Tips – Data Backups
Everyone hopes that his/her computer will keep going without a problem forever, but the fact is, you are always at risk of a mechanical or software failure in your computer which results in your computer not working when you need it, or an unrecoverable loss of your personal data.
The key to getting your computer running again after a serious problem has occured is to have everything necessary to reinstall your operating system and software, as well as up-to-date backups of your irreplaceable personal data. If you have purchased any applications, you should keep installation discs or installation programs downloaded from the internet plus any license keys or activation codes needed in order to reinstall them and get them working properly.
Fixing a problem with your computer can be as simple as a configuration change, slightly more involved solutions such as removing and reinstalling individual applications, or a complete reloading of everything on your computer. In this event, you want to make sure that your important data (ie – email messages & addresses, internet favorites, documents, music, digital photos, etc) has been backed up before changes are made to your computer. Because the operating system is available on disc, you do not need to backup the operating system files or any applications installed on the computer as long as you have the CDs used to install them. CompuDoc can create a backup for you, but it may take an hour or longer to find and backup all of your important data, and this is something you can and should do yourself on a regular basis.
Making backups of personal data is much simpler if the data is organized in some kind of heirarchy. In most cases, the programs on a computer will automatically store files you create in dedicated directories for Documents, Pictures, Music, and Videos. There may be additional dedicated directories for other types of files such as Downloads and Favorites. There are differences between how this is organized by Windows or Mac OS/X computers, but the basic idea is the same. There are usually no program files under these directories – only your personal data and some application settings. Making a backup of these dedicated directories is usually all you need. Certain programs keep your data in directories other than the standard ones. Favorites/bookmarks for your internet browser and email messages & addresses are prime examples of this. Specialized programs like accounting and taxes can also have their own location for data files.
If more than one person uses a computer, each can have his/her own account with a separate set of dedicated directories for Documents, Pictures, etc. Keeping copies of the latest versions of any applications downloaded from the internet (i.e. Adobe Acrobat Reader, Internet Explorer, etc) with your personal data backups is also a big time saver if you encounter a problem which necessitates reinstalling everything on your computer. If your computer is running Windows XP or newer, the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard can help you manage backing up or moving all of your personal data including email and favorite websites. Newer versions of windows include the Windows Easy Transfer utility, which can create an archive of all of your personal files (including email) and restore that to another computer or to the same computer after the operating system has been fixed or reinstalled. OS/X includes the Time Machine program which is an excellent backup program. If a particular file is updated many times, Time Machine can retrieve a specific version of the desired file – just tell it what day to bring back.
Basic tips to backing up your personal data :
- The simplest solution for backing up your data is to buy an external backup drive which includes good backup software. Many backup programs automatically include all of your personal files including email and favorites, and keep up with any changes as files are updated. Keep in mind that external backup drives can fail too. It never hurts to have another copy of your most important personal files.
- Cloud backup is a good option if you don’t have any proprietary information to backup. If it is crucial to keep control of files containing sensitive information, backing up using cloud storage may present a security risk. Knowing in which country the cloud storage servers are physically located may help with the decision.
- Use a backup program which lets you save a list of files or directories to be included in a backup. To be worth doing, backups must be kept up-to-date, which means you will be repeating the backup creation process from time to time.
- Your web browser program (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc) will offer a way of exporting (saving) your list of favorite websites in a file which can be backed up with your personal data. An import option will also be available to restore that saved list back into the bookmarks or favorites list of the web browser program if necessary.
- Most email programs have a way of exporting your contact list (the address book in some programs) into a text file which can be imported when needed.
- If you have several versions of a particular program, it is normally only necessary to install the most recent version. This may not be the case if you have files created with an older version which can’t be read by the newer version, or some similar reason.
- You don’t need to backup every file and directory on your computer. Files which are part of the applications installed on your computer, or the Operating System are already on CDs which can be reinstalled if needed. Programs which were not installed from CD, but were downloaded from the Internet do need to be backed up with your personal files.
- Backups are much easier to create if your personal data is Organized (See explanation below).
There are a number of ways to backup your data, and choosing the right one depends upon the quantity of data involved. For some people, a backup will fit on a floppy disk (old school) or a small flash drive. Others have enough personal data to fill up one or more discs (CD/DVD/Blu-Ray). People with very large amounts of data may choose to make backups on external hard drives or digital tapes (less common these days). It can simplify matters greatly if you use a backup program that permits saving a list of files and directories to be backed up so that you don’t need to go through the whole procedure the next time you make a backup. It is also important to know how to restore your data from a backup if something happens to the data stored on your computer. If you have never backed up your data before, and would like some help with this important task, CompuDoc can help.
If your computer is equiped with a CD or DVD burner drive, it probably came with a program to copy discs or create your own discs. The most common such programs are Nero Burning Rom and Easy CD Creator. Both offer an option to create a Data disc. Select this option, which will bring up a screen to allow you to select the files to be included on the Data disc. When you have chosen all of the files to put on the data disc, click on the button to burn a blank disc with the files you have chosen. Blank CDs or DVDs can be purchased for a very economical cost if you buy in larger quantities.