PSA: regularly back up your computer files.


I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it on the blog, but I play golf…horribly.  Even so, I love the game and I’m fortunate to have two amazing playing partners who totally indulge the fact that I can’t hit a ball to save my life (even though I’ve taken lessons and have played for many years).   At any rate, if you play golf with friends and family, you’ll know the term “mulligan.”

So…nearly a month ago, my computer’s hard drive experienced “catastrophic failure” (the tech’s words – did he know how melodramatic that sounds?) and could not be resurrected. The machine was in the shop for three weeks so I really just got it back very recently, with a brand spanking new hard drive and a freshly-loaded OS.  I had to install new software and try to remember all my settings and bookmarks and all the fun stuff that made my computer mine.  While that has been annoying (and is still a work in progress), what I’m really doing is breathing a sigh of relief.

Because I backed up my files.  (Well, nearly all of them, anyway).  If you’ve ever read interviews with famous writers and photographers – and the not-so-famous ones –  you’ll find that a piece of advice they always dispense to newbie or wannabe creatives is to back up your work.  They’re totally right about this.  There is no mulligan when your computer just decides to catastrophically fail in the middle of something you were doing.  I really had no warning when mine bit the dust, it just quietly shut itself down and never came back up. No raging against the dying of the light here; it was all very dignified…and surprising.  I lost the work I was doing at the time, of course, and I’m kicking myself because it would have been so easy to just have a flash drive in the port and click on “Save” every now and then.  I may have lost a few sentences rather than entire paragraphs.

It’s solid advice, and could save a ton of regret later on.  Even if we’re not writers or photographers, how often are we backing up the work we do on the computer – the household budgets, the tax documents, the personal correspondence, the music or the movies or the e-books, the photos of our families and friends and pets?  Are any of us backing up the files on our phones on a regular basis?

How do you back up your computer files – and how often do you do it?  Do you use an external hard drive or other smaller storage devices such as flash drives or even CDs or DVDs?  How about the cloud or a service such as Dropbox?  Do you print your photos or other documents on paper?  Do you store any of your backups off-site (away from your residence), as is often recommended? 


    • Thanks so much! That is a shot of one of the holes on one of the Kananaskis golf courses…taken a few years back, before it was destroyed by the flood of 2013. Apparently it is being rebuilt sometime in the near future….

  1. I started to regularly back up my computer when the contents of my iPhoto simply disappeared one day. It took several days to “find” them and get a copy of the lost files working again. I promptly went out and bought an external drive. I also back things up in the cloud. When I thought I had lost years of photos from our travels I just wanted to cry! Fortunately it had a happy ending!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience of hard drive or computer failure. That is a horrible experience for modern days. I think these day we depend on information than ever (less and less paper) as you already mentioned – many years of tax document, family pictures, contacts, book mark and more.

    I have seen people consider hard drive, solid drive and computer failures very seriously such as using raid drive. I experienced hard drive failure last year and other computer failures of some form before. I do have external drive to back up just data. This let me quickly backup the recent changes as I needed (when new things are added or delete out of my main drive on the computer).

    I also clone the hard drive so that if it dies then I can take the cloned one and stick into the computer. This let me get the computer back on again with OS and everything ready to go. I do not do cloning often as the computer needs to be offline and it takes a long time. I also have multiple drives to keep multiple copies of cloned drives. This lets me go back to the early version of clone drive if something that I set wrong with the recent OS (OS bugs or I mess around with it so much).

    The extra drives also let you keep them at physical location if you need it.

    • I’m bad about backing up myself but I have paid to have my stuff backed up to an offsite hard drive. I do have a very, very old external hard drive and bought a flash drive for all my photos. I have them now on several flash drives. I thought I lost a lot of stuff when I updated to windows 10 last week. It’s all there, just not where I want it. Good advice. 🙂

  3. How awful! I am glad you are nearly back to normal and only lost the file you were working on. I back-up onto an external hard-drive but never remember to do it often enough!

    • I always thought it wouldn’t ever happen, that there would be a warning sign that would tell me to back up my work right this second…unfortunately, I guess it doesn’t always work that way.

  4. You have reminded me that I’m way overdue for backups. 😦 That said… earlier this year I decided to no longer keep certain files on my computer at all, ever, and put them on individual flash drives instead. I have one USB drive for my completed blog posts, another for posts in progress, another for all money-related files, another for non-blog-related photos, and a fifth for “everything else” that I’d be irked to accidentally lose. I don’t use the Cloud; frankly, I don’t trust it because my basic philosophy is that if it’s internet-based it can be hacked. In a perfect world I’d back up my “everything else” every month, but in reality it can and has gone six months or more. But those are all files that it would be an annoyance, rather than a hairpulling/teeth-gnashing disaster, to lose, anyhow. The important ones live on the USB drives 24/7.

    • I really like your idea of keeping different flash drives for various projects/documents – such a great way to keep things organized, and easily achievable! I think I might implement something like this for my own files….

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience Sheryl. A couple of months ago my computer was acting up, they kept it a week and backed everything up on a hard drive attached to my laptop. I think I was close to having a disaster!!!

  6. We do keep all our photos on Dropbox, otherwise I don’t really have documents backed up. I know that I should. I hate to think how dependent I am on my laptop, I would go a little crazy if I had to give it up for three weeks.

  7. Sheryl, this is clearly a topic that ignites a lot of interest! I, too, back up my hard drive, to two different external hard drives.
    And I only do that because I, too, have experienced the loss of everything, and it is devastating. Thankfully, I learned my lesson the last time (years ago).
    So very glad for you that you didn’t lose much.

    • Two external hard drives is a really good idea. For you, the loss of photos and your work would be absolutely heartbreaking – I can’t even imagine. Definitely worth it to keep up with these things, that’s for sure.

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