About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

November 17, 2015

What Happens to My Files – backup?

Hard Drive graphic from online -

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  Using those two links to sign up will earn you extra storage space.  The standard space of Dropbox is 2 GB and with 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. 

Karenware Replicator main screen

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!

February 9, 2010

Backup Software

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:21 am

Over the past nine years I have talked about different items related to backing up your personal files or data files on your computer.  At that time I wrote about where to back up your files.  Three years ago I talked about what files you should regularly backup.  From both of those columns I only slightly brushed what to use to backup your files.  So today that is where we will look.

The major issue with backing up your data has not changed.  One day, sooner or later, you can count on it; your hard drive will fail.  If you are a computer user it will happen.  A newer computer is less likely to have this issue, but the age of the computer is no guarantee that you won’t have that big headache.

I am going to mention three different products I have found most useful for backing up my most essential files.  You know me.  One of my preferences is that the applications are free and all of these are.

The files I choose are my columns, tax returns, training manuals, a couple of books I have been working on for years (which may never be finished) and on…ad infinitum.  Basically I backup my “Documents” and “Music” folders.  The music is everything on my iPod which would be a long hard process to recreate.  I back them all up on my external hard drive in a TrueCrypt partition so that no one can read, edit or delete them if they find the drive.  (I told you about TrueCrypt last year.)

The first backup application has been built into Windows starting with XP and has now been updated in Windows 7.  I hate to say this, since I am a huge Microsoft supporter, but I don’t care for either one.  They will not allow me to backup my files on an encrypted drive, i.e., a TrueCrypt drive.  There may be a workaround or trick to do so that I am unaware of.   If you know one let me know.  I have never been able to make them work to my satisfaction.

Next, was a real favorite of mine also from Microsoft called SyncToy 2.1.  I have used several versions of this one before and it is slick.  This is a very good program and I highly recommend it.  I like SyncToy but I prefer the next application.  SyncToy writes additional files to your backed up files which are harmless, but why have them?

The final program, Karen’s Replicator is found at  I don’t know Karen personally although I have communicated with her via email in the past.  She writes some excellent free programs.  I use several of them on a fairly regular basis.  She also has a good (sometimes geeky) newsletter which I suggest you subscribe to.

All three of these apps work about the same; however, I’m sticking with Karen’s.  With the others, if you have a problem you cannot really talk to the creator.  With Karen’s you can.  Regardless, I have never had even one problem in the five plus years I have used her apps.

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