Monday, January 14, 2008

Backing Up

Anybody who's had more than a few years relationship with a computer knows the pain of a hard drive crash, and we all know that the pain resulting is directly proportional to how often you'd backed up in the past. I'm happy to say that just I've learned from my past mistakes, little by little, and each hard drive failure has been easier to deal with than the past.

In fact, I think I believe I'm going on almost two and a half years now without having to reformat my 400 mb primary hard drive (I've got a 100gb media hard drive that's going on 6 years now, I think, and I bought it used on eBay!). That being said, if something were to go wrong, I'd be set back at most a few weeks or a month.

Here are the various precautions I use to back up my data, in order of importance from most to least:

1) Windows Backup - it's included with every installation of Windows XP, and can be found in Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools. If you can't find it there, you have to dig out your Windows XP disc and install it from there. Once installed, it has an easy to follow Wizard that asks you to specify which folders you want to back up. Restoration can be done from this wizard as well (I haven't had to restore anything, thank god, but as a result I can't give you first hand accounts of it). I personally choose to back the entire C: partition up (currently 80 gigs, up to 125 gigs when full) into my 500 gb Seagate external HD . Many of you may not have such disposable hard drive space, so pick and choose what you absolutely can't live without, mainly your My Documents folder.

I decided to go for the whole partition because I do have that space, and should the unthinkable happen it'll be completely painless to restore everything. And since I've done so many tweaks to my system that I can't even remember most of them (though I'm trying to for this blog), being able to pick up where I left off would be most ideal. I sincerely doubt I'd be building a new PC after this one anyway in the foreseeable future.

Finally, I decided to go with Windows Backup as opposed to a third party backup solution because it's built right into Windows, and was very user friendly from the get-go.

2) Mozy Backup - I'd already gone over this in an earlier post, but it bears repeating. Mozy is an online backup space that offers 2 gigabytes free for their personal license. Just sign up for an account, install their application, specify what folders/filetypes to back up, and set it and forget it. You can tell it to back up automatically on a schedule daily, even specify how much network and CPU bandwidth for it to use. 2 gigabytes isn't much, but it's enough for me to back up my emails to another source, as well as critical documents like accounting information and instant messenger logs. Also, every person you refer to use Mozy gets a free gigabyte of space! (coughpromotioncough)

3) Manual backup of work - I manually back up my current and past projects into another partition of my external drive. My external drive actually isn't big enough to fit all my old projects and current ones, so I prefer to have more control over what goes in and what doesn't.

4) DVD backups - I do this myself using Nero Express, and really only of projects that I've finished and need to archive for future reference. I don't do this very often anymore since getting my external HD, but it's always good to have another place for things to go, and DVD's are good especially if they're of projects long finished.

Finally, it's worth noting that for Windows Backup and Mozy Backup I've used Autohotkey and Windows scheduler to automate backup. I have Windows scheduler set up to run an Autohotkey script at 1:30 in the morning as long as the computer's been idle for at least an hour. Said Autohotkey script is my so-called "Hibernate" process, which among other tasks that I'll cover in a future post, runs Mozy backup, then detects whether my external drive is connected (it isn't always, as it sits at the office most of the time), and if so, runs Windows Backup. At the end the script puts my computer on Standby. I hope to elaborate more on this in the future, but for now I feel very good knowing that at most I'd only be a week or two set back in case of an emergency!

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