I had a reader give me upsetting news last week. They said that their computer failed to boot when they started it a few days before and they had a lot of personal and semi-business files there. What could they do to get them backup?
They had taken it to a computer repair shop in the area who said the hard drive was shot. Drives usually fail in one of two ways. The first is that the drive will still be recognized by the computer but cannot be read or written to. In many cases you may be able to recover data on your own. The other is if there is actual mechanical damage to the drive which means your only choice is to send it to the pros to retrieve your files or toss it and start over.
I will not get into the ways that you may be able to get your data back as there are a million articles on the internet with almost as many software applications available to help you. If you want to try it yourself the first thing I would do is to figure out who produced your drive, go to their site and see what they recommend.
Keep in mind to try and recover the data yourself you must have a working computer and attach the failed drive to that computer. You will need to purchase an external hard drive enclosed case for around $25 or more to access the drive. However, that is much less than the possibly many hundreds of dollars you will spend sending it to the drive recovery companies to get your information.
I will give you Ron’s inexpensive to free way to safeguard your files. I checked today and I have 32 GB of data which I backup regularly. This includes columns for the past 15 years, tax returns, songs, a few videos and other types of files. I have over 70,000 of these files in my collection. This is a significant number of files when compared to the average user. I back it all up in a couple of locations.
My two favorite places online to back up my files, with the exception to financial files are Dropbox and Copy.com. Using those two links to sign up will earn you extra storage space. The standard space of Dropbox is 2 GB and with Copy.com you get 15 GB. They are both similar. I believe Dropbox is slightly easier to use but Copy provides much more space and offers more options.
The next place I back up my 32 GB is on a thumb drive. I found 16 GB USB thumb drives on sale in town the other day for $9.99 and up to 128 GB drive for $35 online. So the expense is minimal for what it could save you if you lost your files.
How to back them up comes next and again there are a million ways. I use one very simple backup app called Karenware Replicator. Karen Kenworthy was a developer who I met online years ago. She made all of her software available free to all and simple to use. Karen passed away in 2011 due to complications of diabetes. I highly recommend Replicator as one of the simplest and effective backup utilities online today. Download it and try it out.
Here is your warning – backup your files since ALL hard drives will fail at some point, maybe in years, maybe in minutes!