A few weeks ago, I accidentally completely deleted my portable hard drive. Let me tell you, I keep EVERYTHING on this drive. From all my pictures, to my programs to my books, its all there. And let me tell you, I don’t create backups. Like everyone else, I believe that data loss cant affect me. At least I did believe that. Not anymore. Files now-a-days are much more than bits and bytes. With the prevalence of digital cameras, almost no one that I know still gets hard copies of their photos. This opens us up to data failure, and let me tell you, it’s more common than you think. So what should I do to protect myself from data loss? Well, I’m going to break this post into 2 sections. How to protect yourself, and what to do if it’s too late.

Lets start with how to protect yourself. There are several ways you can back up your data, and most of it is quite cheap. There are 2 basic ways. Local and Cloud based. Local backups are usually (at least for consumers, not businesses) either a hard drive, or a cd/dvd backup solution. Each has their pro’s and con’s. Hard drive backups are much simpler to do, and if you have a program like Synctoy it’s just a matter of saying backup these folders to this hard drive, and forget about it. The problem with hard drive backups is that they are susceptible to corruption. Most hard drives will last a long time, but if you mistreat them, they could turn your data into gobbledygook. Another problem, is that you could accidentally erase all these files as well. That would completely kill the effectiveness of it. Its not a bad solution, but like all of them, it does have its downsides. The next option is to backup to cds/dvds. This is a much more stable medium, since what you put on a dvd stays there, and it is very difficult to erase a cd/dvd (since most of these discs are only write one time, which means after you put the files on them, they cant be changed). The medium, if well care for, also lasts about 100 years, so that is also a plus. The minus is the space. With a normal CD you get about 700 megs, which is roughly about 1400 pictures. Not bad, but if you’re trying to backup music, this wont work. DVD’s are a lot more attractive, since they hold 4.7 gigs, but once again, if you have a lot of home videos on your hard drive, this also might not make sense, because you would need a lot of dvds. In my humble opinion, if you want a long lasting backup, then DVD is the way to go. With Blue-Ray coming along nicely (25gigs per disc!) that will become a winner in my eyes! Ok, so moving on to Cloud based backups. What is cloud based backups? Cloud based backups is a fancy term for any backup that goes to the internet (cloud). There are many options out there, and most are rather specific to the format of files you want to backup. For example, Youtube gives you unlimited backup of video files (as long as they are 15 minutes or less long). Cloud based backups are great, since you can access most of your files from anywhere. What are the con’s you ask? Well, there are 2. The first, if you are a conspiracy nut, is the fact that someone else has access to your files. While in theory this is scary, I look at the bigger picture. There is safety is a crowd. When you and a million other people are putting their files on the net, the likelihood of a person singling you out is very very small. The second drawback, is that if you lose your internet connection, then you no longer have access to your files. With the invention of mifi, this is not quite as bad, but in the case of a complete breakdown in the internet, then your files are gone.

Ok, so what am I to do? It looks like all backup solutions have flaws! Well, yeah, nothing is perfect. You need to sit down, and figure out how important your files are, and mix and match a custom solution for yourself. Using myself as an example. I have now put ALL my files on Picasa (for $5 a year, you get 20 gigs of storage, and for $20 a year, you get 80 gigs) I also keep a backup of all my pictures on a hard drive at home, and on my portable hard drive in case that one is stolen or corrupted. The videos I take are also backed up to picasa. My files I keep on a hard drive I take with me, and also on a service called Dropbox. It synchronizes my files across all of my computers (Work, Laptop, Netbook, Home Desktop, Church Desktop, and mobile phone), so I always have the files I need, no matter what happens.

My files! They’re gone! What do I do????

Well, you can start by not panicking… Dont mess with the drive, as messing with it will make it impossible to recover your files. There is a slick little program called Recuva which can bring back erased files.

Wait a second… the files are deleted… how can I “bring them back?”

Well, technically, they aren’t erased. When you delete something in windows, it doesn’t disappear to the ether. It just becomes earmarked for overriding. Which just means that other files will be written on top of them. So this means that as long as you dont mess to much with your computer, your, files should be recoverable. Lets start:

After you install the program (you can find it here), open it, and start the wizard. It will ask you what type of file you want to recover:

Simply choose your file type, and choose the location of the file, then let the program scan your hard drive.

pick recuva location

It may take some time, but it should bring up all the deleted files that are recoverable. If nothing shows up, then the file has already been overwritten and is too corrupted to fix.

recovered files
This is a list of files that were recovered from my flash drive. These files I had erased over a year ago, and have put tons of new files over and over again on the drive.

simply check the files you want to recover then click on the recover button on the lower right hand corner. It will ask you where you want to place the files, then you are done!

The program is free, and works great! If it doesnt work, you can try going to a professional data recovery company, but be warned, they will charge you several thousand dollars just to recover a little bit of data, so be prepared for that. Hopefully, you wont have to use the program though, because a good backup, is a hundred times better than a good recovery!