But are backups really necessary?
So many people get the message about backups only after
they've had a disaster. It could be a burglary, a hard disk dying, an
encryption ransomware attack, a
fire or just Windows getting scrambled. If you use a computer for more
than browsing the net then surely you've got stuff you'd really hate to lose -
photos, notes, plans, whatever. Maybe you even still store your emails locally too. And it
would be such a pain to have to rip your CD collection to the computer again.
So get paranoid - I always like to think that if we were away
and a meteorite reduced our home to rubble then it would not be a
disaster in data terms. We might have a laptop with us but even if not
we have online backups of all our data (photos, documents, music).
So to get going all we'd need to do is get a new computer or two,
check up access password hints via our Googlemail email account or OneNote,
re-install applications and download all the data. Uploading (before we got fast broadband) was pretty
slow but downloading would be pretty fast. We get 7ri0Mbps nowadays.
Here's a diagram showing how very paranoid (or thorough) I am
about backing data as well as the Windows system disk - I've never lost anything significant:
I also now upload full sized version of almost all the photos I keep to my flickr pro account.
The laptop has a rather small SSD so I set Dropbox Pro
to synchronise just some of our data folders and have extra
photos and music on a 64Gb SDXC card. At top right the ticks show folders that have
been synchronised with Dropbox.
Note that it's not just data I back up. I also have mirror images on
a USB3 external drive of the Windows partitions on our two computers. That
way, if everything gets really scrambled or the disk drive fails
physically I can get back to exactly where I was a few weeks ago,
including all my applications installed and running. On both computers
the data is on a separate partition so would be unaffected if it's merely
refreshing Windows 10 from a mirror backup. There are free utilities around but
I paid for Acronis True Image which I use on the laptop. You can install a pre-boot restore option
so you don't even need a bootable memory pen or CD and I successfully
tested writing back an image onto one of our computers. On the PC I now use O&O Disk Image.
Our phones and tablets are not part of the backup scheme. They mostly get data
pushed to them, eg contacts, calendar, favourites and docs sent via Gmail, Chrome,
Dropbox or OneNote and we never do anything like online banking from them. They've all
got Avast protection but if one got infected or scrambled a factory reset would be
fine as a fix and we'd lose nothing of note, maybe a few old texts.
How do I get an accidentally deleted file back?
It may well be in the recycle bin in which case it's easy to restore.
If not it's quite easy to drag files or folders accidentally onto others - if you
let go at the wrong time they quietly move into the folder you were hovering over at the
time. It's not deleted - just hidden.
If a file is really messed up and you cannot get back with an undo
option then it's back to backups. So back up often! Don't forget that
if it's a photo it might still be on your camera's memory card. I once
got back an image that had been messed up on the computer and deleted
from the camera card with Recuva.
How do I back up my emails?
If your emails are purely online, accessing Gmail,
Hotmail, Yahoo etc through a browser, then you're in their hands. They
will back up your emails OK but there are always dangers. If you don't
use an account for a while or if some automated software doesn't like
something you said in an email (eg "that really went down a bomb")
there's a risk that they will just arbitrarily close your account and you may not
be able to get back in. I exported all our Gmail content (emails, contacts
and calendar)a while ago using Google Takeout to create an mbox backup file
that Thunderbird read OK.
If I have some particularly important emails to back up I'll print them to pdfs with Primo.
If you still use the old Windows Outlook program you've got problems. It stores all your emails in a weird
semi-hidden location on your local disk, making them very vulnerable as well as almost impossible to share with
your phone and tablet. Confusingly Microsoft now call what used to be Hotmail Outlook.com.
How to get large files somewhere else?
Email is often very limited in the size and type of
attachments you can send. I work on a rule of thumb that if you attach
more than 5Mb of photos to one email it will only reach some people.
Putting files online can work well, eg
collection of photos on flickr
- much neater than constantly
inflicting heavy emails on friends around the country and world. For
transferring large files to someone else I use WeTransfer, which works very well.
If you're on a network (eg you share the same router) you can
make the relevant folders shared and move files as if on the same
computer. And many companies use shareable document repositories using
Microsoft Sharepoint, Xerox Docushare etc.
But sometimes sending physical media is simplest. You can get
a lot of photos on a CD and nowadays memory pens can be very cheap too.
Or you could physically transport the files via an external disk drive.