Backing up your data.

October 4, 2006

What’s the best way to back up your computer files? You have a few choices here: burn a CD/DVD, use a flash drive or connect another hard drive. Keep in mind that all media can fail. Even CDs can corrupt with multiple rewrites, get scratched, and be run over by the ice-cream truck. If maintained properly, all types of media are similarly reliable.

However you decide to back up your files, the most important detail is frequency. Back up daily, weekly — as often as you like, but consistently. The Windows XP Backup utility allows for archive scheduling. Read more about this utility.

This is a good choice, as the CDs themselves are relatively inexpensive and can hold a lot of information. If your drive supports it, RW (rewritable) disks should be used. The thing to watch out for here are brand names that are incompatible with your hardware. As a general rule, media “Made in Japan” is usually a safe bet. Store the CDs in place away from heat and water, and you’re in business. If you don’t have a CD or DVD burner, read on.

USB Flash Drive…
Very portable. Very reasonably priced. Very versatile. Take it everywhere, plug it in anywhere, write, rewrite, format, whatever. These drives are up to about 4GB now and not terribly expensive at all. Any machine with a USB port can use one. This is a good choice if you are excellent at keeping small items from getting lost in the shuffle. That’s the only downside that I can think of, as these drives are usually only a couple of inches long.

Hard Disk Drive…
Tons of music files? Photos? Consider this: buy a second hard drive and install it inside your computer OR connect an external hard drive. Storage capacity here beats all of the above. Speed is also on your side with the hard drive. It costs the most and isn’t terribly portable, but it’s great for a serious archive. Failure rates exist, but the chance that BOTH of your hard drives will bite the big one at the same time is very slim to none. I trust my entire music and photo collection to two hard drives. I’ll run out of space eventually and get new ones. (I already don’t expect them to last forever).