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Backup, Backup, Backup

Q: Anonymous asks:: Everyone tells me I have to backup. What the heck does that mean?

A. You have put a lot of time and money into creating the information on your computer. Personal records, taxes, letters, music, pictures, etc are all very valuable to you. What would you do if you turned on your PC tomorrow and all of those files were gone?

Backup is a procedure where you make a copy of your valuable stuff so that if the worst case happens, you won't have lost it all.

Even though computers are pretty reliable these days, you can lose your precious data in a number of ways. The hard drive could fail (they all do eventually), the machine could be damaged in a fire, you could spill your coffee into the system, a virus could wipe you out, a power surge could fry your system and a dozen other potential problems.

The most common cause of data loss is - you. You may accidentally erase files or cause other problems that you didn't intend.

You need to get the information out of your PC and onto some media that you can put in a safe place. It is important to keep a backup set in a different location than your PC. So if you have a fire, flood, robbery, etc. your valuable data will be available at another location.

There are several options for the kind of media that you backup to. These include tape backup, Zip disks, recordable compact disks (CD-R or CD-RW) and spare hard drives.

The important thing is to make sure the media has enough capacity to hold all the information that you want to backup. Depending on the individual device, a tape can hold many gigabytes of data. Tape is best for large, unattended backups. You can tell the backup software to backup your entire system every Wednesday at Midnight (for example) and on Thursday morning you will have a tape that you can store safely somewhere. Most businesses will have a tape backup system.

Zip disks are easy to use and less expensive but they only hold 100MB or 250MB of data. This may be sufficient for the way you work though.

Recordable CD drives let you store about 650MB of data onto a blank CD (less than $1). You use the included software to "burn" the data onto a blank CD that can then be used to restore files if a problem occurs.

You can also use spare hard disks and other removable drives for backup but this is less common in a home situation.

The most important thing is to backup regularly. This will depend on how you work. If you would be devastated if you lost everything that you worked on yesterday, then you need to backup at least daily. If you could recover OK if you lost a few days' work, then maybe weekly backups are a better option.

Whatever you decide, make sure you do it and do it regularly. Because eventually we all experience that sick feeling that we have lost all of our stuff. Prepare now so that you can prevent a disaster from happening.

Answered by Tech Expert Dan Hanson

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