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Reminder: Back Up Your Data Already!

As the primary source of tech support for much of my family, I'm used to getting panicked calls from one relative or another, but usually, I can find a solution to the problem without too much angst. That wasn't the case when my mother-in-law called on Monday to report that her iBook's hard drive had apparently failed.

Any malfunctioning hardware on the laptop can be fixed, but the data on it -- the stuff that really matters to my in-laws -- can't be replaced so easily. We're going to have to see if we can recover any of those files somehow. (The computer is out of Apple's one-year warranty, but my credit card extends that coverage through mid-December; at least this failure didn't happen three months from now.)

Drive failures are rare, but they can happen, even on relatively new machines. My friend Robert Schlesinger had the same thing happen with his less-than-two-year-old Dell laptop, except he also had a draft of his upcoming book stranded on the machine. With only a partial backup available, he wound up shelling out a painfully large sum of money to have a data-rescue firm, Ontrack Data Recovery, extract his files.

Sometimes, drives die beyond all hope of resurrection, as my long-ago Post colleague Baratunde Thurston found out to his dismay earlier this summer. He concluded his retelling of the disaster with some strongly worded advice:


I urge everyone reading this to backup your most important files right now. Not tonight. Not tomorrow. But right now. Do a local backup. Upload files to a server. Email them to yourselves. Print things out and put them in a lockbox.

He's right. Especially about having multiple backups. You can't count on any one method to come through, not when mechanical systems like hard drives can crash unexpectedly, and optical media like CDs and DVDs can suffer from scratches. (The most durable electronic storage available now is probably flash memory; keep hoping that those USB thumb drives, or whatever you want to call them, keep dropping in price.)

Your best backup strategy is to put your files in more than one spot. Don't think about making one copy to keep for all time; think of where you'll put that file for the next few years, after which you can put a new copy of the file on whatever media works best.

So how do you start? In a column I wrote in December about the care and feeding of new computers, I suggested a few different programs to help you back up your data:

The easiest backup option is an external hard drive or USB flash drive; the cheapest one is a rewritable CD or DVD.

Then you need a program to automate the backup routine. Many copies of Windows XP include Microsoft's basic Backup program -- to run it, open the Start Menu, go to All Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools -- which will work with an external drive.

If you use rewritable CDs or DVDs and use only Microsoft's Internet software, the free RightBackup Lite (http://rightbackup.systweak.com/download.php) comes preset to safeguard all your important files and settings.

Otherwise, try SyncBack Freeware (http://www.2brightsparks.com/freeware), but remember to tell this program to copy all your data, not just what's in your My Documents folder. Click the folder icon at the end of the "Source" line, then navigate to the folder inside the C: drive's "Documents and Settings" folder that's either named after you or, if not that, called "Administrator."

Got a Mac? Apple's $100/year .Mac service includes a backup utility, or you can use the free iBackup (http://www.grapefruit.ch/iBackup/).

Since then, Windows Vista has shipped. Vista's Home Premium edition includes a much more useful backup utility than XP; it works with rewritable CDs and DVDs as well as external hard drives. To run it, go to the Start menu and type "backup" in the search box.

Apple's upcoming Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard will have its own built-in automatic backup software, called Time Machine.

If you use any of the programs suggested above, how have they worked for you? What other programs do you rely on to backup your data (and would recommend to beginners)? Where do you store your backups?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 10, 2007; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Computers  
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Comments

Backing up is kind of a pain but well worth it. I had Kroll Ontrack recover a junky external hard drive I had backed up an old computer onto (then forgot to put them on my new computer until a few months later). I thought the drive was toast. Somehow they got everything off except a few files too badly corrupted. Pretty amazing. The guy there said they have a clean room and do a lot of work for DOD and FBI and other unnamed agencies and have recovered data on some very notable cases.

Posted by: Steven | October 10, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Backup is only half the story. Offsite, and preferably redundant backup is also vital. How many times have I heard of a fire or burglary taking out the backup discs at the same time as the source computer? Most recently there was a case of a woman in Sydney who lost her laptop with the only pictures of her young children. The only backups she had were stored in the laptop case...

I now backup to mobile external disk (the nice little ones that work solely off USB power) and CD/DVD. If I'm holidaying, I burn discs of photos etc regularly, keeping one on hand (in different luggage) and mailing the rest back home. I used to also backup lower-res copies to a gmail account using Picassa.

Posted by: Mike | October 10, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't the 'easiest' backup option be a RAID 1 array (2 disks with data mirroring)? With a RAID, if one drive fails, the other still contains the data.

One set up, a RAID requires no 'backing-up' of data and functions transparently as a single drive.

The odds of both drives failing at the same time are very small.

Posted by: Mike | October 10, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm fortunate enough to have used a backup successfully. Remember, a backup method that has not been tested is not a backup. Wasn't it the Alaskan government who lost about a man-year's worth of work because the backup failed?

I've also had the backup drive itself fail. That was annoying because I lost all of my ripped music but not devastating because my original drive was still intact.

Keeping the backup in a separate location from the original is also critical. What if both are stolen or lost in a fire?

Posted by: slar | October 10, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I have several Seagate drives for backup, FreeAgent Pro and FreeAgent Go. They come with Memeo Backup software but I had to trash it for several reasons including wanting to control system resources. I use KarenWare Replicator Freeware. Very happy, clean, small footprint, straight forward, enough control; I need to send her $20. She has a suite of Power Tools.

Although smaller, 120G, I like the FreeAgent Go which powers from a UBS port. If you use any 120v backup drive, make sure it is on a UBS. They don't like power interruptions or dips. Backups can take a long time so you are exposed. I use three drives for backup. First to the Go drive every day and once a week to two Pro drives.

I had a laptop stolen several years ago with 3 years worth of data on it (I was in the house sleeping) and a while back dumped coffee on the replacement laptop keyboard. A ten dollar keyboard shield is now in place on the new laptop. It is filthy. All that crap would normally go between the keys.

Posted by: Bud | October 10, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Use Carbonite or Mozy for the precious data. Best investment you can make. Rob how about a review of these and similar services?

Posted by: Rob | October 10, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I use:

An external hard drive
Mozy.com
Picasa Web for photos
My Gmail account
CDs of photos in a safe deposit box

and plan to buy a large thumb drive soon.

Posted by: Bartolo | October 10, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Regular backups have saved my bacon on more than one occasion, mainly because one location where I frequently used my Macintosh PowerBook was on a mountaintop, using dialup, and the site was prone to lightning and all manner of interference on the line & dodgy power. I use SuperDuper! from ShirtPocket Software. It's a bargain at $28 and blissfully simple to use. Hard drives are cheap these days. I keep one at the office, one at home, and one at the weekend house so I have multiple redundant & remote backups. Eventually I want to add an Internet backup. This is overkill, admittedly, but I'm self-employed; if I lose a client's project I am worse than toast. I am burnt toast with a bad reputation.(And Rob--you rock, dude! Best tech writer out there.)

Posted by: Doug | October 10, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

The theft of Francis Ford Coppola's computer & backup is a good high-profile reminder of the need for offsite backups.

Every month or two, I burn a CD of my latest pictures & files, and I keep them all in my desk at work. I also have a backup external hard drive, but only use it to backup manually - I need to automate the process one of these days.

Posted by: BPM | October 10, 2007 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Only way to go is www.diskhero.com
Backup and allows full restores and remote file retrieval when on business trips. Saved my back end MANY times.

Posted by: John | October 10, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Ya - http://www.diskhero.com is way better than Mozy and others - it backs up in REAL-TIME and allows secondary target drives so you can copy backups to local USB drives or 2nd PCS for total redundancy and disaster recovery. It is the best of all remote off site backup solutions.

Posted by: Wayne | October 10, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I have been struggling with Norton Ghost 10 for over a year. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. Vague failure messages were the norm, and finally tech support advised that I needed to disable page memory and run Disk Doctor against the source AND external destination drive THREE times before running Ghost. Ultimately, I de-installed the program so that I could attempt to re-install and see if things got any better. Norton's shabby anti-pirating scheme then refused to "activate" my legit installation. After two frustrated additional calls to tech support, and a FURIOUS letter to the president of Symantec, I've been promised a complimentary copy of Ghost 12.

At this point I am very skeptical but hoping for the best.

Posted by: Brian | October 10, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

When my hard drive crashed a few years ago, I began backing up my data to CD.

When my second drive crashed last month and the backups wouldn't read (do they ever?), I bought two identical drives and a $10 RAID controller, and configured a RAID 1 array. Now all disk opearations are mirrored to two drives with no performance penalty since the mirroring is all done in hardware. It even boots from the RAID array transparently.

On top of that, the new controller added four IDE channels, so now I can hook up as many as eight IDE devices on my machine.

And since it's RAID 1 (not striped), each drive is complete by itself. I can use either of the drives as a standalone non-RAID IDE in another machine, and it will have all my data on it.

I wish I knew about this a long time ago!

-- Faye Kane, homeless smartmouth. See more of my smartmouth opinions at http://blog.myspace.com/fayekane

Posted by: faye kane | October 10, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Mike, you said, "One set up, a RAID requires no 'backing-up' of data and functions transparently as a single drive. The odds of both drives failing at the same time are very small."

The odds of both drives failing simultaneously is quite likely. Reliability of hard drives is so good you're far more likely to lose data due to an external disaster. One malfunctioning sprinkler head and both drives could easily seize up simultaneously.

Geographic separation of your backups is key. Without it you're locking the windows and leaving the door open.

Posted by: Sagrilarus | October 10, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Rob, I'm skeptical of your assertion that flash memory is a good backup method, especially since people have a tendency to lose or accidentally damage their USB keys. And flash memory has a limited life, after which it dies with no hope of data recovery. At least you have some options with a scratched CD.

I'd use flash memory to back up something for a few days, but never for long-term or archival backups.

Posted by: William | October 10, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Even the odds of 2 drives failing simultaneously is low. Most often what happens is that one drive failed a month ago and nobody noticed since the RAID was still able to function. Then when the second drive fails the IT person notices a problem. That's usually when I tell them to send their server to CBL. http://www.cbltech.com

Posted by: JT | October 10, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I use an external USB hard drive and back up all the data once a week using Norton Ghose 10.0 on one system and Norton Save & Restore on another. Data at home usually does not change much in a week's time. Every few months, I back up all the data to several DVDs and keep them in a locker in the bank.

Of course, this was after I learnt a bad lesson with a hard disk crash a couple of years ago.

Posted by: Raghu | October 10, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Will Windows Home Server be any good for this .

Posted by: Timothy Murray | October 10, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

For my PC, I use the free RapidBackup, found at http://www.mlin.net/other.shtml. For my Mac I use the free Carbon Copy Cloner, found at http://www.bombich.com/software/ccc.html.

Both of these work very well. I especially like the ability to crate a bootable backup, which I use for my Mac. On more than one occasion I lost the primary drive, and I was able to recover an exact replica of my system as it existed just a few hours ago, literally in the time it took to reboot the Mac while pressing the cmd-opt-shift-delete keys. Then in a couple hours or so, I completed a reverse clone to the original hard drive (for the instance when the disk hardware was still good, and only the data had been lost).

Posted by: Mark | October 10, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I lost all my precious data this past spring because of a hard drive that failed after my PC started shutting off at random and sometimes powering up without prompting for a period of about a month. I replaced almost every component but the hard drive and finally fixed the problem (apparently a short-circuit in the case) but the last random shutdown must have damaged the drive permanently because it wouldn't come back up again. Even one of those expensive data recovery houses couldn't recover the data from my 500 GB hard drive. I learned my lesson the hard way. I'm now using Memeo AutoBackup on three of the five computers on my network, and it works automatically after setting up a simple backup plan. I also bought a D-Link DNS-323 network attached storage (NAS) with 1 terrabyte of total backup space. The only problem is that third-party backup software (Memeo and Acronis True Image) apparently can't detect the NAS under Windows Vista, only Windows XP (apparently it's a D-Link firmware compatibility issue with Vista). So I backup my data to a third hard drive in my PC and when D-Link upgrades the firmware, I'll do a second backup to the NAS.

Posted by: Ron, Huntingtown, MD | October 10, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

RAID 1 is good for hardware problems. But a virus can wipe out both drives together. Also, it does not protect against theft and fire. It is also possible that newly installed software (or even a Microsoft update) could contain a bug which obliterates your C: drive. Your little brother could accidentally format your C: drive while intending to format a memory card for a camera. All these events apply their damage equally to both drives of the RAID pair. You still need offsite backup.

Posted by: Walter | October 10, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Timely article for me, as just last night I finally got around to backing up my home PC. I used the backup utility in Windows, as I also wanted to back up my wife's laptop on to our external hard drive without buying 2 copies of software). I discovered that Windows XP Home does not automatically install the backup software, but this guide explains how to install it off the CD: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/setup/learnmore/bott_03july14.mspx

In completing my backup last night I did notice one annoying issue. The backup feature in ITunes will only allow backups to CDs or DVDs, not external drives. Granted, my entire library is on the IPod, but I just don't trust something I carry around everywhere as a backup device (especially after 2 restores in a year). I had to backup the music files with Windows Backup, but why wouldn't Apple include this option? I'd rather buy an external harddrive once than continually buying DVD discs.

Thanks for the great column!

Posted by: windows backup | October 10, 2007 5:46 PM | Report abuse

I use the Carbonite service (carbonite.com) to back up my PC automatically. Cheap ($5/month), painless, automatic, reliable. (Full disclosure: I have no financial connection to the firm.)

Posted by: Walter Gillett | October 10, 2007 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I have been doing weekly full data backups with plain old (Windows) "copy/paste", alternately backing up to an external hard drive or to a flash drive.

I made one backup on CD with Pkware SecureZip. It doesn't automatically span CDs, but cuts the Zip into appropriate sized chunks, so that another program can write them to CD.

I suppose I should SecureZip one backup, and e-mail it to my Yahoo account. As the name impiles, SecureZip includes optional encryption.

Posted by: JohnJ | October 10, 2007 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Hi Rob,

Great article! Like you, I'm the technical support for some of my family -- though I certainly do not have your level of expertise.

Anyway, I've been using Drive Image 7 since 2003 for my backups. The company, PowerQuest, was bought out by Symantec after I started using Drive Image. Symantec's Norton Ghost backup system supposedly replaced Drive Image 7. I tried Ghost for about a year or so, and was totally disappointed with it. Like other Norton software, it screwed my computer up royally. Also its backups were often screwed up.

So I deleted Ghost and went back to Drive Image. Never regretted it. My ancient, 8-year-old laptop crashed on me a couple years ago. I had it back in working order in less than an hour with Drive Image. What I love about Drive Image (and I'm sure there are other programs out there which do the same thing) is that it restores not only all your data files, but also system files and all your applications.

Anyway, that's my two cents. BTW, I agree with your readers who advocate off-site backups. That's the next thing I'm considering.

Thanks for your great columns and advice!

Posted by: John | October 10, 2007 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Mozy is a great service for me since they have a Mac version of their software (beta for now). At $5 a month for unlimited backups, it's automaitc. The only issue with Mozy and any online bakup service is if you have a slow upload connection (basic DSL for example) it will take a while for the first large backups to upload. Maybe a week or two running near continuously for a decent size photo and audio collection backup. Incremental backups after that aren't noticeable time wise.

Posted by: Fred | October 10, 2007 7:33 PM | Report abuse

I use http://allwaysync.com/ to sync files between my husband's computer and mine. I also back everything up on http://mozy.com (90+ gb so far cos it's $5/month unlimited).

I'd like to see a backup service comparison too cos I picked mozy for its cheapness more than anything, although it's worked well so far. :)

Posted by: mim | October 10, 2007 7:54 PM | Report abuse

I have tried many back-up programs, including Norton Ghost, Norton Save and Restore, and others. The technical support for all of the pograms that I have tried is uniformly poor. As other posters have noted, the error messages are cryptic and vague, and it is unclear whether a system restore would actually work. I would gladly pay more for a back-up program that clearly worked in an easy-to-understand way, with good technical support. Any recommendations?

Posted by: J. Davis | October 10, 2007 9:43 PM | Report abuse

The off-site backup programs seem good but expensive. I have 160 gigabytes of media and data on my hard disk. Some of the off-site programs suggested cost as much as $10 per gigabyte -- or $1,600 for 160 gigabytes.

Posted by: Jim Sampson | October 10, 2007 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Good timing. I just finished up this morning doing a backup of my purchased music & videos to the Amazon S3 service using Jungle Disk. At $0.15 per gig per month I couldn't beat the price.

I also have a backup on a external hard disk that I'll switch over to using for Time Machine once Mac OS X Leopard comes out.

Posted by: Terry | October 10, 2007 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Three words: Windows Home Server. Back up your Windows XP or later workstations automatically, every day. Restore a file, a directory, or the whole drive. Share and stream multimedia and other files. Access your content or your computers remotely across the web. Get it now, before you need it!

Posted by: Apostrophe | October 10, 2007 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I wanted to let you know about a cool new backup program that offers FREE and UNLIMITED OFFSITE backup.

With Zoogmo you control where your files are backed up by building a backup network of your own or your friends' computers.

Zoogmo automatically backs up ALL of your data over the internet, using a combination of Triple-DES and AES 256 encryption to make sure that only you have access to your files.

Check out Zoogmo at www.zoogmo.com to learn more and begin turning your social network into your backup network.

Remember, with Zoogmo you have no annoying monthly fees - totally free unlimited backup you can trust!

Posted by: Dov | October 11, 2007 5:38 AM | Report abuse

My operating system and applications are on a RAID-0 (striped) HD array for speed. My data is on a RAID-1 (mirrored) HD array for hard drive redundancy. I back up daily to an external HD. I have two more external HDs that are used for monthly backups and are stored in a bank safety deposit box. HDs are CHEAP!

I use Acronis True Image software for making image backups of my OS/Applications array to facilitate restoration in case of failure or corruption of the boot array.

Posted by: SRUKI | October 11, 2007 6:41 AM | Report abuse

Vista backup is awful. They have decided to make things "simple" so you can only choose whether to backup "your files" or "your whole computer." When you choose the former, you can only select what kinds of files (pictures, documents, zip files, etc.) and then it wants to backup the entire machine for these files types. Nowhere does it let you select what path you are interested in backing up. Fine if you have computers that you leave on all the time, but it takes a heck of a lot of time to backup an entire computer's worth of data, which you seemingly have to do unless you just want a Word docs backed up.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to say "backup these locations, all files, go" like you can in Windows XP?

Fine if MS wants to make things easier for people who don't understand where their files are on their computer. But come on, have a few advanced options already.

Posted by: stanley | October 11, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Hard drives *are* cheap. I've been using Retrospect for the Macintosh for years now. It used to be *the* program for Mac backups, and though it seems to have lost ground to other, newer programs lately, I'm used to it and it has always come through for me when I've had to restore data.

I'm a fiend about backing up my desktop and laptop, but never bothered to back up a second desktop that I use for stray projects while the main one is occupied. What's to lose, I figured? Well, wouldn't you know, that's the drive that failed last week - and while I didn't lose any unique data, I did lose a comfortable and familiar desktop / application setup that I now have to reconstruct from a virgin OS install. So I ordered a 750GB external drive from Macsales.com (under $400) and am now including the 2d desktop in the backup routine.

Posted by: John | October 11, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Great conversation here...

* Mike and other RAID fans: RAID--that is, "Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks"--isn't an option for most home users, inasmuch as their PCs don't have two hard drives of equal capacity. It also doesn't do anything for you if the computer is lost or stolen.

* Stanley: Good point about the Vista backup app--it's a stretch to call it "much more useful" than the XP backup utility, at least if the files you want to safeguard aren't covered by Vista's defaults.

* Dov: "Free" and "unlimited storage" usually combine to mean "unsustainable business model" unless you're Microsoft, Google, Yahoo or some other company with the income to underwrite that kind of giveaway. I would be very cautious about trusting my data to any site making that kind of pitch.

* William: The only limit to the usable life of flash memory that I've heard of is read/write cycles--and even then, the flash drive should outlast a hard drive by years, if not decades. Even if you try to destroy it.

* Apostrophe: Windows Home Server hasn't shipped yet. How do you know it works as advertised?

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | October 11, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I have a bunch of thumb drives and travel on planes a lot. I keep them in a small waterproof Pelican case with PC cards etc. They get scrambled to the point that they need re-formatting. I now consider them temporary storage. I don't know what the problem is.

Posted by: Bud | October 11, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

... especially if you don't run Vista!

http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com

Posted by: steve Ballmer | October 11, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I do full system backups (creating a "restore point") weekly using Norton Ghost and incremantal backups ("file" backups of changed data) daily using Vista Backup and Restore.

I agree with the comments regarding Symantec's technical support being terrible. I wanted to use Ghost for full and incremental backups, but the incremental backup was failing every day. I reported the problem to Symantec with a description of what I was doing and the cut/pasted error message. Symantec responded that my problem often happens when backups are configured incorrectly and pointed me to a document explaining how to do full system backups. Well, as I had explained, my system backups were running fine, but my file backups which were failing were configured using Ghost's wizard. After a couple days I got e-mail asking if my problem was better. I answered explaining it wasn't and why it wasn't. This was in early August. In late August I got new e-mail asking me to help improve Symantec's customer service. This e-mail came over the name of Symantec's VP of Consumer Support. I explained my frustation again. I still haven't heard from Symantec, and still haven't gotten file backups using Ghost to work. All in all, this is the worst customer service I have ever seen.

Posted by: -bwg | October 11, 2007 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Like Mike, I was also a great fan of RAID 1 and never even bothered to backup my files. As I never expected that it would happen, a virus wiped all the data on both of my hard drives. I had to payoff for not having baking up the data, by recovering my data from RAID Recovery Services. This experience has changed my entire view on backups I used to think they were unneeded for RAID 1, its sad that it takes such a disastrous event like this to open my eyes.

Posted by: Salvager | October 12, 2007 1:08 AM | Report abuse

I also have two 160GB HDs in the RAID 1 configuration, BUT I also have an 80GB external OneBook for backup of my data files, using Norton Ghost. It IS glitchy, but it works, most of the time. I'm considering adding an online service, too. Paranoid? YOU BETCHA! I have two teenagers on this computer; think they download GARBAGE? YOU BETCHA!

Posted by: TMU | October 12, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I've been doing Digital Video since 2000...actually did not create a single thing until some 8-months later....I have all of the origianl files on CD-R...I have never used CD-RW because I like the permanence of CD-R..in 6-years I might have lost about 6-CDs on Failure to READ...2-Floppies seemed to Fail...and lately(2007)DVDs are giving me problems...I prefer my External HDDs...I have never had a HDD failure(Ext.)..the USB Flash Drive is very nice I have a 256MB and 2-GB...very-very handy...Hardware is the Brain of your PC...the HD Drive must be Damage free..I would suggest that Utilities NOT be USED on System(C:/)..be ready to purchase a New HD for System (C:/)and graduate the old one to a External in a Enclosure...what I have been doing during OS re-installs is to DELETE..the..Partition and then Create it all over again...and I have stopped USEING Multiple Partitions...useing Flash Drive and Externals instead...your HD Drive for System should be a 7200-RPM drive....LapTops still use 5400-RPM drives..and this could be your Failure...I have experimented w/5400 + 7200 RPMS on the same system and there is a Good-size differance...considering Security Software..../and 512MBs of RAM is minimum these days...if you have XP(SP1)throw it in the garbage..its worthless...Buy the New SP2...I have found that PC operation needs Functionality in the way of compatible software programs(XP-Logo)suppies this....Hardware is really about Special Needs...Digital Media can use 533MHz Processors...on the Front Side Bus...but Digital Video Creation requires 800MHz Processors...and your RAM Modules must match perfectly..."are they"/??....next thing I have found is Pagefile(Virtual Memory)..use a CUSTOM Size that allows you to ADD/extra RAM Modules yet Freezes the Value....I use 500/750...and Re-Install my OS w/512MBs of RAM and add a second Module much later(after all Updates are done)...a single RAM Module is placed in SLOT-0(usually)closest to the Processor Socket(any others Follow Design)...learning System Set-Up is a good idea(F2)....the rest is practice.

Posted by: ct47DB | October 13, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

One crucial aspect I don't see being mentioned is routinely testing your backups. I've been doing PC backups for 20 years and have learned to periodically test my backups by doing a test restore to a different drive or partition. It avoids learning too late that there's a problem with my backups, or that you aren't backing up all the data I think I'm backing up.


I use Acronis software to create nightly backups of my data into files in a backup partition. Once a week I burn these files to DVDs that I store off site. In addition, I burn additional DVD backups when I'm creating or modifying crucial data, I backup some key folders to Mozy online, and I do other ***temporary*** backups of daily work to ***high quality*** USB keys.

Posted by: Erik | October 14, 2007 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Mirrored data drives? You bet. Generational backups on a separate machine? Of course. Many folks, though, forget about the value of offsite backups for personal data. At $200 for a 750GB portable drive (this weekend's price), there's no excuse for not copying your financial files, photo collection, and even music onto such a drive and storing it at a friend's house, refreshing it every quarter or so, to survive the fire or flood.

Posted by: rxfelix | October 15, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm very particular about backups, having been badly caught out many years ago when two weeks of intensive effort went south.

I use an excellent little program called "Second Copy" that does it all seamlessly. It has detailed include/exclude, source/destination and verify-after-backup features that make it absolutely tops in my book. Take a look at www.secondcopy.com

And no, I don't make commissions. The program is so good, it's cheap and their support is excellent, to the extent that they deserve a good independent plug.

Posted by: Andy | October 15, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I agree with many comments on this board. Great article.

One thing I didn't see mentioned is Microsoft's Sync Toy. This is a free bit of software in the Power Toys catergory from Microsoft and I like it a lot. It does a folder by folder backup to another drive. All you do is simply pick the two drive locations. There are five different options for you backup (direction of copy etc.). I usually use 'sync' and so far all has been well. The thing I like about this program the most (apart from it being free), is that you can access the folders you backup on the external drive (in my case) and see if the data is there.

One area in which I'm lacking is not having a storage location outside of the house for backup drives. I back up to three external drives, but they all live in the basement. Not a good thing I've realized from reading this thread. Time to get a safe deposit box I think! Good advice from those who suggested it, and I thank you for it.

OK, rant mode on. I totally agree with the comments about Symantec (Norton) tech support. My experience with them has been overwhelmingly negative. In one case I had a problem with PCAnywhere (a buggy, memory hog at best) in which it took THREE WEEKS of tech support sending a total of three e-mails with large amounts of time between each one to try and solve my problem. In the end I formatted the drive and restored the program and it worked. Luckily this was a dedicated laptop that we use to log into a customer site remotely so there wasn't much on it. Unfortunately, the customer only uses PCAnywhere. I will never voluntarily use this software again.

Rant mode off. Sorry about that but the comments earlier on in the thread brought that experience back to my mind and I had to get that off my chest. Thanks for listeneing:-).

Posted by: Mark | October 15, 2007 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I strongly urge copying crucial files to DVD or BlueRay disks. Water and magnets will not harm them. The National Institute of Standards and Technology says they will last 30 to 100 years. (Will there be playback machines then? Or will all disk drives be in museums?)

Duplicate each backup disk.
Keep one copy on a closet shelf and the other in a relative's house across town.

See my comment, #197 on Baratunde Thurston's blog that Rob linked to above.

Posted by: Solo Owl | October 16, 2007 2:39 AM | Report abuse

I am disappointed that the right investigation was not made regarding the OnlineBackup Industry. Is this a Editorial or Advertorial. The online support is the most important component .. try out others like
Carbonite.com
Mozy.com
www.onlinebackupvault.com

Try out their online support

Posted by: The main problem is the Online Support | October 16, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Not enough information about
1. www.idrive.com
2. www.mozy.com
3. http://www.onlinebackupvault.com
4. www.carbonite.com

etc.

Posted by: I too agree | October 16, 2007 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Two comments making almost the exact same point, sent hours apart from the same IP address (79.179.241.143) and yet purporting to be from two different people?

Very tacky, whoever you are.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | October 16, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Some comments here are about disk image backups and some are about file backups. They are really apples and oranges, different concepts and different software.

For file backups, I strongly suggest a program that stores the backups in "native" format, meaning the backed up files can be restored to any computer without need for the backup application that created them.

As for Mozy, it gets great reviews. I don't think they are justified. See my CNET blog and decide for yourself:
http://blogs.cnet.com/8301-13554_1-9752330-33.html

Posted by: Michael Horowitz | December 4, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

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