’s difficult to keep track of what’s on every disc, and while there are programs that help here, you will still have to get up and hunt through a bank of discs to find the file you need.

Nothing is in order, it’s a bit of a drag, and I have since decided to purchase two new external drives, and copy all the discs over to those, filter out anything I don’t need anymore like old programs for Windows 95 and keep the good stuff.

The old CDs and DVDs will have a date with the recycle bin shortly.

I’ll be reducing the footprint in my home from something the size of a small chest of drawers, down to something about the size of a packet of BBQ Shapes, and all the files I’ve kept should be much easier to find and access.

Now, what I need to mention is that it’s quite likely many of you thought that once data was put onto CD or DVD, it was there for good… it’s not.

As I’ve been going through my discs, which I have kept in relatively good nick, I have found some files were unreadable, they’re completely corrupted and gone to God, although thankfully my photos seem to be ok.

So I would seriously suggest that you go through your discs, make a file on your computer called “Photos” and put all the photos that you find into that… then make several new backups, onto CD, DVD, External Drives or Flickr, just in case.

Of course now I’m in another bind, since external hard drives can turn up their toes as much as any internal drive can… so now I’m considering, when prices fall (I have heard February will be a good time to buy), yet
another external drive, possibly around the four to six TB mark.

Where does it end?

Wolfie!

Links:

Flickr
Photobucket
Dropbox
Mediafire

An example of External Hard Drives currently on sale.

* This is NOT a promotion for Officeworks or Western Digital, There are other shops out there selling similar drives made by other companies, this is just to get you started.

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