Backup, or you'll be sorry!

By: Scott Hendison   ·   Published: January 2001

When you lose all the data in your computer, how devastated will you be?
Notice I said WHEN, and not IF. That’s because the odds are against you, and the longer you use a PC, the more likely you are to suffer a catastrophic data loss. I could research some statistics and convince you with the numbers, but suffice it to say believe me, or you’ll be sorry.

In August of 1998, we had our hard drive crash at MPH Computing (then called Cyber Exchange). At that time, I was not diligent about backing up our data (duh...) and we lost 8 days of information. Every invoice, return, purchase order, employee time card punch, etc. were gone for good from our Point of Sale system. Since then, we back up every night, but that was an expensive lesson.

First of all, make it simple on yourself. Move everything valuable into one folder on your computer. The folder I use is the “My Documents” folder. Different versions of Windows store that folder in different places. To verify exactly where yours is stored, locate the “My Documents” folder on your Windows desktop. Right Click on it, and choose “Properties”. From there, you should see whether it’s just C:\My Documents, or C:\Program Files\My Documents, or C:\Windows\Desktop\My Documents, or something else completely. Another way to find it (and anything else) is to go to the START button and select FIND, then choose “files or folders. Type in the “Named” area “My Documents” (w/ no quotes), and be sure to set the “LOOK IN” to “My Computer”. That way it will search all areas of your computer.

Once you know where the “My Documents” folder is, you can create sub folders in it for all of your important data. You may name these subfolders whatever you want, like kids, mom, dad, my pictures, my downloads, Scott’s articles, etc. You may also have more subfolders within each of those subfolders. Organize it as much or as little as you wish.

Once that’s done, you may just move things around by opening the “My Computer” icon, and browsing directly to your files. Once you find all the greeting cards you’ve designed, or the pictures you’ve downloaded, or the recipes you’ve amassed, just cut and paste them into the appropriate sub folder in My Documents.

Now that everything is organized, you need to remember to stay organized. When you type up a new recipe, or download something new, make sure that when you save it, you choose to “Save As” into the correct C:\My Documents\Subfolder so you’ll always know where it is.

Now you need to determine what method of backup is going to be best for you. I wrote an article in March of 1998 about the options available, and it’s posted on our website. By the time this is in print in January, I will have updated that article. To determine the amount of backup storage you’ll need, just go to My Computer, and find your My Documents folder. Right click on the yellow folder, and go to Properties. There it will tell you the size of the folder, and you can see how much storage you need. Now all you have to do is copy the entire folder to your Zip drive, CDRW drive, or whatever you’ve chosen to use. You can even backup little by little to floppy disks if that’s all you have.

Bear in mind that this article is written for basic users. If you use specialized accounting or contact management software, there will be data stored somewhere else on your computer, and it’s up to you to figure out where that is. If you need help finding it, e-mail me. Please don’t assume that what I’ve written above is your total solution. Find all of your data, and then you can just copy it wherever you want.

Recommended reading on our website…
December 2000 – Clean up your desktop
March 2000 – Letters, Slashes and Dots, Oh My!
December 1999 – Shortcuts to Success
March 1998 – Removable Storage Options

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