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How often do you back up files that you consider important?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 12, 2006 8:26 AM PDT

How often do you back up files that you consider very important?

Hourly (how so?)
Daily (how so?)
Weekly (how so?)
Monthly (how so?)
Quarterly (how so?)
Biannually (how so?)
Yearly (how so?)
Never (don't know how or just living on the edge?)
Other

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Various...
by John.Wilkinson / October 12, 2006 1:02 PM PDT

Critical files are copied to a flash drive after every major change, at which time the flash drive is removed to prevent accidental modification or deletion.

All files are synchronized to an external hard drive daily, though prior to each sync a comparison is made to verify that no files are going to be replaced or deleted without being appropriate to do so.

On a weekly basis all files are backed up to a set of DVDs. The DVDs are cycled through, so several weeks worth of backups are available in case one becomes corrupt.

And, of course, all backups are automatically and manually verified after creation to ensure validity.

Any other questions? Happy
John

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WOW (Saint) John
by grayja / October 13, 2006 6:14 AM PDT
In reply to: Various...

I must say, you sound terribly meticulous and almost RELIGIOUS!!! but very comendable none the less. I assume you do serious important and valuable work on your computer, but really, for us lesser mortals who take family snapshots, copy music, surf the web, and write emails, might we be able to do something a little less rigorous and less frequently.

My problem is 'good intentions' - I know, the way to Hell is paved with good intentions!!!. I set up the windows Scheduler to do my backups at 1 am. every Monday - sounds good eh??!! trouble is now I have left it up to the computer to do the dirtly work, I get sleepy of a Sunday evening, and goo off to bed early, switching off the PC on my way!!!!!

What I'd really like is some way to have the PC flash a message on the screen on Sunday evening when I start the Shut-down process to remind me "Hey Dummy - tonight is backup night - PLEASE LEAVE THE PC ON.


Anyone have any good ideas - I'll watch this discussion for a few days. Thanks, Arthur

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Not that Easy Yet!!
by gigal226 / October 14, 2006 4:04 PM PDT
In reply to: WOW (Saint) John

I am sure at some point we will have the capability of having a message pop up before we turn our computers off, but until then I would suggest a backup program that will backup after every change or daily. I have an older computer and only a 28 gig hard drive so I don't need something huge to back up to. Anyway, I use a 750 meg zip disk to back up to. Files that are important to me I have set to back up after every change; files that are not as important, I have set to back up daily. This usually happens when I restart my computer; and files that I just want to have I manually back up once a month. I hear a flash drive is better than a zip and can do the same thing, but I haven't really needed the additional space a flash drive offers. As far as I know something like the zip or flash backups are as close to the popup as you are going to get at this time. Believe me, once you have lost important files, you will spend the time and make sure you back up your data.

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Daily Backups
by rsherry / October 13, 2006 1:16 AM PDT

I use an external USB 300GB Seagate drive to backup my files on a daily basis using "VersionBackup", a FREEWARE product. I tried many others, but settled on this one because it allows you so many useful options. There are no nag screens and it is simple and FAST!

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Every 10 minutes!
by richlane / October 13, 2006 1:31 AM PDT

I use Second Copy and set it to sweep through my user data folders every ten minutes. When it finds a file that's changed, it backs it up to an external hard drive. If a file is still in use, it can't be backed up, but it is backed up within 10 minutes after I close it. (The one exception is outlook.pst, which isn't released by Outlook for several hours after it's closed, which I never understood, but it gets backed up at least once a day also.) Once a day, I back up the external hard drive to another hard drive. Every month, I swap the second external hard drive with a twin that I keep off-site. Having an off-site copy of my important data is a crucial component of my strategy. I also do a disk-image backup of the system and program files every few days, and keep it on both external hard drives as well. All this took about $200 in hard drives (which are really cheap these days), some inexpensive software, and a few minutes to set up. Once a month I have to drive to my storage locker to swap the backup hard drives.

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Backup of data
by woodwrth / October 13, 2006 1:33 AM PDT

I have 2 hardrives in my PC. I use windows XP briefcase to backup my data weekly to the second hard drive, then quarterly i copy the data to CD or DVD.

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If they're important, I'd do it right away...
by smartipants / October 13, 2006 1:36 AM PDT

Most of the files that I work on are not so large or important that they need to be backed up at all. I back them up a couple of times per year, and then I can't find them when I need them, anyway, and have to recreate them (which takes all of 10-15 minutes). :o) On the rare occasion that I work on an important document, I back up (replace) each version as I work on it.

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Handling back-up
by dickboy / October 13, 2006 1:39 AM PDT

I have windowsOne Care Live that prompts me to do it every two weeks. I I down load a new program or have new documents, it prompts me to do the back-up. It backs up to a DVD. If I had an external hard drinve it would back-up automatically.

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Drive Image Pro 7.0 is the best
by Pikepole / October 13, 2006 1:41 AM PDT

I back up my HD with Drive Image Pro 7.0 and I think it is the best. It is quick easy and relatively cheap. There have been many times that I have used the restore and I just love it. I have it scheduled to run once a week. There are still copies of this out there if you look.

--Bob

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Almost immediate backups
by powersville21 / October 13, 2006 1:44 AM PDT

Although I've never lost "irreplaceable" files, a couple years ago I lost all the backup MP3's I made of all of my CDs. Reconverting all my CDs into MP3's was an incredibly tedious task. In addition to the ripping process, I had to re-tag all the new MP3 files. Once I finished that, I vowed to myself "Never again."

I have two internal hard drives. The primary drive is split into a C: drive and a D: drive. The C: drive is for programs and system files. The D: drive contains the My Documents folder. The secondary drive contains a small partition for the Windows Page File. (Microsoft recommends that the page file be located on the 1st partition of a physical hard drive separate from the drive containing Windows.) The 2nd drive also contains two other partitions, which I use for internal backups. I have created a folder on one of the backup partitions My Documents-Backup.

Whenever I create a new document or update a document, I save it. Then I go to the Start menu, locate the new/updated document in My Documents, right click and select Copy to Folder. I choose the similarly titled folder in the My Documents-Backup folder (such as My Pictures-Backup or Letters-Backup) and add the copy/update there. Thus I backup every document just minutes after I add new information.

When I upgraded my primary hard drive from an 80 GB model to a 300 GB model, I removed the old drive and bought an external USB enclosure. I plan to use that new external hard drive as yet another backup, although I'm not as diligent about that process. I figure once every 2 or 3 months, I'll create an external backup on that hard drive.

I suppose I could build a RAID system to do all this, but a computer overhaul isn't in the budget right now. This system is fairly convenient for me. Almost anyone can afford to do it because hard drives are relatively inexpensive these days. I bought the 300 GB drive for just $99 at Newegg. If you only need an 80 GB drive, the prices would be much lower than that.

It's always possible that one hard drive will fail but it's highly unlikely that two hard drives would fail at the same time. Since I live in a high-rise apartment building, flood damage to my computer isn't a risk. I think only an electrical surge could knock out both hard drives at the same time but I think most modern apartment buildings have some kind of additional surge protection that standalone houses don't.

Anyway, that's my backup process. It's pretty easy to do, it's inexpensive and I never risk losing more than a minute or two worth of new data.

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Weekly Backup
by yellowcabohio / October 13, 2006 1:45 AM PDT

I've got a Dell system that has three large hard drives, and a CD Burner, connected to my router that is used only for backing up. I use the standard Windows 2000 Backup Application and back up to a mapped drive on the "backup box". Important files that are subject to change are backed up to a specific folder where a CD is burned and filed. It's worked so far!
I also have a ghost image of my system when it was fresh, with all applications installed and tested, so I only back up data files on a regular basis.

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Monthly
by braintimbers / October 13, 2006 1:55 AM PDT

I back up to a 2gb memory stick

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Backing up data
by the enforcer / October 13, 2006 5:58 AM PDT
In reply to: Monthly

Yeah, me too. The only difference with me, is that I back up my files to a 1gb memory stick, which may not last that long, thou . . . I will upgrade to an 8gb maybe later n in the future. I wonder what everyone else does?

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Second Copy for frequent backups
by MartySB / October 13, 2006 1:57 AM PDT

I've been using Second Copy for a number of years and it's saved my bacon several times. Second Copy allows me to backup files in any directory to a second hard drive or a flash drive and any other logical storage device. It can be set to run at user defined itervals, can move the replaced files to another folder, can zip the results, just about as cusomizable as one could hope for. The only annoyance is when you are working on a file that would be backed up... you get this loud female voice telling you that the FILE IS IN USE! and she really sounds snotty about it!

One thing that Second Copy has forced me to think about is the way I store data files on my hard drive. It's easiest to put all my files in one folder, i.e. My Documents, then have that entire directory backed up.

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Second Copy is Great
by Fredmoore / February 27, 2007 11:41 PM PST

Marty forgot to mention that Second Copy can be set to backup files as soon as they change and to keep several back versions of them. This avoids the nagging "file is in use" message. I leave my PC on & schedule a backup of all my data files every night to a second hard drive.

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Daily backups software
by newfedra / March 8, 2007 7:31 AM PST

I have found this amazing program called 'Daily backups' that helps me with the backups. The program is here for free: http://www.soft.tahionic.com

What it does? You set some folders and it will copy those folders on a different drive/partition every time the computer starts.

Nothing fancy, but very handy and useful.

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Frequency of backups?
by MartySB / February 4, 2009 1:11 AM PST

I use different frequency (of backups) for different directories / files. I backup my Outlook.pst files once each morning. I backup my main work file folders every two hours throughout the day. Some other backups are created at 4pm when I start to get ready for my shutdown. I have a couple of directories that are backed up only when I manually start the process with SecondCopy.

The "every couple of hours" backup is about right for me. Every month or so, I thank myself for having backed up throughout the day, as I delete some excel rows that I wish I had back... I just jump over to my flash drive and copy the backed up file back to my laptop and voila! I'm back in business!

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Sequentially
by ahg / October 13, 2006 2:00 AM PDT

Critical files are backed up instantly to a second HD.
All documents files are backed up weekly (after clean-up) and my entire C drive is Ghosted monthly to a third HD
The latter is perhaps an overkill with XP restore points, but if "C" goes, so does the restore capability. Better safe than sorry Happy

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Never, never, never! trust a hard drive.
by vidyman / October 13, 2006 2:01 AM PDT

I have discovered the best way to back up, is to not trust the hard drive at all. Maybe I?m too old school but I consider the hard drive a work space not a storage area. So when I?m finished with a project I burn it to disk. The music files in my hard drive are only there to feed my iPod. Any thing I buy from the music store goes straight to a AIFF disk. The photos only stay in the computer long enough to be cropped, fixed and printed and then straight to a DVD Rom. Now here is where I?m really anal, video projects not only get burned to a DVD they also go back to tape. Maybe this is just a habit I pick up when a Gig was considered a big hard drive, but I?ve never lost anything.

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Modern hard drives are much more sturdy and reliable
by powersville21 / October 13, 2006 2:18 AM PDT

Hard drive reliability has improved immensely in this decade. Many manufacturers now have standard 3-year warranties. As I noted above, my hard drives have been running for close to 4 years now without any problems. I still prepare for the possibility of a hard drive failure, however, by using multiple drives.

Adequate ventilation using a larger computer case (if you build your own computer) and a fan in front of the hard drives that blows cool air over them are almost requirements to ensure a long life for hard drives. Once that's done, the drives should last a long time. Most computer parts fail because of overheating/poor ventilation problems.

A small program called HDD Health (available as a free download) monitors the temperature, seek time performance, seek error rate and about a dozen other items related to your hard drives. It detects variances from the average readings, thereby alerting you to possible imminent hard drive failure. Most hard drives don't suddenly fail one day. They start exhibiting problems days or weeks in advance. HDD Health can increase that warning time and let you know if it's time to make a full backup or replace the drive altogether. The program takes advantage of the S.M.A.R.T. features that have been built into most drives manufactured over the last 4 or 5 years.

Even if you don't use hard drives as backups, I'd recommend that everyone use this nifty little utility to monitor the health of their hard drives. It doesn't cost anything.

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Spyware and pests have improved too.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / October 13, 2006 2:25 AM PDT

Given most owners have the occasinal slip and press the delete key (oops) then return key not to mention the all time best spywares we've ever seem, to trust your files to only be on a hard disk is...

Pick a fun word.

Bob

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Everyone should be using antivirus/security suites anyway
by powersville21 / October 13, 2006 2:59 AM PDT

Every user should have a modern, updated antivirus/antispyware security suite, and that includes Mac users too.

As I said earlier, I would never rely on just a single hard drive. Even if someone has old versions of documents on a DVD-R, how does that help them if they accidentally hit the delete key and lose all the updates made since their last backup? The solution I mentioned above (Almost immediate backups) means that I will never lose more than a few minutes of new updates. And I noted that except in the case of fire or flood, it's highly unlikely for two modern hard drives to fail simultaneously. I also posted about HDD Health, a free utility that keeps me informed on minute changes in drive performance that can indicate imminent hard drive failure. I'm not foolish enough to think that one single hard drive is sufficient to safeguard my documents.

And recordable DVDs and CDs are not really effective long-term storage options. At least not from what I've read. One can't record them, file them away and expect them to be readable years down the road. Maybe in an ideal world people would use both an external hard drive and recordable DVDs.

There are a few disincentives for many people to use recordable DVDs. First is their relatively small size. Many people now have tens or even hundreds of gigabytes of files because of photos, MP3's and digital video. Even a dual-layer DVD won't fit all that data onto a single disk. Many people are not going to be patient enough to sort through their files and separate them into different folders to be recorded onto different disks.

A second problem is the limited life of recordable DVDs. They don't last nearly as long as pre-recorded DVDs because they use ink to record the data. If someone has their data stored on 10 separate DVDs, they will have to re-record that data onto 10 separate DVDs in just a couple years (preferably sooner). That takes some organizational work.

A third problem is the tediousness of creating a full set of backup DVDs. Unless one happens to be one of the very rare individuals with a recordable Blu-Ray or HD-DVD drive, one will have to use multiple DVDs to backup data, at least if you have a lot of video and audio files and most of us do these days. The pain-in-the-*** factor turns off many people from making regular backups. It's not smart to hold off on making backups but it's a sad reality with many (most?) computer users.

Internal and/or external hard drives are relatively easy to use, even without dedicated backup software. Is it the perfect solution? Probably not. But I find it to be reliable and very convenient. Recordable DVDs are not such a great solution either and most home users aren't going to be buying tape drives. I agree that everyone should be backing up their data. It's also good to keep in mind what people will actually do. And many of them won't be making yearly sets of DVDs for all their movies, photos and music.

I already explained that I back everything up on a second internal hard drive AND I plan to make occasional full backups on another external hard drive. I used to make backups on CDs but the tediousness of the process made me give that up very quickly. Even with DVDs, I would have to use several disks to store everything and then I would need to make regular backups of those backups because those disks won't last forever.

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Modern day pests seem to trump modern day protections.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / October 13, 2006 3:05 AM PDT

I'll sum it up in one phrase.

"Zero day exploit."

While you claim CD/DVD is not good in some way, it beats the alternative of total loss.

Bob

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I don't see the difference
by powersville21 / October 13, 2006 5:43 AM PDT

Well, that may be true and all, but I don't see how the decision to use CDs/DVDs or an external hard drive makes a difference in that case. I doubt most people that use DVDs for backups do so on a daily basis. If a zero-day exploit hits, they would lose all their current data just as easily as someone who uses an external hard drive. It's a simple matter to disconnect the external hard drive and re-connect it only when making backups. The disconnected hard drive is perfectly safe against any temporary attacks. If the internal hard drive goes down, that drive can be repaired and reformatted. Then the data from the external drive can be transferred back over.

In addition to software protection, all broadband users should be using a router/NAT firewall. Yes, it's not the same as using those $500+ professional firewalls, but even the cheap $40 models effectively hide one's computer from the prying eyes of Internet hackers.

To be clear, I am not arguing AGAINST the need to backup data. I am only pointing out the real-life problems of recordable DVDs/CDs and the tediousness that leads many to fall behind on any backup plans.

I also wonder how many people bother to test their backup DVDs. I know from personal experience that a significant percentage of recordable disks are basically junk. Since the prices are so low, many people won't complain. If someone saves a year of work on a novel or their trip of a lifetime photos on a DVD, they may assume that the DVD is fine, when their are pretty good odds that the DVD isn't fine. There are also glitches that occur during the recording process, and again, most people don't bother to check.

DVDs can work but the vast majority of people I talk to have unrealistic expectations about DVDs. They don't check the copies they make to ensure that the transfer process has been successful and they don't update/duplicate those disks on a regular basis. They are not really appropriate for long-term storage.

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Beware of writeable CDs/DVDs!
by powersville21 / October 13, 2006 2:05 AM PDT

Just a cautionary note about relying on writeable media as long-term backup solutions: According to some reports, writeable and rewriteable CDs and DVDs are not effective long-term storage options. Unlike pre-recorded CDs/DVDs, DVD-R's (I'll use this shorthand to cover DVD-R, DVD+R, RW and the different recordable CD formats too) store data using an ink medium. The laser in your DVD drive alters the ink inside the DVD to record the data. This ink is not as stable as the process used to "stamp" out pre-recorded DVDs.

I haven't seen many long-term studies and given the recent development of DVD-R technology, there probably aren't many such studies. Shorter studies and anecdotal evidence suggests that DVD-R's may only last a couple years. Some cheaper brands may only last a year before the ink degrades.

If you do use DVD-R's as backups, never rely on just one copy! They are inexpensive enough these days that you can afford to make 3 or 4 backup copies on separate disks. Once you do that, I would consider making replacement DVDs every 6 months or so. DVD-R's sell for less than $1 each so this isn't really an expensive solution.

As I noted above, I use hard drive backups. Yes, hard drives aren't 100% reliable but modern drives are fairly sturdy. If they survive the 1st 2 months, they'll probably survive for at least a few years after that. Mine have been running for close to 4 years now. With adequate ventilation and cooling (this is vital!), most new hard drives should last just as long.

No matter what backup solution you use though, never rely on just one backup. Like Andy Grove used to say "Only the paranoid survive" or in this case, "backup data from only the paranoid survive."

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CD/DVD
by hillhopper / October 14, 2006 1:41 AM PDT
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DVD+R is very reliable
by Species8472 / October 15, 2006 3:14 PM PDT

I have had only one DVD+R lose one file,{over 5 yrs. old} on one disk of 12. Because I use Quick Par on my archives, I didn't lose the data. Quick Par reconstructed the file.

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I had to select 'Other' --
by MichieS / October 13, 2006 2:15 AM PDT

because none of the other selections fit how I back up.

My answer would be 'whenever I feel it's necessary'.

Usually that can be every week or two (for a backup of most key files -- emails, downloads, stuff I wrote, etc). But it depends entirely on how much 'stuff' I feel is in need of protection at the time.

However, it can also be 'right now' -- for example, I just copied all photos from my two digital cameras onto my hard drive, so as to clear the media cards for vacation. I immediately copied those to a CD (about 530MB worth. 200 for the new photos, and the rest duplicate backup for older photos). Next data backup (in week or two) will again include these 'recent' photos, for a second backup set of them.

This latter backup will also include all new photos taken on my vacation.

One thing to point out is duplicate (at least) backups should be in one's plan.

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I also had to select other
by Merrily / October 14, 2006 7:20 AM PDT

I am now working on a new hard drive after previous one died. I suspect it died in the throws of a backup effort. I had backups of certain folders, files in My Documents scheduled for weekly backups using Microsoft's backup program from Windows XP for home. Sometimes it ran and other times it just seemed to time out. BUT when it ran I had to have it put the backup on my hardisk and then try to remember to move it to a CD or multiple CDs. Well, after a while the backup files were taking a lot of space until I got to copy them to CDs ... etc. I think I was either doing that or had recently finished and the whole thing died. I'm now afraid to backup until I can figure out a better way!

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A secondary HDD + Microsoft Update is what you need !
by hifly.liu / October 13, 2006 2:27 AM PDT

I never use any antivirus software ! I equipped my PC with 2 HDD(not 2 partition). Windows XP is installed in C:, and My Document is default to D:. All the programs, games, media players were installed in C; and all the data, drivers, whatever files you want to save were keep in D:. I enabled Windows Update and Microsoft Update, and I also check them manuelly very often. Every hardware drivers were refreshed by myself weekly. By these step, I swear to God, I never got any virus or hackers. If I feel the system were slow down due to too many junky programs, I format C: and reinstalled Windows XP and Update it again. All data were safely in D: and no need to do anything for it. Trust me ! There is no any antivirus software will be betten then reinstall system !

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