Everyone needs backups

Everyone who uses a computer should understand about BACKUPS.
If you work in an account on a multi-user unix or linux system, your system administrator is providing the service of making regular backups of all files you have stored on that account. This is automatic, without any action on your part. In the event you erase the wrong file, just contact your system administrator about getting data restored.
If you use Windows, MacOS, or a desktop installation of linux, any data you store locally on your desktop PC or laptop is NOT backed up automatically by itself, unless you specifically set this up. It is incumbent on you to act. Know what options you have to protect your valuable files. Don't let this slide, like a difficult New Year's resolution! Find out if there is any central service available for you to use for backups.
If there is, USE IT. If not, MAKE YOUR OWN.


How to make your own backups

You have many options for backing up your own data.

Backup Software

  • You may not need any special software to make backups to read-write devices like memory stick, external hard drive, or a server volume. You can simply drag-and-drop files or folders to the backup volume to copy them.
  • For recordable CD-R or DVD-R, you need software that lets you gather a list of what files to write, then insert the blank media and start the writing or "burning" process to run all at once. In Windows XP you can do this simply by dragging icons to the recordable drive. Windows will then indicate that you have files waiting to be written to CD-R / DVD-R; you insert the blank media and click the command to "Write files to removeable disk"
  • There are also separate programs for writing to CD-R / DVD-R, including commercial titles such as Nero and Toast, often bundled with add-in CD-RW and DVD-R drives. There are also fine freeware titles such as Burn4Free and CDRecorderXP. Some may find these tools have nicer interface for organising files when queueing them to be written to recordable media.
  • Finally there are software packages specific to making a full or incremental backup of all data or all recent changes on an entire desktop system. These can spread backups across multiple disks when there is more data than will fit on one backup disk.


    Whatever method and media you use to make backups, be sure to retain more than one past set of data. Don't use a single erasable media to write new backups over your only prior backup, in case the new data you are backing up turns out to be corrupt. Ideally, you'd like to have several recent copies of any crucial data such as your thesis, research data and papers or presentations you are writing. With CD-R and DVD-R media costing so little now, anyone can afford to make regular archival backups and retain the copies for safe keeping. Make sure to label your backups with the date and contents. Periodically store some archival media away from your computer, in case of fire or theft. Back to main page