Monday, March 8, 2010

The Most Basic Backup

File:USB Flash Drive.png

A file backup is the absolute most basic type of computer backup that you can do.  The idea behind a file backup is to make sure that your most important files are located at least one place outside of your computer.  In fact, if you copy your files onto a website, portable device or another computer, you are already doing a file backup.  None of your programs are backed up by this method, so you need to make sure you have all of the disks or downloads saved to reinstall your programs.

The best way to do a file backup is by using a USB flash drive similar to the one pictured to the left.  They vary in shape, size and color, but any of them will work as long as they have sufficient space for your files.  When you plug one of them into an open USB port on your computer, they show up just like a CD or a hard drive would under "My Computer" (or simply "Computer" if you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7).  On a Mac the flash drive will show up as an icon on the desktop.  Once you open it, you can move files to it in one of three ways:

  • Drag and Drop the files from their current location into the open window for the flash drive
  • Copy your files and Paste them into the drive's folder
  • Save directly to the drive from the program that you are working with your files from
This backup method is very limited, but it is affordable much better then nothing.  First off, the typical size of most modern flash drives is from 2 GB to 8 GB.  If you have a lot of files, especially music, high resolution photos and videos, flash drives will most likely be too small.  Also, in the event of your hard drive goes bad, you will have a long process to get your computer up and running, but at least your most important data is safe.  Do not always leave the flash drive plugged in.  If something happens to your computer and the backup is with it, there is a good chance that the backup could be damaged as well.  

Lastly, forget about backing up to CDs or DVDs unless you want to archive files that will never change for long term storage.  The truth is, CDs and DVDs are slow to write to, they are not as easy of a process to use, there is much more that can go wrong and most of them can only be used once.  Flash drives are available for under $20 and can be reused for years.  Even if you use another method of backing up your computer, do not underestimate the value of doing a file backup on your most critical files.  If this does not seem like the right backup for you, stay tuned this week as I explore other backup options.

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