PSA: Back Up Your Computer. Again.

This Public Service Announcement brought to you by the guy who would have accidentally deleted his honeymoon pictures because his backups were too infrequent were it not for a lovely piece of software called Data Rescue.

While you’re at it:
-make sure the batteries in your smoke detectors are up-to-date
-check the air pressure on your tires
-review the procedures for when someone is choking
-wash your hands more often
-and eat some more vegetables.
That is all.

Dead on!

While there’s only a 1% chance of any of these happening to YOU, it only has to happen once.

Thanks for the tips! PS if I’ve never told you before, you have the best username on the Dope.

I do biweekly backups to an external hard drive. Two, in fact. One’s at the office locked in a desk drawer; the other’s at home. I swap em out each time.

The smoke detectors get checked on 1 October, per the schedule. It used to be when daylight savings time began and ended but Congress has screwed that up.

I check the air pressure in my tires one the first Sunday of each month.

Choking procedures…if it’s a guy, I can just punch him in the throat, right?


No. While the larynx is notoriously fragile in myth, in actuality you’ll find it quite difficult to crush in a single blow because of the muscles surrounding it and the tendency of people to tense up and drop their chins when you’re attacking them. Try this.

Then, review this.


Pish posh. There’s absolute NO chance that the paper you’ve spent the last two years of college working on will be utterly lost three days before it’s due. That’s an urban myth!

5,000 business contacts you absolutely cannot lose or you’re out of business? They’re safe in Microsoft Outlook, right?

I mean, come on. I do computer support. I’ve never seen a hard drive crash and be unrecoverable at the worst time possible, right?


Damn thing will crash and burn 5 minutes before you’re due in court with the contents of your drive, which is of course the ONLY place you’ve ever bothered to keep those critical papers.

As I have futilely been reminding people for years, the three most important rules for computers are:

  1. Back up
  2. Backup
  3. Backup

Then when some come whining to me that their HDD has crashed, and ask what to do, it is very difficult to refrain from telling them.

I was even stupider than most. I decided it would be a good idea to play around with partitions without backing up. :smack:

What’s worse, when my wife looked over my shoulder and saw what I was doing, she said, “You’d better back up.” To which I replied, “Oh, I will, just after I do one more little thing…” Fortunately for my marriage, Data Rescue really is a very effective program.

Now, of course, everything is backed up and the most important stuff is on DVDs. So no doubt nothing will go wrong until I become complacent again in a decade.

I would add - know the location of your water and gas shut off valves - before it’s an emergency.

Otherwise, your pipes burst at 4:00 in the morning and water is gushing everywhere and it takes forever to realize the water shut off is out by the street, under a foot of snow, and you need a special device called a plumber’s key to shut off the water…

I’ve been using Amazon’s web service & Jungledisk back up for a year now. It’s less than $5 a month and I’ve been very happy with them. Mozy & Carbonite are good, online, back up services too. I have a external hard disk and I keep music on it, but I prefer the offsite backups for photos & documents.

As someone who works in tech support for Apple… if you have a Mac, invest the $75 in an EXTERNAL hard drive (Or better yet, a router/ HD combo!), turn Time Machine on, and leave it alone!

Yes, it takes a long time to load the first time, and yes it’s a little difficult to understand, and yes you do have to leave it connected to your computer (wired or wirelessly), but… it’s one of the best backup systems I’ve ever seen, it’s free with your computer (aside from the cost of the drive), and the tech support folks will (usually) help guide you in the right direction for restoring with it if your drive crashes, even if you’re out of support (Re-install your OS, give your computer a different name than your old account info, boot to the disk, go to the utilities menu, and select “Restore from Time Machine backup.”)

By the same token, if you have a smart phone, back it up! (especially an iPhone - Android is actually a little easier to recover from) You never know when you’re going to drop it in a sink/ toilet/ pool, drop it and break it, have it stolen, drive over it, run it through the dish/ clotheswasher, drop it off a cliff and loose it, have it confiscated by the courts as evidence, have your ex take power tools to it, or have some other crazy thing happen to it.

You forgot:
-call your mother!

Check the spare tire in your car.
Get a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.

I got an iPhone recently; how should one best go about backing these up?

At work they have a “personal” drive allocated on the network for each user. I keep all of my Outlook PAB and PST files out there, because if they’re on the network they’re getting backed up regularly, right? About a month ago I tried to put something in one of my personal folders and got an error message that the personal folder file was corrupted and that I should run the inbox repair tool to fix it. The inbox repair tool failed, so I called the Help Desk and told them the file was corrupted and could they recover it from a backup?

Oops, sorry, we don’t back those files up on the network.

I don’t think there was anything important in there, it was mostly “nice-to-have” backups of old emails, but still - what’s the point of giving us storage space on the network if you’re not going to back it up? I guess I’ll just keep everything on my laptop and buy a stack of blank DVDs and do my own backups.

Open iTunes, plug your phone in. Once you see it on the left under “Devices,” right click on the name of the phone, and choose “Backup.” It will say “Sync” but it’s backing up.

You can see what backups you have by going to Edit -> Preferences -> Devices (unless you have a mac, then it’s iTunes -> Preferences -> Devices). There’s a big white box there which will list your backups.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to PM me, and I’ve linked to the general article on backing up your iPhone below.

One of my favorite tech gurus says, “A backup that’s sitting next to the computer does not exist.” What happens when your house burns down?

I’m a little more rigorous with my backups than the average bear because I’m self-employed. I rotate two external drives between the computer and my safe-deposit box. I do nightly incremental backups, and ideally I swap them every 2 weeks or so, though lately I’ve been lazy. Still, if a tornado took the house out tonight, I’d still be only a few weeks out. I also keep a copy of the backup software and extra power cables for the drive(s) in the SD box. (And in stormy weather I generally tuck the home drive (and other essentials) away in the basement where it would be likely to survive if the house caved in.)

I just have to laugh when I see these panicked people who’ve lost a HD. I think, “Just pull out your backups, duh,” knowing full well that they don’t have one. Sucks to be you.

On the other hand, my computer guy laughs at ME when he comes to replace a HD or do a new Windows install for me. (I could do it, but I’d rather pay him for the hassle.) He shows up and I’ve got the 2 external drives with full backups. One or two sets of backups on CD/DVD. Essential files copied over the network to the other computer. Current working files on the flash drive. All my data in lifeboats. No way am I losing my data! He doesn’t get many clients like me. :smiley:

Just wondering if there are any not too expensive online backup and storage whatsits

The problem with that is that you’re dependant on an outside party to protect your records.

Not quite the same thing, but I used to keep a record of my DVD collection at a website that was set up for that purpose. It was nice and convenient because they had software set up that did all the sorting and I could access it from anywhere. It was great right up to the point where they posted a notice that they were closing down the catalog feature in two weeks.

Now this was just a minor convenience and they handled it as well as possible. But suppose I had been backing up my business records on some online storage site and I signed on one morning to find out they had gone bankrupt and shut down the site with no advance warning?