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Essential safeguards for your computing experience.

Always save and backup your work.

As I travel around to my clients, time after time I have to tell them the bad news that everything they have ever stored on their computer is gone for ever.  This might be due to a virus attack, junior's decision to format the disk while Mum had her back turned, or most often of all, the hard disk has physically failed.  Most (but certainly not all) virus attacks can be recovered from, and junior's efforts at formatting the disk may be undone provided you have not tried to do anything to the disk since he did so. However, if the disk itself has failed, if you had no backup, and if you want to recover the data, you need to pack it off to Drive Savers or Data Recovery Services and pay them to recover the data for you.

How do I back it up?

(a) The ordinary floppy diskette (which these days is enclosed in a hard plastic case so that it doesn't feel floppy).

For small amounts of data such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and so on, all you need is a 1.44 Mb 3" floppy disk.

Note where the document is being saved (usually in the "My Documents" folder) and close the program you used to create the document.  Open Windows explorer, navigate to the "My Documents" folder, highlight the files that need to be backed up, click on Edit and then on Copy (or on the copy button on the toolbar, if you have one).  Then insert a new floppy, navigate to the A: drive in the left window of the Explorer, and click Edit and then Paste (or click on the Paste button on your toolbar, if you have one).

When the copy process is complete, your files are backed up.  Put the floppy somewhere safe from kids fingers, magnetism, humidity, heat, smoke, and dust, which are all capable of destroying your backed-up data (kids' fingers are definitely the worst and most unpredictable/uncontrollable).  In humid areas, do not rely on a floppy back-up to be readable for more than six months.

(b) The Zip drive, Jaz drive or LS120 drive options.

If you will be dealing with more data than a floppy can easily hold and don't have an inexhaustible bank account, the next option is to have a disk drive which can hold 100 Mb or more on a diskette. 
If possible, when you are buying the computer, specify that your A: drive be an internal LS120 drive which can also be used to read and write 1.44 Mb floppies and the older 720 Kb floppies.  Some people prefer to specify an internal 100 Mb Zip drive in addition to the standard 1.44 Mb floppy.  This option is most useful if you have a lot of friends/colleagues who own Zip drives and you want to exchange disks with them.
If you have already bought your computer and it doesn't have one of these options, you may need to purchase an external LS120 or Zip 250 Mb drive.  These usually plug into either the parallel (printer) port or the USB port, depending on the model.  If your computer has USB ports, look for USB accessories.  Avoid SCSI drives, if you are going to be fitting it yourself.

For people who will be dealing with very large files, a Jaz drive which can store 1 Gb or 2 Gb depending on the model may be needed, but as these require a SCSI port to be available on your computer, you will need to have it professionally installed.  On newer computers, you are also highly likely to run into frustrating hardware conflicts which can be very expensive to have resolved by an expert, if you have a SCSI card fitted.

Once you have a larger capacity drive and the necessary diskettes or cartridges, you will be able to copy your files to the appropriate drive using the method described above for floppies.

(c) Recordable (CDR) or Rewritable (CDRW) Compact Disc drives.

There are a great number of these available on the market now at very reasonable prices. The blank discs are now readily available but CDRW discs are several times the price of CDR discs.  The difference is that a CDRW disc can be erased and have data written to it again, whereas the CDR can only have the data written once and from then on it can only be read.  The CDR is a WORM (Write Once Read Many times) device.
The advantage of CDR and CDRW drives is that almost all computers today have a CD-ROM drive which in most cases will be able to read the data you have saved to a Compact Disc.  Some of the CDRW discs can cause trouble with older (and some newer) CD-ROM drives.
The disadvantage is that you have to learn new software to write your data to the discs.

(d) Using backup programs.

Zip drives are marketed with their own excellent backup program, and there are plenty of backup programs available.  The backup program is most useful when you have files which are too large to fit on one diskette.  For some obscure reason the Microsoft Backup program which comes with both Windows 95 and Windows 98 is not installed by default when the operating system is installed.



This page was last modified on 07/02/08 at 08:40:30 Hong Kong Time.

Copyright 1996 - 2010 Phil Smith, all rights reserved. All contents in this web site are provided as is without warranty of any kind. Phil Smith expressly disclaims any liability from the use of any information in this web site.

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Note that the e-mail address for Phil Smith (also known as "Doctor Disk") has been changed to phil DOT drdisk AT gmail DOT com with effect from 18th March 2006.  To use this e-mail address, in your e-mail program's "To" field, type out the words in blue replacing " AT " with "@" and replacing " DOT " with "." so that there are no spaces.  Sorry for the inconvenience, but my junk mail had passed 1,000 items per day.

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