Category Archives: Personal Computing

Backing up your computer.

Far too often, I hear about people who have ‘lost’ their computer files. Happily, there are many ways to easily avoid such a disaster these days.

Firstly, how do you organise your files? Having tens or hundreds of them on the desktop is not best practice. Try to follow a ‘clear desk policy’, only keeping files on the desktop that you are currently working on or frequently (i.e. daily) need to access. All other files should be saved and stored in appropriately named folders on your computer hard drive.

Backing up your computer is essential! Hard drives are a commonly used method, but¬ – it’s a big ‘but’– they do fail after a finite time. However, you shouldn’t need to worry about that horror if you have a proper back up strategy in place.

I’ve always followed the ‘3-2-1’ back up rule. This means I have:

  • Three copies of each file, including the original,
  • On at least Two different drives,
  • And One copy stored ‘off-site’.

For example, I might have a document stored on my internal computer hard drive, a copy stored on a separate external hard drive, and the third copy synced to Dropbox.

However, whenever I change the copy on my internal hard drive, the copy in Dropbox (cloud storage) will be updated, and the second copy on an external hard drive will also be updated within an hour automatically via Apple Time Machine or if you are a Windows user there is a similar application such as Backup and Restore.

Therefore, at worst case I will have potentially only lost a few minutes’ work on a document should there be a drive failure or computer failure.

Going back to external hard drives, please do not use them for storing your original files and photographs on them as they tend to fail more frequently than the internal drive on your computer. You should use them only for backing up. The place to store your original files is your computer!

One back-up solution is to use two external drives to back up, with the system alternating between the two drives automatically. The likelihood of both failing at the same time is remote.

Check your back-ups are working from time to time. Make sure that the back-up drive is fully up to date, in the same way you have made sure that your applications and operating system are up to date.