Nightmare scenario: Computer data lost

All the data on your computer is only one glitch away from being lost. Be it a hard-drive crash, virus, electrical storm or power surge, everything you have on your computer could vanish in an instant. While most newer computers have internal backup features, those are only as good as the condition of your computer. In a catastrophe, it won’t do you any good. But there are steps you can take to safeguard your data.

Manually backing up your files:

  • Use a storage device. A thumb drive is the easiest way to transport a file elsewhere, but don’t use thumb drives for long-term storage.
  • CDs are handy and hold a lot of data, but they’re not forever. One scratch and the whole collection of data could be lost. If you save to CD, save to two of them, and spring for the hard plastic cases.
  • External drives are a good bet and come in all sizes and prices. However, if a glitch takes out your computer, it could affect the external hard drive as well. In the event of a catastrophe (tornado, fire), you can grab the drive and go.
  • If you’re on a home network, moving all your data to another computer is easy enough, but again, if a glitch hits the first computer, it also might strike your second computer.
  • Remember to do your backups. If you make a habit of backing up at the end of each day, in a crisis situation you’ll lose only what you’ve done that day.

Automatic backing up of your files:

  • Cloud services are distant locations that will save your data for you. These are paid-for services, but beware you don’t sign on with a start-up company to get a lower price. Go with the tried and true. You’ll pay for both storage and download fees should you need your files back.
  • If you go with an external hard drive, many of them come with software that will automate your backups. Schedule it to copy your files daily and then check once a week to be sure those downloads happened and that you can reacquire a file or two. If your data is for work (or if you’re writing a thesis or novel), schedule more frequent backups. Every five minutes is not too much.

Best bet: Back up your data via two methods, one of which stores your data in a different location.
David Uffington regrets he cannot personally answer reader questions, but he will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to
(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.


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