Essential safeguards for your computing experience.
Always save and backup your work.
As I travel around to my clients, time after time I have to tell them the bad news that everything they have ever stored on their computer is gone for ever. This might be due to a virus attack, junior's decision to format the disk while Mum had her back turned, or most often of all, the hard disk has physically failed. Most (but certainly not all) virus attacks can be recovered from, and junior's efforts at formatting the disk may be undone provided you have not tried to do anything to the disk since he did so. However, if the disk itself has failed, if you had no backup, and if you want to recover the data, you need to pack it off to Drive Savers or Data Recovery Services and pay them to recover the data for you.
How do I back it up?
(a) The ordinary floppy diskette (which these days is enclosed in a hard plastic case so that it doesn't feel floppy).
For small amounts of data such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and so on, all you need is a 1.44 Mb 3½" floppy disk.
Note where the document is being saved (usually in the "My Documents" folder) and close the program you used to create the document. Open Windows explorer, navigate to the "My Documents" folder, highlight the files that need to be backed up, click on Edit and then on Copy (or on the copy button on the toolbar, if you have one). Then insert a new floppy, navigate to the A: drive in the left window of the Explorer, and click Edit and then Paste (or click on the Paste button on your toolbar, if you have one).
When the copy process is complete, your files are backed up. Put the floppy somewhere safe from kids fingers, magnetism, humidity, heat, smoke, and dust, which are all capable of destroying your backed-up data (kids' fingers are definitely the worst and most unpredictable/uncontrollable). In humid areas, do not rely on a floppy back-up to be readable for more than six months.
(b) The Zip drive, Jaz drive or LS120 drive options.
If you will be dealing with more data than a floppy can easily hold and don't have an
inexhaustible bank account, the next option is to have a disk drive which can hold 100 Mb
or more on a diskette.
For people who will be dealing with very large files, a Jaz drive which can store 1 Gb or 2 Gb depending on the model may be needed, but as these require a SCSI port to be available on your computer, you will need to have it professionally installed. On newer computers, you are also highly likely to run into frustrating hardware conflicts which can be very expensive to have resolved by an expert, if you have a SCSI card fitted.
Once you have a larger capacity drive and the necessary diskettes or cartridges, you will be able to copy your files to the appropriate drive using the method described above for floppies.
(c) Recordable (CDR) or Rewritable (CDRW) Compact Disc drives.
There are a great number of these available on the market now at very reasonable
prices. The blank discs are now readily available but CDRW discs are several times the
price of CDR discs. The difference is that a CDRW disc can be erased and have data
written to it again, whereas the CDR can only have the data written once and from then on
it can only be read. The CDR is a WORM (Write Once Read Many times) device.
(d) Using backup programs.
Zip drives are marketed with their own excellent backup program, and there are plenty of backup programs available. The backup program is most useful when you have files which are too large to fit on one diskette. For some obscure reason the Microsoft Backup program which comes with both Windows 95 and Windows 98 is not installed by default when the operating system is installed.
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