Thursday, August 23, 2018

Cheap Data Backup

We've all been there: the computer freezes up one last time and won't reboot. All of your digital work, photos, and contacts are on that computer, and now it's dead.
If you're serious about your digital efforts you have some form of backup, such as an online storage account (commonly referred to as “the cloud”), an external hard drive, or you burn copies to a thumb drive and store it somewhere safe.

If you don't have your work backed up, the friendly people at the computer store will gladly take a lot of your money to try to recover it without guaranteeing that they will be able to get it (and they'll likely make a copy of what they do find for their own purposes).

Online Storage
Storing files in the cloud is simply putting them on someone else's computer, and so you're going to need internet access to that other computer to retrieve your data. Make sure your data is encrypted on both ends of the transfer to keep nosy people out of your business. The big data companies have a dismal track record when it comes to respecting privacy. Just remember: if it's a free service,  you're the product, not the customer. 

Burn It to Local (Hard) Storage
In the old days, we used CD/DVD media to store important documents, but it's getting to the point where those are obsolete due to optical drives being not as common as they once were. I still have 3.5" and 5.25" floppy drives on my shelf, but I doubt I could make any of them work with a newer computer. Fortunately,  USB seems to be fairly stable and a thumb drive is a cheap way to store a lot in a small space.

External Drives
External drives are fairly cheap, usually under $100 for a decent size. They use the same hard drives (HD) as a computer, so they have the same potential for failure, but they don't have all of the other parts that can cause a computer to fail. This opens up a few options if your computer dies.

As long as the computer died of something other than a HD failure, your files are still there and easy to extract onto another computer. External drive enclosures are a cheap way to take a stab at recovering the files from a dead computer. If you can properly field-strip a weapon and get it back together with no left over parts, you can handle this.

If you're working on a laptop, it'll likely have a physically small (1.8 or 2.5 inch) hard drive hidden under a panel on the bottom; most of mine are accessible by removing a couple of screws and popping the panel off. Removing the drive is usually simple, usually held in place with a screw or a bracket that is screwed to the motherboard. The cable should be a standard SATA (Serial ATA) cable if it's less than 10 years old. You'll need to buy somethinglike this and follow the instructions for installing the hard drive in the new enclosure. Plug it into a USB port, and as long as the HD is good your files are there for you to play with again. After you save your digital work, you now have an extra external HD to use for redundant backup.

Desktop or tower computers can use larger (3.5 inch) drives and will require a different adapter. They also require more poser than you can get through a USB cable, so most come with their own power supply. If you're moving the files to another desktop computer, you may be able to simply plug the old drive into a spare plug on the wiring harness that goes to the new computer's HD (a lot depends on the age of your equipment), but this is an option best left to someone familiar with the internals of a computer. The simple method is to buy something like this and plug the HD from the dead computer into the adapter and then plug the adapter into your new computer's USB port. Removing the HD is simple, usually a connector or two and a few screws. If the old HD is still working, it will show up as an external drive and all of your files will be there for you to transfer.

Don't be afraid to play with a dead computer! It's not like you're going to kill it any worse. I've picked up broken laptops cheap or free because the screen was broken and gotten a good HD to use as external storage out of them.

Back up your data, and try to have redundant storage for the really important stuff.

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