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Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Some Free Computer Advice

Back the heck up. No, I don't mean walk backwards, you nincompoop -- I mean make a copy of your important data and put it in a safe place. Or a dangerous place. Just make a fricking copy of it so that when your hard drive crashes, the record of your finances (or the pictures of your child, or your favorite beef recipes, or your 1500 illegally downloaded music files, or...) won't be lost forever. Failing to back up your data is phenominally stupid, and will cause giggles and snickers among the technicians (not me, the other ones. I'm actually nice) when you leave in tears because your precious files can never be recovered.

Here's the thing -- everyone, I mean everyone, has a "I should have backed up but I didn't and therefore was screwed" story, even if it's just how you forgot to save that report back when you were using Windows 98 and the computer crashed and you had to grit your teeth and re-type those 5 pages. And those are the good stories. Imagine losing all the data from your home-based beef tongue business. Your customer contacts, vendors, tongue smoothness ratings, current prices, etc., are just gone. You have to start completely from scratch. I can't think about such a thing, it is too horrible. But yet people put themselves at risk for this sort of tragedy every day.

Hey, I confess: I don't do regular backups like I should. Like I parenthetically said, I'm not like those other computer people who will think they're better than you just because you don't plan ahead. I understand that backups are time-consuming, and annoying, and fill up what would be perfectly good space on some hard drive or CD-RW somewhere. That's why you need a strategy. You need a way to back up the most important stuff in the least amount of time. Here are some tips from a guy who knows:

Keep all the stuff you want to back up in one folder for easy access. Here's a bonus -- Windows does this by default. It's called the "My Documents" folder. Put all your personal crap in there: Word files, pictures, spreadsheets, music, etc. That way, you can just drag and drop it to your favorite backup medium, and poof, you're backed up.

Backup Media: If you don't have a bunch of files that take up a lot of space (like music files, or video files, or 20,000 pictures, or CAD drawings), your best bet by far is a USB Jump Drive (also called thumb drive and flash drive), which is like an itty bitty hard drive you stick into your computer. I'm not going to walk you through how to use it here, just know that it's the easiest.

If you have a lot of static data that takes up a lot of space (like music files, video files, 20,000 pictures, and CAD drawings), your best bet are dirt-cheap CD-R's. Each holds at least 740MB of space, so they can hold a bunch of that stuff on your hard drive. Better, but more expensive, are your writable DVD's, which have exactly one buttload of space on them. One buttload is a lot of music files, let me tell you. Of course, you need a DVD writer to use those. But you knew that already.

The real pain involved in backups is actually the opposite process, the process of restoring. Now, if your hard drive crashes, you're automatically going to have to reinstall all your programs anyway, which is a time-consuming pain for most people. But if you backed everything up to a "my documents" folder on a CD or Jump drive, you can put all your important documents right back into the "My Documents" folder on the new hard drive. Voila! Your computer feels like home.

You may be tempted to schedule regular backups using the backup program in Windows. My question to you is: Do you trust Microsoft to do that, or would you rather just do it yourself? How hard is it to just drag a folder onto another folder, anyway? Do you want Bill Gates to hand-feed you, too? Of course, if your files are all over the place, you may want to schedule them in Backup just so you can keep track of them all. But don't do that.

You may also be tempted to "ghost" your hard drive. Ghost was a bad movie. Don't do that.

And if you have an Apple, you're on your own. I could make something up like, "Use iBackup to back it up to your Mini iDrive Cano," but I'm not even going to try. Get a real computer -- one that crashes.

Now you have much of the information you need to avoid being laughed at behind your back by tech people. You're welcome.


  • At 10:28 AM, Blogger the professional said…

    as i was reading this post on my apple computer, i kept thinking to myself, "what does it mean when a computer crashes? because there's no word for that in mac language." i event typed "what do i do if my Macintosh HD crashes?" into the Help index menu and the only response that came back was "you're funny. ha. ha."

    but seriously, i have a Lacie 80mb external hard drive that i keep all of my mp3s on, and i actually worry that _that_ thing will crash, should it get dropped or banged around in luggage or something. the thought of backing up my backup is too much and i shall contemplate it no further.

    speaking of getting you published, i have those books set aside still. i'm sorry i haven't yet Taken Action. i wish these damn things would fit into a priority envelope. would you recommend a post office box? big envelope? magic bubble?

    let's figure this out. word.

  • At 1:57 PM, Blogger Mike Pape said…

    The odds of those crashing both at once are extremely slim. The odds that they get stolen at the same time, however, are very high. Oh, wait, you don't live in Dallas.

    There's gotta be a box at the post office that's an approximate match. Or, you could have it boxed at the UPS store or something (but don't send it UPS because they're super expensive, and slow). Or, you could poke around at Sam's club for an appropriate box.

  • At 7:28 AM, Blogger Dan said…

    There is such a thing as a Mac crashing. It's called a "Kernel Panic". Cute. And if you want to find out about it, contact Brian Riggins, as he has had a lot of problems with his iBook that I personally replaced his hard drive in. Let me tell you, the Macs may look pretty, but they sure as hell aren't very friendly when it comes to fixing them.

  • At 2:31 PM, Blogger Mike Pape said…

    My condolences on you having to replace that hard drive. Man, you should see the design/repair issues we have to deal with regarding Macs. Those Mac minis that look like doorstops? Gotta open 'em with a putty knife or a credit card. We just had to get another tool today: a 3mm hex wrench, from the hardware store, to fix one of the G5's.


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