I had a minor disaster today. I inadvertently wiped a file containing hours of research; I'm still not quite sure how it happened, but that's immaterial... what matters is, there wasn't a second copy of the file that could be used to recover the data.
Several months ago, I had an even worse calamity, when I was working from a Linux boot disk, and mistakenly wiped the hard drive in my laptop... my intention had been to wipe an external drive of similar size.
In both cases, there were warnings I ignored before shooting myself in the foot... my bad. Also in both cases, had I followed the backup rules I suggest to all my clients, there would have been no real harm done... definitely a case of "Do What I say, Not What I Do."
Three Simple Rules:
1. There should be at least two copies of ANYTHING that matters to you.
2. You should backup your personal files every day or two; more often if a particular file represents any significant amount of work.
3. You should back up your entire hard drive... programs, operating system, the whole shebang... every few months.
And backups are so easy to do nowadays, there's just no excuse not to do them. I wasn't a big fan of the backup utility that came with earlier versions of Windows, but starting with Windows 7, it seems pretty easy to use and does a good job.
Start => Control Panel => Backup and Restore; from there, it's pretty self-explanatory.
I prefer a couple of alternative programs. Don't ask me why, I just do. I've had good luck with both of these.
- Macrium Reflect is a commercial program out of England, but it's free for personal use. The version in the link will work with any Windows version from XP SP3 on; if you still have XP SP2, drop me a line, tell me whether you have 32- or 64-bit Windows, and I'll send you a link to Reflect Free version 5. The free version will only do full partition- or disk-image backups, not individuals files and folders, but it will let you restore individual files and folders from the full disk images.
- Clonezilla is a free and Open Source backup and restore program. You need it if you're using your computer to make a buck and don't want to buy the commercial version of Macrium Reflect. You might want it for personal use, just because it's fun to play with. As far as I've discovered so far, it's only good for full disk images, and only for full disk restores... you can't recover individual files. I could be wrong...
Daily backups of your personal files can be accomplished by the built-in Windows Backup utility, just using different settings. I prefer using this DOS batch file I wrote, and its partner file for restoring files from the backup.
- Once you download each file, move it to your desktop; right-click it, and select Edit.
- Press and release Windows-E (the Windows logo and the letter E at the same time) to open Windows Explorer.
- Connect a large thumb drive or external drive, just the one drive, and see what drive letter appears in the Explorer window; in the Notepad window, scroll down to the series of letters in parentheses, and remove the letters corresponding to CD and memory cards, making sure the external drive you inserted is still in the list. Close Windows Explorer, Save and close the batch file. Remember to do this for both batch files.
- Lastly, move the Restore... batch file to your personal folder: C:\Users\[your user name]; it might even be displayed on your desktop, in which case you can just drag the file over the icon and release it to move it.
Got any questions? Click this link to send me an email; I promise I'll respond PDQ.