Back up your important files now!

My recent posts on password management are just one thing I discuss as often as I can. The second is backing up your files. We all have important files (pictures, documents, music) which would be tragic if they were lost. Make another copy of them now.

The simplest thing you can do is go out and buy a hard drive. Warehouse clubs and online retailers will generally provide you the best deals. Plug it into your system and install whatever software comes with the drive to assist you with backing up your files. I generally don’t recommend using this software, but it’s better than nothing.

With more experience, you can get other software which will do the job better. If you have a Mac with a recent operating system, just turn on Time Machine and stop fretting. For a PC, it’s not that simple. I’ve used Cobian Backup, SyncBack, and SyncToy as my solutions depending upon the situation. Cobian is best for a computer which has the backup drive connected to it all the time. Cobian is very configurable, powerful, and free. The downside is the author is getting tired and has put it up for sale. I don’t know how long it will remain this excellent and free product. SyncToy is from Microsoft and free. It’s quick and simple and gets the job done. I usually set it up for “backup on demand” situations whereas Cobian works in the background. There are three versions of SyncBack; one free and two pay versions. The pay versions have much more configurability in what not to back up compared to the free one. They also work well if you don’t leave the hard drive connected all the time and it gets a new drive letter the next time you plug it in.

If you buy software (like SyncBack Pro) and a hard drive, you shouldn’t be out much more than about $150 (depending upon the size if hard drive you get). If a hard drive fails, you’re out all your important files. You could send your drive to a data recovery service, but that will cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars to recover everything and there are no promises there.

Once you get a backup solution in place, be sure to use it regularly (daily is a good option). A client of mine had a hard drive fail recently. She said she had her backup drive but hadn’t used it in a long time. Weeks or months of data are gone. Don’t let this happen to you.

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