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The Importance of making Regular Backups


USB Sticks and Hard Drive

I learned early in my career as an engineer the importance of making regular backups of everything I did. That was back in the days of floppy disks and 20 MB hard drives, when I would spend eight hours working on a document in Microsoft Office, close it at the end of the day, and find the next morning that I couldn't open it, because it had been corrupted. Apparently, for no reason at all. Nearly a day wasted. That happened sort of regularly back then. Eventually, after a lot of trauma, I started making copies of everything I wrote at least hourly. MS Office is not as ... "twitchy?" anymore, but my paranoia about losing work has continued. Recently, an original collection of files and a backup that I had made, both on 64 GB USB sticks, were destroyed on the same day. The sticks, themselves, were destroyed. I think I may have fried them by somehow managing to plug them into a display port. I didn't even know that was possible. This is where my paranoia paid off, as it often has, because I had a backup of my backup on a hard drive.

The little traumas in the early years of my career taught me, eventually, that no matter what I did to prevent it, stuff happens. Files get corrupted. Hard drives die. The power goes off. Over the years since, those lessons have been reinforced. USB sticks die. USB sticks get thrown in the dumpster by mistake. Things disappear. Things get lost, only to be rediscovered years later, right where I've already looked at least a half-dozen times. And there is nothing that I can reasonably do to prevent this--except make regular backups. Multiple backups.

So, here is my advice from nearly forty years of dealing with finicky, unpredictable, fickle computers. Make at least three backups of everything you do that's important. Make more than three backups of truly irreplaceable files. Make them often. Don't make them all on the same medium--use a combination of hard drives, USB sticks, DVD's, whatever you can get that will work. Don't rely on Windows or any backup program to make the backups for you; do it yourself. Then, do everything you can reasonably do to avoid ever having to use them--which will of course happen, sooner or later. And don't store them all in the same location. There's my advice. I'm giving it even though I know you won't follow it until you've been through enough trauma yourself. I know people well enough to know they don't follow good advice until they've learned the lessons themselves.

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