Backup and simultaneous work

While my files are being copied from my hard disc to an external hard disc or pen drive, can I work on my computer? Does the file copy process get affected, if there is multi-tasking?

I will take care to ensure that the files which will be open (i.e., on which I want to work) are not in the list of files being copied.


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In principle yes.

But it MIGHT depend on the backup program you use. You didn't tell that.


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Backup program

I have two laptops, one running Vista Home Basic SP2, and the other running XP Pro SP3. In the XP system, I just copy / paste files from / to within Windows Explorer. In the Vista laptop, because MS made the process so irritatingly slow, I use a third-party freeware utility called TeraCopy (

In other words, I don't use any backup program.

So, can I work on my laptops, while other data files are being copied?


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Yes and No

Yes and no. Yes you can work on files while a backup is running, but no files your working on will not be updated. We'll gloss over most of the OS design theory and just say that if you open a file, the OS locks it so only that one program can manipulate it. This is necessary because otherwise you could be editing some file, I come along and make some changes while you're working. Maybe you save, then continue working, then I save, overwriting your changes, and keep working, then you save again overwriting MY changes, etc. There has to be some way to control the chaos. That's where the file lock comes in.

So those files will be skipped by the backup program until the next go around. At best, they can get read-only access and then copy whatever the file looked like after the last save, but most likely if a backup program encounters a locked file, it's just going to skip it and move on.

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Lockin understood, but ...

Thanks for explaining the file lock-in concept.

Basically, I had read somewhere earlier, that when a file copy process is going on, it is advisable to leave the computer on that single activity. The implication was that if the computer has to handle other activities (e.g., work on an excel / word file, play music, etc.) at the same time, the file copy may not be perfect. Is this true, or I can do some light work simultaneously with file copy?

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You can even do heavy work.

No problem at all.


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Looking at your concerns ...

it appears that you may possibly be thinking of the advice to not perform other tasks when WRITING TO A CD (which would include copying files to the CD.

That advice, while good and meaningful at the time, is pretty much outdated since various "burn proofing" methods and technologies came into being with CD and DVD writers. Now days if writing CDs while I have other tasks going on I will step down the write speed a little (if I think about it) but that is not really necessary.

Even if a file is in use in one application you can copy the original to another location - this file WILL NOT have any of the changes you have made since opening the file EXCEPT if the application is set to auto-save the file every so many minutes.

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