October 2011 Backups

Dear All,

Hi! It’s your friendly local neighbourhood all-things-PC fixer-upper. I hope that your PC(s) and/or Laptop(s), Wireless and Wired Networks, Websites and the like are all working the way you want them to.

This time I want to talk very briefly about backups. It never ceases to amaze me how often people don’t make backups of any kind. Most of you will almost certainly have something on your computer that you would be upset about losing, be it family photographs or videos, business accounts, that time consuming genealogy project, letters, CVs or whatever. Now just imagine how you would feel if you didn’t have those anymore. Hold that thought and ask yourself what you are doing to stop yourself being in that position.

Doing a backup simply means saving all those things that you hold dear, so that they are in more than one place. It’s not like traditional photo’s, videos and documents, where it is often impractical to have copies. Things stored on a computer can be copied umpteen times, to umpteen places, so why not do it? The answer is usually that most people simply don’t know where to start.

Now I asked around a bit before writing this, and the general consensus was to keep this to just being little more than a ‘nag’ type email, avoiding any techie stuff, and provide a bit more information in an addendum available on my website Newsletters page. So that is what I have done – another version of this can be found there, with a good bit more to think about. Here’s a link if you want it.

What is a Backup?

Essentially, it’s a copy of the stuff that matters to you, to a safe place, outside of the PC. Once you know where your ‘stuff’ is, you just need to decide where to put it, and how to get it there.

Get your stuff in order.

So where is your ‘stuff’? You need to do a little checking to make sure you know where it all is. It’s probably in easy to find places like “My Documents” or “Pictures” or “Videos” or “Music”. If so that’s great, you know where it is and can now back it up to something. If it’s not then you may need some help to find it.

What do you backup to?

OK the one thing I hope we can all agree on is we need to be able to copy our ‘stuff’ to something else, something that could be taken away afterwards and locked in your safety deposit box in your Swiss Bank. That would be pretty secure. So what thing would allow you to do this? The easiest ones are USB Flash Drives and external hard disk drives. There is more information on all the main types in the Addendum on my web site. Whatever you pick make sure it is big enough for all your stuff with plenty of room to accommodate your probable future needs.

Making your backup.

OK if you are still reading this then you must be keen (or worried!), good for you!

Windows has its own inbuilt backup program – if you are on Windows 7 then look in Control Panel for ‘Backup and Restore’. Or access the Help and Support system and search for Backup.

You could just use Copy and Paste or ‘Send To’ in Windows Explorer to do you backups manually, but this can be very slow and tedious, if all you really want to do is to copy new or changed files to (and optionally remove deleted files from) your backup. It’s also hard to manage if the ‘stuff’ is in a few different places.

There are any number of software products out there that make backups simpler, I often set up SyncBack Freeware for people. It is a little tricky to set up initially with lots of options, but once that is done, it is very quick and easy, which is the secret to doing it regularly, and safely, and it’s also a free product.

Whatever you decide to use, just ensure you do something!

What if it’s too late?

I should quickly say that ‘stuff’ can usually be recovered from a PC even if your hard disk or your PC does die, so even if you don’t have a backup, if you find yourself in this position give me a call and I shall see what I can do. For the same reason, you should be aware that when you dispose or pass on an old PC, your stuff may still be found by someone who knows how to get at it, even if you have formatted the disk drive and reinstalled it or if you have run your System Recovery. There are tools out there that can make sure that this is not possible.

This newsletter is available on my web site www.compulogix.co.uk Newsletters page, as are the older ones.

Thanks for your time; I hope some of you found some of it useful. If your PC / Network / Internet / Email / Backup or whatever isn’t running smoothly at the moment, my number is below, or if you want to ask the odd question or have any suggestions for a topic for another email or you are finding something particularly frustrating / problematic on the computer front, why not send me an email.