A couple of years ago, my computer died in the middle of writing an important mid-term paper. I mean, seriously died. I couldn't get it to boot up at all. I tried everything I could think of - I even begged every hardware geek I knew for help. The answer was always the same: it's dead. I couldn't even hook up the hard drive to another computer. The computer itself was easy enough to replace - put me back a few bucks, but I would have to get a new computer sooner or later. The thing that really caused problems for me was the loss of data - programs, documents, my iTunes library, photos, etc. But I had everything backed up, right? Not exactly...
You never realize the value of regular backups until you experience computer failure. So how do you keep from losing your valuable data safe? Make backups of everything that is important to you individually, and make a point of making backups of all your data on a regular basis. Here are some steps to make the backup process easier.
- Assess your backup needs. If you mainly use your computer for word processing, then you probably don't need to worry about advanced backup programs or devises. If you have a lot of data to back up, you may want to consider a program specifically devoted to helping you back up your data. Often such programs come bundled with CD-burning software. Nero has a good suite of programs designed for backup.
Buy blank CDs or DVDs in bulk. Try to find spindles of optical media; they will be less expensive in bulk, and you will always have them available. Also you may want to buy a CD holder than holds a large number of CDs or DVDs in order to keep them safe and organized.
Find a backup program that will keep a list of files and folders that you would like to update with every backup. This way, you won't have to spend as much time determining and locating everything you need to back up each time you do a scheduled backup. You will be more apt to regularly back up your data if it doesn't take much time.
If your computer has a Secure Digital or Compact Flash slot, consider getting a high-disk space card. Lately a lot of SD cards have had good rebates - bringing a 512 MB to 1 GB card in the less-than-$20 range. Cards that range from 4-8 GB are more expensive, but worth the investment. Obviously this won't back up your entire computer, but it is very worthwhile for keeping important documents and files handy. Also, it doesn't take up a lot of space in a safety deposit box if you would like to back up sensitive information. And the drag and drop interface common to most SD and CF cards makes backups a breeze.
Thumb-drives are great for backups. They don't cost much either, so consider having one for each subject (Word Documents, digital pictures, music, etc), or for incremental backups - all your data from a certain period of time, or from a particular college class or work project. Certain thumb drives even allow you to install and run programs off of them. This is a great way to "take" your computer with you if you travel a lot and don't have a laptop.
Back up drives can hold large amounts of data. For a reasonable price, it is possible to find a backup drive (which attaches to your computer via a USB connection) which can back up your entire computer. With a touch of a button (literally), you can back up your entire hard drive. This is invaluable if your hard drive is damaged and you lose everything. Of course, you should still back up to one of the other means mentioned in case both your backup drive and your hard drive fail.
Take it from someone who lost her data in a sudden computer failure - you will spend far less time doing regular backups than you will trying to recover or recreate lost data. It's two years later and I still have a lot of hassle when I try to find a file only to realize it was in the small amount of data that I didn't back up prior to my computer konking out. Once you get going, it will be a breeze to do, and you'll have the peace of mind of knowing your data is safe!