Country Living Series

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back it up!

It's been three months since I got my new laptop and we still haven't transitioned over to it. It's been one thing after another. My external mouse didn't work and I needed to get a different cable. It wouldn't connect to the internet. It wouldn't accept my email program. Blah blah blah.

So I'm still working on my old laptop and just dealing with the 30-second-warning shutdowns and other weird quirks it's still prone to.

But this afternoon...oooh, that scared me. I was copying over some complicated Word files when Word froze up. No biggee, it's done that before, so I shifted over to something else and waited for it to unfreeze.  But then the  computer just...stopped. Turned off cold. I couldn't restart it.


This was Sunday afternoon, and for the first time in months I had forgotten to do a full-scale backup Sunday morning before leaving for church. I don't know why. I simply forgot. That meant it had been nearly two weeks since I'd done a full backup. I was in trouble.

Thankfully, after a few minutes of cooling down, my old laptop started up again and I immediately ran a backup. Don worked on the new computer somewhat this afternoon, but he's putting in insane hours on our business and didn't have time to get it figured out. So I'm still on my old laptop.

From now on, I'm doing bi-weekly full backups of my files, and daily backups on the thumb drive.

This is serious stuff, folks. For God's sake, back up your computer.


  1. Dambable technology! It will either kill you or enrich your life. It doesn't matter really as I am rolling down that lost highway. ( It may be in Idaho.) I'm having fun with you all. You can laugh now.

  2. I've had two hard drive crashes/computer deaths now, and didn't back up either one. *sigh* Talk about procrastination. I need to set up a system that automatically backs up on this one. If/when I remember.

  3. I use a lot of computers at work and home and as a result see a lot of hard drive crashes and other computer failures. Like SwampWoman I also procrastinate. I have found that I need a totally automatic backup system that does the backups even when I do not remember, and that just as important lets me know when something goes wrong.

    My first attempt at an automated backup system was adding a dedicated hard drive for backups to my main desktop PC at home, and using Ghost to do the backups. This appeared to work fine for a couple of years until I needed to retrieve an older version of a file from the backups. That is when I discovered that ghost had forgotten it was supposed to delete the oldest files from the backup hard drive so it did not run out of space. Worse when it ran out of space it simply stopped doing backups (9 months before!) and never let me know.

    My computer programmer son then turned me on to the then new Windows Home Server. Since I had enough computer parts on hand, I built my own WHS machine, but if I were to do it again I would buy a WHS box, probably from HP. This system does a huge amount of very useful things, but to keep this short lets just say it does the backups every night without fail, and lets me know when there is a problem. Cost is about $440 for an HP EX490 with a 1 TB drive. To get the most safety out of a WHS you will need to add a second hard drive so the finished cost will be in the $525 range. If you can afford it, I highly recommend this solution. It has seen me through about 5 hard drive crashes with no data lost. There is a new version of WHS coming out by around Christmas, so save your pennies :>)

    An (almost) free solution is Windows Live Sync. (Almost, because you need to have a second machine connected to the Internet somewhere in the world to do your backups onto.) If you have an old machine that works and you can leave running, and/or have a work machine or a (trusted) friend's machine, this is for you. It allows you to designate folders on your PC that will automatically get backed up to the other machines you specify as long as all the machines have an internet connection. This is a free service from Microsoft. The new version expected to be released in a couple of months (it is in Beta testing now) will also come with an optional free 2 GB of storage on a machine run by Microsoft to give you yet another place to keep backups (more is better).

    I use both these solutions and it has been years now since I have lost data to a hard drive or computer crash.

  4. My previous laptop crashed - nothing had been saved. I was disappointed, but since my laptop is purely for pleasure and not for business, I got over it. For 2 weeks I was in heaven - no emails to read, no viruses to scan, no updates to perform. I had forgotten how life was before computers. I think I liked it better back then. Alas, I missed the blogs and the political websites, and I missed sending and receiving photos and messages from family and friends all over the country. But for one brief segment of time, I was free again and loving it.

    Guess I'd better start backing up. Darn, this thing is a taskmaster.

    Anonymous Patriot

  5. After I had a crash and lost 18 months of work, household records, medical records and the works, I found out about an offsite backup company called Carbonite. It is $54.00/year I think but after the initial backup which can take a long time (hours) it will back up things that have changed, how ever you wish it to. Daily, immediately, weekly. You get to decide what is backed up also, I have our family pictures on it and other things also and our records. It encrypts before it leaves your computer and when I had another crash, i a few hours I was up and running with everything I had before the crash. Not sure if you want an offsite or not, but it is helpful for me and I know it works. After we have things set up in the house the way we want we can back up to another computer in the house, but that wouldn't help if a fire or flood took out the computer. Hubby says to think of it as insurance for the house cause it has all the info we want in it.

  6. Hi Patrice,

    I definitely feel your pain. Our family business runs on the life blood of working computers. If computers don't work, or crash and lose data, we're out of business ... period.

    I appreciate that the solutions offered above are good solutions under certain circumstances ... money to buy extra computers, having high bandwidth Internet connection, etc. ... but for folks like you and us who are frugal and live in the boonies without high speed Internet I have found that there is only one workable solution.

    What I do is run a mirroring software on my computer that double saves everything I do to my computer's hard drive and to an external USB hard drive. The software, called Mirror Folder at, costs $35 for one computer. External HDs are dirt cheap nowadays.

    If my computer crashes, all I have to do is go to another computer, plug in the external HD, and everything is there.

    This has saved my bacon more than once. You can even choose to archive older versions of your working files on the external HD, rather than deleting them, as you create, edit and save Word docs, etc.

    In a nutshell, here's how it works.

    Once you have Mirror Folder set up, you create a Word doc, and save it to your HD as normal. You then look over at your external HD and see the light blinking as it instantly saves the same file. As you continue to work on your Word doc, and continue to hit CTRL S, you hear your computer HD save the file, and see the external HD save the file. And so forth. Two copies of everything you do.

    If your computer crashes, merely take the external HD to another computer, find the saved file, copy it to the new computer, and use it as normal. That's it.

    I've been doing this for years and, like I said, it has saved me from disaster more than once.


  7. Actually, that's almost exactly what we do. We have an external hard drive and use a program called Macrium Reflect. It has, indeed, saved our bacon any number of times!

    - Patrice