Back up before de-clutter

Nov 16th, 2017 | By | Category: Latest News, Our Patch

By Matt Bentley

So, it’s that time of year again, and you’re ready to get rid of some of that spring clutter. Of course you are.

But, before you go deleting all the things you think you don’t need, maybe you should invest some time in installing precautions, in case you get it wrong.

For the fact is, we’re all fallible, we make mistakes, that’s what being human is about. So with that in mind, I’m going to talk to you about backing up.

Now, backing up isn’t as simple as it seems. It’s like sales: location, location, location. Where you back up to, is often as important as how often you do it – speaking of which, sometimes people back up fortnightly, sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, but mostly, not at all. And that’s the most unfortunate thing.

Because here’s all the things which backing up your data protects you from:
• Power issues – blackouts and brownouts – if your power switches off randomly, or you get low power suddenly, the hard drive can make a mistaken write which can screw up your data. Those of who live in the country know how unstable power can be. A tree comes down and knocks out a power-line 15 miles down the road, and boom – there goes your power.
• User error – deleting or altering your own files.
• Viruses – specifically, cryptolocker viruses and other kinds of malware which prevent you from accessing your files, or which delete them.
• Hardware failure – a failing motherboard, CPU, power supply, faulty RAM or an old hard drive can make you lose data. Hard drives (the bit of your computer which stores data permanently) have a median lifespan of about 6 years, and a quarter die within the first four years. So don’t think your computer is necessarily robust and permanent – it’s not.
• Theft – so long as you keep your backup drive elsewhere in the house.
• Lightning strike to local power or phone lines.

The best location for backing up data is an external drive; backing up online as well is fine, but it’s nowhere near as fast or convenient to restore data from ‘the cloud’ as it is to do so from a USB drive. A USB stick (flash drive) is also fine, if the amount of data you have is not large. Both are cheap to buy nowadays, particularly the sticks, so you’ve got no excuses there.

By the way, it’s not okay to backup up data to another location inside the computer. You are not protected from any of the above if you do so. Similarly, it’s not okay to leave the backup drive plugged into the computer at all times. Disconnect the drive (click the “Safely remove hardware and eject media” icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen in windows, or drag the drive to the trash on a mac) and unplug it from the computer once you’ve finished backing up. If you’re concerned about burglars or kids, store it somewhere out of sight.

Lastly, what software should you use to back up with? Windows’ own backup setup used to be pretty bad, however with Windows 7 and later it’s relatively good. You can follow the windows prompts for setting up a backup, or use Time Machine if you’re on a mac. If you want a more comprehensive solution, or you want to back up manually, there are two options that I recommend: Crashplan is a paid application with a free version, which can back up online as well as to an external drive. Microsoft’s own “synctoy” is also a program I quite like – it’s simple, it doesn’t copy anything that doesn’t need to be copied, and it’s free. If you want to take a look at either of them, google their names.

If you need any help with setting up a backup, or if you’re unsure as to how to set one up yourself, give me a call. I’m always available to figure out a solution.

Matt Bentley of Matangi Home PC Support

* Matt Bentley is the owner of Matangi Home PC Support. He has 20 years experience in computer hardware and software and his services include virus removal, PC optimisation, inspection and repair.

Matt writes a semi-regular column for Tamahere Forum on computer matters. Check out his website here for contact details.

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