Don’t Let a Computer Crash Destroy Your Files

by Michelle Hutchinson

Crashed car

Image source: Takkk, http://commons.wikimedia.org

In most facets of my life, I’m not a procrastinator, but in the technology arena, I do tend to put things off. Once I become comfortable with a gadget, I don’t want to replace it.

Case in point: my Gateway computer, circa 2006. While I regularly upgraded the software, until last week, I was loathe to part with the machine that supported it and all my files.

Even though I know that transferring files from one computer to another has become easier over the years, the memories associated with the difficulty in getting all my data from an even older computer to that Gateway back in 2006 still haunt me.

However, when the Gateway started becoming slower and slower and occasionally locking up, I knew its days were numbered.

My procrastination in this realm got the better of me last week when the Gateway finally crashed and I couldn’t get it working again.

With deadlines looming, I normally would have panicked, but fortunately, I have a subscription to a remote online backup service and was able to access all my files by logging into it via another computer.

So even though you’ve probably heard this from others, it bears repeating: back up your data daily on a reputable remote server.

Sure, you could use an external hard drive, but what happens if misfortune strikes your office or home in the form of, let’s say, a fire, flood, or fallen tree? No one wants to think about such things, but these events and even the more common lightening strike could destroy an external hard drive along with your computer.

Imagine if you are a writer who has just finished a manuscript and the only form of it exists on a computer and an external hard drive that you can no longer access. What would you do? Or what if you are a small-business owner in the accounting, legal, or home inspection field? Or in any industry for that matter. What if you’re retired and you have years of digital photos on your computer? Could you bear to lose them?

What was even nicer about having remote backup was the fact that when I got my new computer, it was pretty easy to restore everything. I think those haunting memories from 2006 are finally starting to fade.

Maybe my next technology purchase will be a new cell phone. ;-)

Feel free to share your technology foibles and tips below. Just click on “Leave a comment.”

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  1. Scott Sawyer says:

    Hello Michelle, sorry about ‘Old Faithful’, glad you had a reliable back up. I would like to point out the recommended procedure by IT professionals is to have 3 copies of your data on 3 different media.

    The cloud based backup services are fantastic, but are not foolproof. Additionally, if you have large amounts of data backed up, it takes considerable time to download.

    I recommend using a combination of cloud backup and external disk ( USB external hard drive, network attached storage to name a few options ).

    Hope your new computer serves you well.

    • Thanks for that recommendation, Scott. I’m glad an IT professional like you weighed in on this.

      I did have an external hard drive hooked up to my old computer too, but I found that it really slowed down my computer’s performance. (Yes, even though ‘Old Faithful’ was getting slower, its performance picked up when I removed the external hard drive.) Is that a typical effect that external hard drives have on computers?

      • Scott Sawyer says:

        Well, the short answer is, “no.” Connecting any drive to a computer ( external or internal ) should not, in itself, cause a computer to slow down.

        The real answer is, “it depends.” Sometimes, when you have an indexing service, such as Google Desktop or Windows Indexing service, it will attempt to index the files on any new storage device connected. This is supposed to make the computer search and retrieve files from the device more quickly. But if you have many, many files on a drive, it will slow down the computer while it indexes the files.

        While this feature may be nice when you keep the storage device connected ( many people keep an external drive connected at all times as their primary storage ), if all you want to do is connect to back up your computer, this services is not so beneficial.

        Depending on which version of Windows you are using, and what desktop search application is running, there are ways of tuning or completely disabling the service. I actually prefer the service built in to the operating system instead of Google Desktop ( less “stuff” running on the computer :) . A quick Web search will help with the specifics for your situation.

        There are other potential culprits. Sometimes it is a music application looking for music files, sometimes a photo application. It is just hard to tell with out looking at the individual computer.

        One thing to check is your Task Manager. For best performance, a healthy, custom built XP machine should run 30-40 processes on boot, a factory computer (like a Dell or HP) will typically have 60 or more, but if you uninstall the junk they ship with, you can easily get down to 50-60. Windows 7 will typically have 10 more processes. You can adjust the programs that run on boot through various menus on your computer, sometimes within the program itself. If you have over 80, 90 and even 100 processes running on a freshly boot computer, you are likely to notice sluggishness all the time, and it is time to clean house.

        So, I have made a lot of generalizations and assumptions. Your exact situation will vary and change over time, and if your computer has malware, this completely goes out the window (pun intended). Check your Task Manager as part of your computer maintenance routine ( you do have a maintenance routine, don’t you? ).

        • Thanks for that thorough response and for adding the advice of having a computer maintenance routine. I do have one, but I haven’t always included checking the Task Manager in it. I will do so now. Thanks again.

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