We need a National “Back Up Your Hard Drive Day” for the fools among us.

September 13, 2007 | By | 30 Replies More

You might think I’m being facetious, but I’m dead serious. Let’s select one day per year to remind people to regularly back up their computer data.  I am utterly completely and bewilderedly tired of hearing people tell me “I lost all my data, songs and photos because my computer hard drive died.”

No, fool.  You didn’t lose your data because your hard drive broke.  You lost it because you had no data backup.  You didn’t have a backup because you (YOU) didn’t back up your data.   If you want to know who to blame for your broken hard drive, it might be the hard drive manufacturer.  If you want to know who to blame for your loss of data, just go look into a mirror. 

Yesterday, I heard my most recent loss-of-data story.  A friend claimed he “lost all my photos.”  I asked whether he had a backup.  He said yes, the data was on the backup hard drive. I then asked him why he didn’t just access the photos from his main hard drive, but then the sanity left our conversation:  He admitted that he transferred all of his photos over from his laptop to his “backup hard drive.” He deleted the original data after creating his “backup.”  I was flabbergasted.  I told him, “That’s not a ‘backup.”

Another friend of mine is a network consultant.  Especially following storms he gets a service call and goes out to find out that a business’s hard drive is fried.  He asked the business owner for the most up to date backup and he’s often handed one from two weeks (or two months) earlier.  Invariably he’s then asked whether they “can get all of the data back.”  When my friend (the consultant) originally sets up a system he always gives the business a lecture to back up their data every day.  It’s just incredible how often they don’t listen, especially given the large sums of money a business loses when it loses data.

The reason I’m especially frustrated with these stories is that people simply refuse to understand.  The advice is not hard to understand, but it goes in one ear and out the other.  Sometimes I tell friends that I’ll give them computer advice but they first need to put one of their fingers in one of their ears “so it doesn’t go out the other side.”  Then I tell them the secret of not losing data:

Keep relatively fresh copies of your data in at least two places.  At least one of those copies should not be kept on the same premises as the computers that contain the original copies.

This constant stream of “loss of data” stories really aggravates me because I make a habit of asking friends about their back up procedure and I almost never get a satisfactory answer.  Instead, I get a glazed-over look and a reassurance that they don’t need to back up their data because their computer is working fine.  I don’t know why I still give the advice given that the advice is so rarely taken.  

People!  Listen up!   Your hard drive is guaranteed to break within ten years, maybe a lot sooner.   When will it break?  We don’t KNOW.  That’s why you need to practice good backup hygiene.  It’s a lot easier than it ever was, now that portable external USB hard drives are so incredibly cheap.  

Just get yourself a portable USB hard drive.  It will cost you about $100 for 250 GB.   That’s probably enough to hold your valuable data several times over.  If that size drive is not big enough for you, buy a Terabyte drive for $300.  If your data isn’t worth that kind of money, then you’ve just been screwing around with your computer and not doing anything worthwhile.  For example, in the past year I’ve likely put ten thousand hours of work  into the digital versions of the writings, music and videos I’ve created.  $100 divided by 10,000 hours = ONE CENT per hour worked to insure my work.  It’s one of the best deals on the planet.

USB hard drives usually come with their own backup program for free (or just drag your important files over using Windows, use the Windows XP backup utility).  You don’t have to back up your entire hard drive–focus on your data (You can always reload your applications).  Wikipedia has a more technical article pertaining to backups here

You don’t have to stand there and wait for the data backup—it doesn’t go any faster just because you’re watching it.  Just start the process and leave—go watch a movie or go to bed.  It will all be done by the time you wake up in the morning.  Truly, there are no excuses for failing to back up your hard drive.  Nope, I’m not listening.  NO excuses. 

Hence, my plea to establish one day each year as a Day everyone backs up the data on their hard drive.  Is one backup per year enough?  Hell, no.  But it’s a lot better than most people seem to be doing.

There.  I’m done with my rant, except to say this:  Good friends will continue to remind their friends to back up their computer data.  And if they’ve warned their friends, but their friends still lose data, they nonetheless try to be sympathetic. 

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (30)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan: It will be fun to refer back to your bargain hard drive in 5 or 10 years to see how it will then compare.

    That said, what a bargain! Assuming that this cheap Seagate drive functions for 5 years, that's less than 3 cents per day for peace of mind.

  2. Ben says:

    Dan, I was able to register for xdrive with no trouble at all.

    login: btu41 (similar)

    password: freeze99 (similar)

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    Tried and failed xdrive reg again (about a dozen variations). I just keep getting the "Oops! Please Try Again" message, with no hint about what was wrong with my submission.

    I tried all of their suggested screen names, with several passwords. I typed in several variations of the security text (with and without spaces, various capitalizations, even using the audio version!).

    I tried it in my usual Browser (FireFox) and in IE. It just doesn't like me.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    Dan, your troubles might be a result of one of the many security settings in your browser(s). I have not tried to access this particular website, but many sites have scripting or other utilities that will get disrupted by browser settings. One strategy I've used for reducing such problems is to have different levels of security on different browsers. For example, I use Firefox for general browsing, and I keep its security settings fairly high. For trusted websites, I will (if necessary) switch to IE, whose settings I keep relatively low. This way, I can browse the WWW without much fear of problems, yet also access trusted sites that require closer interaction with my computer.

  5. Dan Klarmann says:

    I also resort to IE only when absolutely necessary. Firefox works fine for all W3C compliant sites. I'm often surprised at how many page errors pop up in big name sites (eg: eBay, Google, Weather.com).

    I did finally register with xdrive from IE, on about the 15th attempt! Now it works fine from FireFox.

    But I prefer sendthisfile.com for temporary storage and big file transfers.

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