No one ever wants to believe their computer will fail them. You can try to make yourself feel safer… your computer is new, it’s under warranty, you take good care of it… but make no mistake, your computer will fail, and probably at a really really bad time. Here’s something that may help you make up your mind: I received a brand-new laptop at work in July of 2002, by September of 2002 the hard drive had failed completely. Brand new hard can fail and older drives will fail. You must have a back up solution.
I can hear the whining already: Back ups? Are you sure? Making backups is such a pain. It’s too hard. I don’t know how!
a) Backing up your data can be easy
b) You aren’t safe
People who have tried back up solutions in the past which require swapping floppies in and out or copying data to CDs will no doubt agree, backing up data can be a long tedious process. Corporate backups used to be made to tape drives, also time consuming and definitely expensive. There is good news: the plummeting price of hard drives has made back up much simpler and cheaper. Couple an inexpensive external drive with some inexpensive software and you have yourself a backup solution.
This past winter vacation I set up a very simple backup solution on both my parents computers. I used an external hard drive connected via USB (yes, simple plug in, just like a digital camera) and some straight forward software from Symantec called Norton Ghost 9.0. It took a bit of time to format the hard drive (not difficult, just had to wait, it takes time) and no time at all to set up Ghost. The software will automatically back up a computer on a schedule you specify. It couldn’t be more simple.
The best back up systems will protect you from:
1. Hardware failure (the inevitable drive failure)
2. Theft (it happens)
3. Hardware destruction (house fire or clumsy nephew with a can of Coke)
You love your digital camera, don’t you? You take a whole mess of pictures. Now… what happens if your hard drive crashes? The hard drive contains what amounts to negatives for all your digital pictures. Having your hard drive crash is really like having your digital house burn down. Eeek! If your real house burns down you will loose all your pictures and the negatives, but you can easily protect your digital negatives. Take your external back up hard drive to work with you for added data security.
So, here’s the recipe:
1) Determine the size of the hard drive inside your computer
2) Find an external hard drive equal to or larger than your computer’s drive (try Price Watch for good prices)
3) Select some backup software (list of options at bottom)
4) Install both and set the software to run automatically
Most computers have hard drives smaller than 80 gigabytes, an 80 gigabyte USB drive found on price watch: less than $70. Backup software can be had for less than $50. I’m sure the data on your computer is worth more than $120 and an hour of your time.
Here are some possible back up software solutions:
- Norton Ghost (I installed this for my parents) – http://www.symantec.com/sabu/ghost/ghost_personal/
- Dantz Retrospect (I use the pro version) – http://www.dantz.com/en/products/win_express/index.dtml
- Argentum Backup (Rated a best buy by PC World at $25) – http://www.argentuma.com/backup.html