Geek Speak – Back Ups

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.

‘Nuff said.

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.

Easy-peesy, right?

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.

12 thoughts on “Geek Speak – Back Ups

  1. Hey Michelle,
    Yep Im one of the guilty who lost stuff before without the thing of backing up. I’ll get on with it at some point shortly just to make sure that Im up to date with everything. The major bright side is that its a good practice to get into when writing.

    Thanks for the good advice.

    • I think everyone loses something once. Hard lesson to learn sometimes. Yes, it’s always a good practice. We’ve become so dependent on our computers.

  2. I’m with you about backing up your stuff. I didn’t before and then my computer crashed and I lost everything. I don’t fully trust by USB, so I just save everything important in my emails and the other stuff on my USB.

    ~ Popin

    • I trust the USBs I have. It’s extra insurance. What are the odds they’ll crash and burn the same time the computer hard drive does? I have had CDs that weren’t reliable between computers, so I tend to stick with external drives.

  3. OMG Thank you… People are so… grrr… incoherent anger.

    Ok, I used to work as the computer lab tech at school. I was in charge of several hundred computers and we had no end of people coming to us going, OMG my floppy drive (yes, people were still using them) doesn’t have my data, or my hard drive crashed and my paper is gone or what ever. I’m so anal about backing things up it’s not even funny. If it’s that important to me, I’ll have one if not two backups. (I don’t have an instantaneous back up system, but I do it fairly often. Writing always gets backed up at the end of every session. Pictures are not deleted from the memory card until I have a backup.

    I’ve seen hard drives crash on install people… please, if it’s important, back it up.

    • Nah. Only if you had my luck. I did lose some emails a year back when I rebuilt a computer and totally forgot that MS buries pst files seven levels deep by default – and that isn’t necessarily backed up when dragging and dropping folders to an external drive.

      I usually point email storage to a different folder, but I guess I forgot on that particular PC.

  4. I back up periodically on my USB sticks, but I also send completed manuscripts to my e-mail, that way even if something happens like the house burns down, I can access those files.

    • I back up everything using TimeMachine.

      I have a script for the PC to periodically copy a couple important folders to the Mac. The third PC in our house is about useless, and doesn’t contain any information sans bookmarks, so not worried there.

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