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    NOVEMBER 3, 2005
 
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Bits&PCs

Security tip: Back up your data

Making a backup copy of your data is not a new idea. You’ve probably heard it over and over: “Be sure to back up your data.” But even though it’s not a new idea, making a regular backup of your important data is the single most effective thing that you can do to protect your data against computer viruses, worms and Trojan horses, as well as lightning, power surges and system crashes. Consider yourself lucky if you have never lost a Word document, a spreadsheet or some other important file.

A good backup can even protect you from yourself. It is hard to describe the sinking feeling you can get from emptying your Windows recycle bin or Macintosh trash can, and then realizing that you have permanently erased a needed document or file. A recent backup of your data can rescue you from this disaster. You may not be able to restore the most recent version of your document, but at least you won’t have to start over.

Although backing up your data is a basic operation, many users are unsure how to select the proper files and how to perform a good backup procedure. Remember, it is only necessary to back up your data files. You don’t need to include the operating system or your programs. Most people are surprised to discover that all of their data may fit on a few floppy disks or on one CD.

As for which files to select, just be sure to include the folders where you save your important files and documents. This will probably include your “My Documents” folder, as well as all other files and folders that you have created.

If you decide to save your data on floppy disks, you can simply drag the files and folders to the floppy icon, often labeled “3 1/2 Floppy (A:),” and the operating system will do the rest. Each standard high-density floppy disk can store about 1.4 MB. If you need more space, and your computer has a CD burner, a CD-R is a good choice. In addition to the CD burner, you will also need what is called “burning software.” Be sure to follow the instructions that come with the software. Some operating systems, such as Windows XP and Macintosh 10.x, include the burning software. This allows users to simply drag files and folders to the CD drive icon, and then select “Write these files to CD” or “Burn CD” from the system “File” drop-down menu.

One CD-R can store about 700 MB of data. If you don’t fill the CD-R, you can add your next backup, and keep adding files until the CD is filled. Unlike a floppy disk, once a CD-R is filled with data, you cannot erase it to use again. A rewriteable CD-RW is a little more expensive than a CD-R, but can be erased and used over and over.

Whether you choose floppy disks, CDs or some other medium, just be sure to back up your data on a regular basis and keep the backup in a safe place. A locked file cabinet is generally a good choice. A backup that is stored off-site has the additional advantage of protecting your data against fire or other physical threat.

Finally, don’t forget to test your backup procedure by making sure that you can restore the data to your computer. If you need assistance with backing up or restoring your data, the Computer Services Help Desk (215-204-8000) is ready to assist you.

 

 


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