As I wrote a couple times recently, the hard drive on my notebook computer failed recently. First, any activity got slower and s-l-o-w-e-r. Then, the symptoms became worse, quickly. Unfortunately, the failure was also corrupting the drive data as I continued to use the drive.
I backed up my data every night to another computer across my network. For this purpose, I used the fantastic, and free, program Replicator (www.karenware.com) to automatically copy changed files. Not only can Replicator be used on a schedule to copy to another computer, it can just as easily copy to a different hard drive in the same computer, a different partition on the same hard drive or into a different folder on the same hard drive.
External drives are easy to use. Just plug the drive into a USB 2.0 port on your computer, either on the back of the computer, on the front of most computers, or into a USB 2.0 hub that you’ve connected to the computer. Windows XP will recognize the external drive and treat it just like an internal hard drive!
Why would you even want to consider backing up your data into somewhere else on the same hard drive? Simple answer — the most common reason for needing your backup data is user error — brain freeze — editing a file and then saving it over the original, when you meant to save it with a new name — that kind of thing…
Of course, you still need a real backup that is not on the same hard drive, preferably not on the same computer. An external hard drive is the best choice for a real backup copy.
If you want a reliable backup copy, you need to connect the drive, make the backup, disconnect the drive, and then put it away.
It’s that simple. If you leave the drive connected to the computer and leave it running, it’s vulnerable to the same viruses and other malware you might encounter. Even if you turn it off and leave it connected, it is just as vulnerable to fire, lightning damage and theft as your main computer is.
One final thought: If you need to use your backup file — COPY it to your regular computer. Never edit the backup file while it’s on the backup drive. If Murphy’s Law (If things can go wrong, they will.) ever had a pertinent time, it will apply when you try to edit a backup file!
My experiences with that drive failure convinced me that I wanted to return to my previous practice of making image backups of my hard drives. No, that’s not a picture and it’s not backups of my pictures…
An image backup is like a Restore CD — except that it’s a Restore CD (or DVD or file) that I make that has all my settings, my programs and my data on it.
I can make image backups and burn them directly to CDs or DVDs. I can make an image backup directly to another hard drive, whether across my network or on an external hard drive. With most of today’s image backup programs, you can also access and restore individual data files out of the image backup. Similarly, most will allow you to choose to make full backups (complete) and incremental backups (files that changed since the last full backup).
The backup programs that I use are: