back up

Hard DriveIt must be October – at least that is my wife’s theory.  You see, it seems every year one of the computers in the house experiences some challenges during the fall time frame.  This year – it was my computer’s turn.  And of all the folks you may read about, I had best be the one taking my medicine about backing up data.

I thought I would recount this to you – not because I’m a glutton for punishment, but rather it is a story of how this can be done.  There are certainly other ways, some a bit more laborious, others a bit easier.  And the steps you may take could be based on the problem or issue you are experiencing.

In my case, all was well.  Purchased this laptop in November of 2011.  I keep it updated and tuned so I can get things done (my wife say too many things, working the machine to death).  Worked on my computer Monday until around 8pm with various items that needed attention (10/8/12).  Woke up Tuesday to start my day and was greeted with interesting messages on the screen.  My attempts to recover were not successful by the time I had to leave for work.  When I returned they were still not headed in a positive direction.

My suspicion was software corruption – at first.  Windows would not start but could get to the rescue screen.  However, not much from the rescue screen was being helpful, and I could hear a high pitched whine from the laptop.  Soon as I heard that I then suspected an eminent hardware failure.  I have been to this rodeo before with a machine or two.

After I had done my due diligence, I called the laptop vendor (I’m now using an HP laptop, this is my first HP after using many Dell’s – and I was not unhappy with Dell, just purchased this on based on price point for comparable computers this time).  While I knew the hard drive had failed, I went through the necessary tests the the agent on the phone, and they were shipping me a new hard drive.

Now I had some time to get fines off, if possible.  Not much was possible, but I was able to retrieve a few files off before the drive completely failed.  I knew any access could be the last time I accessed the files, so I got the most recent copies I could – why?  Because I actually DO back up my files regularly.  The last back up I had was from 10/1, so I had not ‘lost’ much of the work I had done or the files I needed.  I restored from back up with no issues at all – for the files I had backed up.

The new hard drive and restore disks were at my house when I got home from work Thursday (10/11) and before I went to bed the laptop was up and working, just needed to restore all my back up files.  And this went smooth, mostly!

The only areas I had not backed up – or did not back up as frequently as I should have – were my pictures (but all of them that I had not backed up were on the camera SD card, so no issues there) and my music.  When I put the music folder over, I only had about 8,500 songs in iTunes.  That was low by 2,000+ songs.  Now what should I do (other than learn the lesson to back this up a bit more often)?

Here is where a shout out to Music Rescue (from KennettNet) comes in.  I started to look for a solution to get this music off the proprietary iPod so the play lists, track names and all the meta data was in tact.  I know there are ways to hack through this, but none are super clean, and I had put many hours into the 2,000+ tracks that I had not backed up (ripping the CD’s, ensuring information was correct, adding artwork, etc.).  So the question to me was – how much time is this worth for me?

I found the answer – I’d pay the fine folks from Chicksands, Bedfordshire (in the UK) for their work to make my life easier.  For less than the price of 2 CD’s, I’d gain back hours of time doing a bit of rework.  And that was the most difficult part of the restore!

So, this was a success story.  Lost no access, could get to my email via the web, and am back up and running within a day (fully functional and all files needed).  The moral of the story?  It is worth the time and effort to back up your data.  You never can tell when hardware will fail!


One of the most challenging things I hear from folks that bring me their machines to look at (help with) is making sure they still have their _______ (you fill in the blank, pictures, files, documents, presentations, music, bank or business data).  It always makes me wince a bit, since I can’t guarantee that they will have those items!  The standard response I have is this – you do have a copy of your _______ on some backup medium, right?

Too often we chose not to backup our important files.  I can’t quite figure out why we make that choice!  So let’s redefine this in a more understandable way.  If the data was important enough for you to create in the first place, and is important enough for you to continue to need as time moves on, then you will take the time to recreate that data once it is lost (and you don’t have a backup). Now, I realize that is a general rule (how can you go back in time to take the exact same pictures of the same people / place / event), but you may find that it is true for most cases.  So a better rule of thumb is to back up your data so you can recover quickly and not have to recreate everything from scratch.

Give Me A Strategy

You may need to employ a strategy that works for you!  First, perhaps some reminder using a calendar feature to let you know every couple of weeks or month to backup.  For me, I backup on the 15th of the month to my local hard drive and on the first of the month to my external hard drive.  That is what works for me!

Then, you need to figure out what to backup.  Again, find something that works for you.  I put all of my important documents in one folder (of course, there are multiple folders within that single folder, but all of the stuff I can’t do without starts in that single folder).  That makes it easy for me to backup everything in one area!  I don’t need to fret about what folder in what area I need to make sure I get backed up.

Then, use the backup software of your choice.  Windows comes with a built in backup utility that you may want to use.  Mac users have a built in backup utility as well.  Or you could look to other utilities, I favor a free one from called Replicator, but there are many others that are no cost or minimal cost (and for the curious, I do support KarenWare and have paid for her free disk of utilities – she does a great job!).

Lastly, secure your backup – somewhere!  If your strategy is to keep it on the same hard drive the files are currently on, and that hard drive fails, then what do you have?  Not much!  Write that backup to CD, DVD, or an external hard drive for safe keeping.

But I’m Having Issues Now!

Yeah, that might be why you are reading this!  So look for a post in the very near future that gives a bit more detail on options you have in your attempts to recover data.  If you don’t back up, please start!  And if you do back up, is it time to back up again?  Take care!