H is for “Help Me Computer, For I Have Sinned”

The above sentence is usually followed by: “It’s been 14 months since my last backup…”

Oh sure, we knooooow we’re supposed to back up our stuff. We plan to back up our files. We think about backing up our files.

Most of the people I know don’t back up their files.

Or if they do, they don’t do it regularly. They only do it when there’s “a glitch.” Trust me, I’ve been there myself. And I had to pay the $800+ for data recovery. It hurts…bad.

Because we knoooooow we were supposed to back up…

You get the picture. I can name four writing friends off the top of my head who have lost all their work due to lack of a regular backup system. Don’t put yourself in this position.

How do we make backing up a quick, easy process?

I’ve got a few ideas for you. Just think of today’s postย as a niceย Techie Tuesday gift from me.

We’re going to do our recommendations in terms of price since these are challenging financial times for many. That means the free stuff comes first.

If you can’t afford to buy programs or hardware to help you back up, just email yourself important files. (Like your book!)

  • That means that each day you work on your important file, you must email it to yourself when you’re finished.
  • I recommend deleting earlier versions so you don’t get cluttered or fill up your email.
  • Caveat: Be sure that your email program doesn’t purge by date! If you purge every 60 days, this solution won’t be helpful. Chances are, if backups are a challenge for you, you will be flaky about remembering to send these emails everyย time. Trust me, I’ve been there!
  • Important files are things that mean enough for you to pay to recover them.

If you can afford a little backup expense, buy an external hard drive.

Why would you do this? Because you need a backup and this is about as easy as it gets. Make a folder system on the drive and plug it into your computer. If there’s a fire, grab it and get out. If your computer dies, grab it and hook it up to the new one. Easy peasy. ๐Ÿ™‚

To summarize:

  • External hard drives allow you to take your files anywhere, quite easily.
  • Space is cheap. Most of the time, a $5-10 thumb drive is going to be enough.
  • If you have photos, videos and such, you’ll need a bigger drive. Here is a top of the line hard drive with 2 freaking Terabytes and it’s just over $100. Space is cheap these days.
  • Caveat: Always be sure to save and close the file before disconnecting the hard drive.

If you can afford a little more backup expense, get the hard drive AND a secondary software backup option. (i.e. Dropbox, Carbonite, “the Cloud”)

Let’s face it, you can spill water on a hardware device or accidentally back your car over it. (Yes, I know a salesperson who did that.)

Hardware can fail. You need a backup to your backup! In computer terms, that’s called “fault tolerance.”

Fault tolerance is something you can buy for about $50-100 a year. Some programs are even free, but I pay for Carbonite because I want to be able to yell at someone if something goes wrong. Seriously, with a free program, if your data goes poof (or gets sold), the response is often, “Well, um…it’s free.

The main thing to remember is to schedule regular automatic backups. Trust me, if you have to remember to do it yourself, you’ll forget. At least I do.

And note from my own Computer Dude…run your system updates automatically too. ๐Ÿ™‚

He loves this video:

Have you ever had your hard drive crash? Were you prepared? What is your current backup system (tell the truth!). Enquiring minds NEED to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
This entry was posted in Techie Tuesday, Technology Fun and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to H is for “Help Me Computer, For I Have Sinned”

  1. Gene Lempp says:

    Great advice, Jenny! It took me three major hard drive deaths to fully learn this one (yes, I’m quick like that). While I don’t have an external, I highly advocate for thumb (USB) drives and keep a half dozen. One is for projects, another for personal items (kids stuff, saved game files), one for research, etc. Dropbox is another fine one.

    One more I use that I don’t see here is Evernote. Evernote can be set up to automatically backup files from your system, such as Scrivener. That way, even if you forget to send it to email, Evernote has your back(up).


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      THREE??!! Dang, dude…you are quick like that. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I hadn’t thought to use Evernote that way, probably because it’s a Mac program, but that is a fantastic thought. Thanks for sharing, Gene! I love this advice.


  2. Sisyphus47 says:

    You can’t be serious! Please do do backup your posts! ;-P


  3. emmaburcart says:

    I’m kind of OCD when it comes to backing up. I save to a jump drive, I email to myself, I have an external hard drive, and I use Carbonite. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, right?


  4. I’ve always e-mailed everything back to myself, just in case. When I was at university, I e-mailed my dissertation to myself, my parents, and my boyfriend at the time, as well as saving it to my computer and my memory stick, so that it would be in the world somewhere!


  5. Great advice, Jenny. I have *free* unlimited CLOUD with Charter (our cable provider). Why the * with the free? Well, it could be because The Hubster has cable on every freaking television in the house. And, there are many.

    In every room except the formal dining room and secondary bathrooms, all with access to an insane enviable variety of viewing options.

    Yes. He must have access to cable in the garage, in the master bathroom, in the kitchen…

    ERK! Niggling little problem. I’ve yet to download the *free* Cloud on my new laptop. Heavy sigh.

    I also have thumb drives (which I rarely use), and external hard drive (used once when my laptop went to the hospital), and a ton of good intentions. Those count. Right?


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Download your Cloud on your laptop!! What are you doing? OK, the lecture is over, but you know what you need to do.

      I’m laughing about your husband’s cable habit…


  6. Jane Sadek says:

    I have a husband who delivers the external drive to me monthly and stands next to me while I back up. He also checks up on me to be sure I’ve changed my toothbrush head, added water to the fountain outside, cleaned out the dog run…well you get the picture – a blessing and a curse.


  7. I have an external hard drive and several “jump” drives (hubs hates it when I call them jump drives – hehe ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). But do I actually *use* these resources and back up my files every day like I’m supposed to? *whistles* Yeah, both my husband and my tech guy would totally get me for that. Thank you so much, Jenny, for the reminder to *make* myself a reminder to do this every night. ๐Ÿ˜€


  8. Dawn says:

    Yes, I’ve had my computer crash. Fortunately, my friend was able to retrieve most of my info, no prob. I’ve also had my laptop stolen. There is no retrieving data once the whole damn thing is gone ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I use cloud for my really important pictures and WIP stuff, but haven’t been updating like I should. And, emailing myself my book? Pure genius right there, Jenny! Thanks for the insight!

    Enjoying your #AtoZChallenge posts! (Do you like how I did that?)


  9. I’ve never had my hard drive crash, or otherwise lost all my data, but I have all my files – documents, pictures, etc. – and my writing software synced to cloud storage, and I have a thumb drive, too. The cloud storage syncing is brilliant, because it’s instantaneous, and so constantly up-to-date. What I need to be better at: backing up my blog. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’ll do some research on backing up the blog. I’m pretty bad about that one too. I count on the “internet is forever” concept a little too much. And Carbonite is magic. ๐Ÿ™‚


  10. The day my laptop died was traumatic. Everything was lost – my WIPs, my pictures, my contacts. All gone. And my dear, sweet husband held me close as I sobbed and whispered in my ear, “You did back everything up to your thumb drives, didn’t you?” We won’t discuss what happened then. Lucky for me, my brother is a tech guy and somehow he managed to retrieve almost everything and put it on my new laptop.

    I learned my lesson, let me tell you. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m still the world’s worst when it comes to remembering to back up my files. I have a good half-dozen thumb drives (I can never find them when I *do* remember to do a back up, so I go out and buy a new one only to find the ones I already had about five minutes after returning from the store) and I’m all “Oh, I’m going to back up my files on each one of these thumb drives every night before I go to bed” but for some reason I never do.

    I’m going to do that right now. I’m even going to use the little function that tells me it’s safe to remove the device from the USB port!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh my Lord, Juli…you lost EVERYTHING?! That is just a dreadful moment.

      All writers are the worst at backing up, which is why I wrote this post in the first place. Go back up your important files right now!!


  11. Ack! You KNOW my computer died and dragged my entire life along with it. I am only just recovering now. Please, please…everyone back that thang up!


  12. Kathryn says:

    Carbonite–automatically saves you from your own stupidity. After a traumatic laptop theft while living in Mexico I use an external drive, email every chapter to self, and have Carbonite purring away in the background for more peace of mind.


  13. Laura Drake says:

    Love this title and the first lines! Isn’t that so the truth?

    I use an external drive, thumb drive, Norton does it automatically, and I’ve been known to email to myself.
    Hey, obsessions can have an up side!


  14. Diana Beebe says:

    Thanks for the reminder! My husband has a backup set up for me, so I have no excuse. I’ll take care of it after work.


  15. Jim Hansen says:

    If you have a CD/DVD burner
    drive you can backup on optical media by burning to the CD or DVD drive.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I agree, but I can tell you now that few writers will remember to do it. I think they’d get scared at “optical media” and stop reading the rest of the sentence. LOL.


  16. Yes, I back up my backups and back up those. LOL Carbonite, Mac Time Machine and drop box. I’m a tad paranoid. LOL that said, I got tired of losing all my email, so got an email backup program. apparently i had too much email, because it freaked and deleted it all. Moving between Macs is my most successful email transfer experience ever. Great post!


  17. John Holton says:

    I’ve used Mac’s Time Machine for a couple of years now, although I’ve discovered that’s only as reliable as your external drive. I’m thinking that maybe I should also use Carbonite. It looks like money well spent.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      John, I like Carbonite a lot. You have to have decent memory on your computer but it is lovely to have something doing automatic backups. Plus once a week, Carbonite reminds you to update your mirror drive (basically an external hard drive that you dedicate to it).


  18. tomwisk says:

    Fell in love with thumb drives in college. Saved many a presentation and paper.


    • I’ve actually had a couple of thumb drives fail on me, so I tend to multi-back up. I used drop box, so I can access WIP on the road, but when I found out I couldn’t get WiFi all the time, I set myself up as a WiFi hotspot with my phone. I have this huge need to be connected. Which is a bit odd for a confirmed hermit. LOL


  19. Kate says:

    I have a fear of losing all my work so I usually email my manuscript to myself every day while I’m drafting.


  20. I used to email myself everything, but we have sugar sync (i think that’s the name), but I still feel like I should be doing something else, just in case (other than 10 Hail Marys). ๐Ÿ™‚


  21. K.B. Owen says:

    We are the king and queen of hard drives around here, ever since we had a crash about 6 years ago and, even with recovery software, lost a ton of pictures of the kids. Never again. We must have 3 or 4 external drives to back up photographs now. I have an external hard drive just for my stuff, although I’m not on a regular schedule to back it up (guess what we’re doing this week, LOL). Still, I’d like something a bit more intuitive to use, that I can do when I think of it, instead of…”Honey, can you help me with…?”

    Great post, Jenny!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh my God, you lost kid pics?? That’s worse than anything. I’m sorry to hear that. Our friends who did our baptism video accidentally overwrote it and broke all our hearts. I understand the feeling completely. ๐Ÿ™‚


  22. I learned this lesson the hard way many, many years ago. I will date myself now. We had an Atari as our first home computer. It had no hard drive (we’re talking 1984). You had to save things on a floppy disk (back when they were still floppy ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I was working on a professional article, had been typing for hours, but had forgotten to hit save. Suddenly the power went off for absolutely no discernible reason. It blinked back on a moment later, but my entire article was gone!

    Ever since then I back things up in at least two places!!

    But having said all that, I have an external hard drive that is not currently hooked up to my computer. My PC caught a virus a little over a year ago, and now I’m wary of hooking the external drive back up for fear the virus is lurking in there.


  23. rinellegrey says:

    ARGH! I was going to do this the other day, and something distracted me. Must back up today!

    I’m lucky (touch wood) never to have lost anything important. But I know people it’s happened to (usually all the baby photos of their kids), and it’s not fun.

    Rinelle Grey


  24. Linda Adams says:

    I once had a work-related crash that was bizarre, because I had been making regular backups. When I opened the 200 page Word file, it hit the table of contents and crashed. I tried Open and Repair with the same result. So I reverted to my backups. Despite the fact I had worked in the document each of the days of the backup, every single one was corrupted. Eventually, a technician was able to recover it with another program, though I lost all the images int the file.

    The true backup: Paper. If the electronic version is gone, it can always be retyped.


  25. I currently have a double back-up system going. I have my external hard drive. I also recently signed up for Dropbox (thanks to Laird Sapir). I’m by no means perfect about backing my material up, but for me the cost of having the external hard drive and Dropbox is well worth it. It’s almost impossible to write a work again if you completely lose it. I’ve found it never feels as good as the version you lost.


  26. Jess Witkins says:

    Are you spying on me?! Lol I just had my computer crash and spent 4 agonizing days feeling nauseous that I’d lost all my trip photos, my resume, and my book! Thank God my hard drive was ok and I did pay to get all of it transferred to an external hard drive. Lesson. Learned.


  27. Jay Donovan says:

    Yes, please do your backups. At least the free version of Dropbox. (*shameless plug* If you sign up with my affiliate link http://db.tt/sKumqe0 , we both get extra space). If you don’t trust the “cloud”, use 2 external drives and keep one at a second location (office or family member’s house). Swap the drives weekly. Now you’re protected in case of fire.

    TechWife is notorious for killing hard drives. Until recently she had 2 hard drives mirrored but I upgraded her to solid-state-disk – faster & supposed to be more reliable. Her computer is backed up twice a day and one of those backups is then copied to the data center (where we keep our servers). Those servers are also backed up.
    TechWife also uses Dropbox for her most important documents, which syncs file to both to their servers and her laptop.

    Yes, she sleeps much better now.

    While I can often perform data recovery miracles, I’d rather not be the last strand of twine holding you back from a mental break. ๐Ÿ™‚



  28. Julie Glover says:

    I read your post, then jumped right to what TechDad had to say as well.

    I have an external hard drive, and I try to back up weekly…or after a big word count surge. I have considered cloud storage, but I haven’t bit the bullet yet. I think paying for it makes sense, though. I appreciate the advice and the linkage, Jenny! You’re a treasure.


  29. Okay, I’m late on this. But as you know Jenny, you and hubby saved my butt last fall. Uh, I didn’t have a back-up hard-drive. Well, I didn’t have a back-up anything. Since then, I back up on a external hardrive. I still need to set something up on Dropbox. But I did learn a huge lesson when I didn’t hit save and most of my stuff went by, by. So now I’m paranoid. Hey, sometimes it takes something like that to wake people up. Or should I just say, wake me up. I cannot point fingers. I am my own worse enemy. Thanks for the reminders and advice girl! ๐Ÿ™‚


  30. filbio says:

    Great advice here. You just reminded me I am due to backup my blog files. I have been backing up through WordPress and I think my Go Daddy host also backs up my files. Now I need to check!


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