How to Back Up Your Data
We've all heard the horror stories. Suddenly, for no reason you can comprehend, your hard drive crashes, and you can no longer access anything on it. These situations are rare, but so are lightning strikes, and you don't want to be the one to be hit. You can minimize the damage by routinely backing up your critical documents and email. Here are some key strategies.
Automatic Backup Systems
An automatic backup system is an easy way to ensure that you back up your files completely and regularly, but it requires an external drive to back up to. These days, for roughly $100, you can get a decent 500 GB (gigabyte) or even 1 TB (terabyte) external disk; either size should provide sufficient backup space for most users.
On a Macintosh, we recommend using Time Machine to manage your backups. It's really easy to set up, and is thorough in what it saves.
Windows has a backup utility built in:
- Windows 7 Backup and Restore
- How to use the Backup utility to back up files and folders in Windows XP
- External drives also often come with software that will manage an automated backup; these may be easier to use than the built-in Windows utilities.
If you choose one of these automatic backups you don't need to know all the details that you do for a manual backup, as the system takes care of that for you.
What to Back Up if you Back Up Manually
Mac, Windows XP, Windows 7
Documents and other important settings are normally stored in the "Documents" folder on a Mac and the "My Documents" folder on a PC. If you store documents on your desktop, remember to include those.
Most people store at least some of their email locally through the use of "local folders." Even if you don't, backing up your email folder is a good idea because it contains all of the settings you use in email. Here's where to look for your locally stored mail:
- Thunderbird stores your mail in: C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird (username is the name you have been assigned on your Windows 7 system). Note: If you do not see the "Application Data" folder in your username folder, you must unhide "Hidden and System Files." Select Tools-->Folder Options and the View tab on the Window that opens. Find and uncheck "Hide hidden and system files."
- Thunderbird stores your mail in the folder tree: Users : your username : Library : Thunderbird (username is the name you have been assigned on your Mac).
- Thunderbird stores your mail in: C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\ Thunderbird (username is the name you have been assigned on your Windows XP system). Note: If you do not see the "Application Data" folder in your username folder, you must unhide "Hidden and System Files." Select Tools-->Folder Options and the View tab on the Window that opens. Find and uncheck "Hide hidden and system files."
Manually Back Up to a CD or DVD
At least as often as once each month, burn a CD or DVD of your most important documents. A CD will hold about 700MB of data, a single layer DVD will hold about 4.7 GB, and a dual layer DVD will hold about 8.5 GB. That means that a DVD has a capacity of about 6 CDs, and a dual layer DVD has twice again as much.
CD and DVD burning instructions »
Manually Backup to a Server
- You may keep departmental documents in a folder on newmisserver. Please remember that newmisserver is for departmental document storage and not for music, programs, personal documents, email, etc.
- You may store copies of your files on staffhome.
- You may store copies of your files on fachome.
Manually Back Up to an External Drive
If you prefer, you can manually back up to an external drive instead of using an automated backup system. Copying documents from your computer to the external hard drive is as simple as dragging them from Windows Explorer or Mac Finder to the external hard drive.