A Computer Technician’s Advice – Backup Your Files Now!

Dave Brooks a professional computer technician from New Hampshire, has written this article to emphasize, once again, and it can’t be repeated too often – the importance of data back up on a regular and consistent basis.

Let’s Talk About Backups

backup My Name is Dave Brooks, I’m an A+ certified technician currently employed in a small shop in New Hampshire. I’ve been in the computer industry for about 15 years, playing with computers even longer. Other than a brief introductory class many years ago, I am completely self taught.

Bill has generously donated space for wanna be novelists (I’m not a writer by any stretch) to share their thoughts, so I figured I’d take him up on the offer.

Much of the operation of a computer seems to amaze the average user; that they can do what they do even amazes me sometimes. You don’t need to know how a PC works to use it, just like your car, if you have problems you visit a mechanic, you don’t need to know how it does what it does.

One thing you DO need to know is that you MUST back up your computer if you have anything of even remote value to you on it. Hard drives (the device that actually stores your data) are amazing things, their capacity is growing by leaps and bounds and the price per Mega Byte is dropping about as fast.

Hard Drive Diag One of the biggest problems with them is, they can fail at pretty much any time with no notice at all, one minute your working away, the next the drive has developed a catastrophic problem and your years of work and photos have gone to that great recycle bin in the sky.

Depending on the problem the drive has developed it can be relatively inexpensive to recovery your data or it can cost thousands of dollars to send it off to a company specializing in data recovery.

Planning ahead, you can reduce this cost to a mere hundred or two dollars and a minimal amount of downtime. How you ask? An external hard drive and some imaging software. Acronis True Image is a great application and one I recommend to all my home clients.

It is really as simple as installing the software, connecting your external drive, and going through a wizard which will perform a full backup of your hard drive and help schedule recurring backups. When your hard drive fails, it’s a simple matter of installing a replacement, and restoring your recent backup back to the new drive, and you’re up and running with minimal downtime and aggravation.

I’ve had many a customer lose many a file because they had no backup, they usually implement a routine after they experience data loss, but the loss could have been prevented, it’s not a matter of if your hard drive will fail, but when.

In closing I’ll leave you with this thought; BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP!!!

Driveimage XML

(Click pic for larger)

Checkout the review of DriveImage XML, a free, easy to use, and reliable data back up program, from Runtime Software, on this site.

Dave is a very popular guest writer here, and his articles are always a huge hit – but he’s far too modest. Earlier this year, Microsoft’s TechNet Security Blog, linked back Dave’s  guest article, here on Tech Thoughts, “Think You’re Immune from Online Fraud? Maybe Not!”. Now that’s recognition for a job well done!

Pay a visit to Dave’s site at Tech-N-Go, and checkout the Security Alerts.

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Filed under Backup Applications, Backup Tools, downloads, Freeware, Guest Writers, Hard Drive Imaging, Software, Technicians Advise, Windows Tips and Tools

9 responses to “A Computer Technician’s Advice – Backup Your Files Now!

  1. mrlokinight

    Hi Dave ~ Thank you for your interesting article. I will try the software you recommend.

    Also I could do with some opinions from you, Bill or any readers:
    Q1] Do you know of any free apps that can monitor/test a drive & thus possibly give warning of impending drive failure ?
    Q2] Is drive failure usually mechanical & therefore my data would be safer on an SSD or does SSD replace one set of problems with a bunch of new ones ?
    NOTE: I’m XP Pro & not moving to Win7 until SSD prices have dropped substantially


    • Dave B

      Current drives have their own self monitoring built in called S.M.A.R.T, usually all it takes is enabling it in BIOS setup. You can also install software that runs in the background to monitor the S.M.A.R.T. status. The problem is it’s not, I found, all that reliable. More often than not when I find a defective drive S.M.A.R.T shows no indication that the drive is bad.
      All drive mfg’s provide free software you can run to test the health of your drive, but if you have a good backup routine it’s really not necessary. My gaming PC uses a striped RAID array (the most “risky”) and I never test the drives as I don’t really care if they fail, my backup is ready and waiting 🙂
      As far as failures, I find the most common is bad blocks, but any number of things can go wrong, the motor could fail, the electonics could fail, etc. Considering all things I’m surprised they work at all.

  2. dar

    Yet another reason to follow Prof Dave’s advice:
    ‘Revamped version of GpCode is out, yet the malware still requires victims to believe kidnappers will return stolen data for a fee…’

  3. Hi Bill/Dave,
    As usual you deliver “the word”. Even I have to admit I don’t backup “enough”. Meaning I am vulnerable should I have a massive hard drive failure on my mail machine. I have to think an online backup is the way to go for many people, but for me I have terabytes of data and the initial backup would be ridiculous, but I like the automated approach, the less discipline needed for most of us, the better.

    • Hey Mark,

      I just finished a system reinstall today on one of my home machines – both Win 7 and Ubuntu. This machine has two drives (one for backups), so the whole job only took a couple of hours. Often, instead of a backup, I’ll just do a simple file copy – depending on the data. Not elegant, but it works for me.



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