Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Hard drive failure can be really devastating

Backing up data and programs safeguards against the loss of vital work

DPA , WASHINGTON

You've got digital photos. You've got digital music. You got financial records and years of work stored digitally.

And you've got backups of all of that data, right?

If not, it's time to get serious. With a growing portion of the productivity of our working lives now stored digitally, it's not only inconvenient to lose data, it can be catastrophic.

With even paper copies increasingly rare, many today would be left with no duplicates of critical documents stored on a hard drive if it were to fail. Yet a surprising number of people work on their computers each day with no backup plan in place.

That in itself is catastrophic, because hard drives fail on a daily basis. It's not a matter of whether you're hard drive will fail; it's a matter of when.

Everyone today should have at least one backup of critical files, and preferably two. That means, first and foremost, purchasing an extra hard drive specifically for the purpose of backing up your data.

"Doing that will cost about US$150 to US$200," says Brian Ginn, directory of Atlanta-based TechKnowHow, a computer repair firm. "

Sure, it's not as much fun as buying an MP3 player or a new photo printer, but it costs about the same. External hard drives that plug easily into a USB or firewire port on your computer can potentially be used to back up your entire hard drive quickly and easily.

Just find out how large the hard drive in your existing computer is, purchase an external hard drive at least as large and then use the backup software that came with the hard drive to set up an automatic backup routine.

There are many external hard drives on the market today designed specifically to handle this task, including Maxtor's popular OneTouch and Seagate's simply-named External Hard Drive kit.

Most external hard drives are available in

several sizes, ranging from 100 to 400 gigabytes. Get a kit large enough to hold all of the contents of your entire hard drive. That way, you'll just be able to push one button and back up everything.

Some people are used to backing up only their data files. When backup media was expensive and slow, this approach made sense. But it's no longer a good idea, given the way that operating systems today want to store data files.

If you're a user of Windows XP, for instance, and you haven't changed the default locations of the files you create with your productivity applications, you'll have most of your data files tucked away in a "my documents" folder on your main system drive.

But there are other files crucial to the daily operation of your computer that are located elsewhere. Trying to figure out exactly where all of these files are is too much of a chore to make it worth your while.

It's never a bad idea to have a duplicate copy of just your data files. For this, rewritable CDs or DVDs are suitable. You'll most likely be able to use the same backup application that comes with your external hard drive to backup to CDs or DVDs.

If not, you can always use the backup applet that comes with Windows, located in the "start" menu under "all programs, accessories, system tools."

And what if your data exceeds the capacity of an external hard drive? Never fear. You can do what's called "daisy chaining" external drives, so long as they offer both USB and firewire ports. The Maxtor and Seagate models do.

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