For those that know me or have read my bio, I love almost all things relating to computers. Well, it’s more of a love-hate relationship at times depending on what I’m working on. This week has been a blast. I’ve downloaded some pretty cool free apps for the Mac and the PCs, and I’ve downloaded the new iPhone 3.0 software for my iPhone.
I’ve thought about having some of my blogs pertain to geek stuff as it might apply to writing. I won’t go into things at such a level that might make your eyes glaze over I promise. Or at least, I’ll try not to. I’ll post them sparingly. What do you think? Would it be helpful? Let’s try one and see.
One of the things I’ve come across the most in my line of work is how many people don’t back up their computers. If you’re grimacing about now, then you’re guilty. And you know what? I’m not going to try to make you feel any better about not backing up your stuff.
Why? First, let’s look at it this way – you’ve spent how much time writing? Let’s be honest and consider how much you’d lose if something happened to your computer. I can hear you now – “I don’t have time! I can’t afford it! It’s too complicated!” If you can write a novel then you have time. Depending on how much of your computer you want to back up, it’ll take anywhere between 10-30 minutes. You can’t afford it? Already have a USB backup drive? We’re talking FREE. Don’t tell me you can’t afford free. Otherwise, it’s around $100 to buy one. Complicated? Not! Can you drag and drop a folder into another folder? Can click yes or no to a couple yes-no questions? Then it’s not complicated. What’s complicated is getting your digital life back after a major computer crash with no backup.
For the computer talented out there, you’ll undoubtedly know of other methods of backing up. That’s great. But this is the KISS method for those that don’t know or choose the easiest method. I’m also talking about backing up in case you delete a file or your computer has a hardware issue, not disaster recovery such as your house catching on fire, which is another topic.
PC Users: Plug in an external USB drive into your computer. Look under My Computer and you’ll see the device as another drive. Just click on that drive, create a folder inside it. Open another instance of My Computer. Now, just either drag and drop folders or files into the the folder you created. Tip: on your computer, keep all important files in organized folders nested under one main folder called data. Keep things that don’t need to be backed up all the time in another folder – like music. Then, just drag and drop the data folder onto the USB drive. Backup your computer once a week, more if you have a lot of work/files/data that change frequently. Name the folders on the USB drive so that you’ll know what it is – June 2009, July 2009, etc.
You can also just put your work on a thumbnail drive or burn it to a rewriteable CD (let’s be environmentally conscious, shall we?) The thumbnail drive works just like the large USB drives, but won’t back up as much stuff.
There are third-party applications you can buy to backup your data. I tried one years ago and never liked it. When I backed up my PCs manually, I used the method above. And yes, you could create a script to run the backup for you, but if you ever change things in your folder structure, the backup may have different results than you’d expect. Have a mixed environment like mine? Drag and drop the file/folders from the PC to the Mac’s Public Dropbox folder. You’ll see why below.
MACS: I’ll go with the assumption you have Leopard or Tiger running on your Mac (I’m 97% sure you do). Here’s all there is to it: plug in an external USB or firewire drive equal to or greater than the size of the internal drive. You’ll be asked if this drive if for Time Machine backup. Click yes. The first backup may take a very long time, depending on how much data you have, so do the first backup at night. That’s it. From here on, as long as that external drive is connected to your Mac, Time Machine will back up everything – every preference, every setting, every patch, every app, every file, every email- usually within a couple minutes. You can eject the drive and reconnect whenever you want. When the drive is reconnected, it’ll start backing up without any work on your part. By default, Time Machine backs up every hour in the background without slowing you down or interfering with your work. When the drive is full, it’ll ask if you want to overwrite the oldest backup.
Alternatively, you can pay a monthly charge to have your data backed up remotely. Dropbox is a good example.
Okay. You know who you are. When is the last time you backed up your writing? Get with it! June is backup awareness month.