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Backing up important documents, irreplaceable data

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Posted: Sunday, September 28, 2008 11:00 pm

The Pessimists Club subscribes to the notion that if you plan to fail, you surely will. I would like to add, that if you fail to plan, your failure may be devastating.

This certainly holds true for backing up important documents and irreplaceable data.

There are many options for backups to include online, daily backups to a flash drive or jump drive, CD or DVD backups of entire systems, to name a few.

What type is best for you? The simplest and most effective way for the average home computer user is to save important documents is on a flash drive or jump drive. These are inexpensive devices that range in size from 256 MB (Megabytes) to more than 8 GB (Gigabytes). If you use your computer for e-mail, a little Web surfing or something similar, a smaller jump drive of about 2 GB would be fine. You can save "My Documents" and your e-mail. These devices can be purchased almost anywhere. If you have a lot of pictures in "My Pictures" folder, you may need a larger jump drive so keep that in mind. 

"So I bought a jump drive now how do I back this stuff up?"

There are a few ways. You can buy a program and back everything up and specify what folders you want to save or you can do it yourself by utilizing Windows Explorer, which is the way I recommend. To do this, right click on the "Start" button and click on "Explore." This opens Windows Explorer, displaying all the folders on your computer on the left side of the page. Insert your jump drive into any USB port and wait until it gets installed by Windows (computers running Windows ME and Windows 98 may not be able to use jump drives without special drivers).

Once you see a new drive listed on the lower left-hand side of the page, you are set to go so locate "My Documents" folder (there may be two listed) and right click on it, then click "Send To" and click on the new drive listed (could be E Drive, Travel Drive or something along these lines). Once you click on this drive, the contents will be copied to your jump drive for safekeeping. You can burn CDs the same way but the beauty of the jump drive is they can be written over, whereas CDs are generally a one use deal unless you use the CD-RW, which opens a whole other can of worms.

To save your e-mail and address book, locate the C Drive and, if it is not open, click the + to the left of it, locate "Documents" and "Settings" and click the +, locate your logon name or "Owner" and click the +. Look down the list of folders displayed and see if one is named "Local Settings." If not, click on "Tools" near the top of the page and "Folder Options" and click the "View" tab.

In the big window displayed, find the options for "Hidden" files and folders and place a dot next to "Show" hidden files and folders and click "OK." Now you should see "Local Settings" listed on the left-hand side of the page. Click the + next to "Local Settings," the + next to "Application Data," the + next to "Identities," the + next to that really long, odd folder name with { marks, the + next to Microsoft and finally you should see Outlook Express listed. Right Click on Outlook Express folder, click "Send To" and click on the jump drive like we did for saving "My Documents."

To back your address book, go up to your logon and click the + next to "Application Data" directly under your logon name, the + next to Microsoft and you should see a folder named "Address Book." Right click this folder, click "Send To" and click on the jump drive. This will save your Address Book along with My Documents and e-mails. Most important documents, pictures and such are saved in My Documents for most basic home computer users, but if you have created special folders on your C Drive, you will want to save those as well.

For most people, performing this task every month or two is sufficient and will protect you well, but if all of this sounds like some foreign language and your eyes have already started to bug out of your head, there are online back companies who will do all of this for you. The cost of online backup is determined by how much stuff you want to backup and start in the $25-per-month range. They backup your entire system or whatever folders are important to you every night. For businesses, this may be an affordable expense that allows you to sleep better at night.

 

Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services and lives in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667.

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