Have a DVD burner? If so, you've got a super backup system
right in your computer.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
T e c h n o f i l e
The backaphobic's guide to saving your stuff (Hint: It's easy)
Nov 12, 2006
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, The Post-Standard
Most new computers come with a built-in DVD burner. That's cool
because you can make your own DVDs of movies you took with your
But it's even more cool because you've got a super backup system
right in your computer.
Uh-oh. I can hear you muttering all the way over here. I used a bad
word in that sentence. Let's see, you wash my mouth out with soap,
and I promise never to mention that "b----p" word again. Right?
Wrong. It's time to own up to something we've avoided for years. Most
of us have treated the idea of backing up our files as if they were
radioactive. Catch these statistics if you want proof: Maxtor, the
hard drive company, says one third of all computer users never back
up their files; Apple, maker of the hot-selling Macintosh, says the
number is much higher; as many as 76 percent never make backups,
So let's all take the pledge. "My name is Bill, and I'm a
backaphobic." (Use your own name, please. Bill's getting tired of
this.) Now get out there and follow The Plan.
It's a 6-Step Program, half the usual amount:
1. Refuse to make things hard on yourself. Resist the temptation to
buy some sort of tape drive and fancy-schmancy software. Just get an
external hard drive and a simple backup program. Everybody who has a
modern computer can connect up a USB drive. Simple (but very
effective) backup programs include Second Copy for Windows (from
www.centered.com) and Data Backup for Macintosh OS X computers (from www.prosoftengineering.com).
2. Make the external drive your primary backup medium. (No, that's
not a soothsayer who puts the truck in reverse. Pay attention!) Every
month or so, copy the files on your external backup drive to your
secondary backup medium (no, that's not the substitute for the
soothsayer). The secondary backup medium is ...
3. Your DVD burner. DVDs hold more than 4 gigabytes of files, but, hey, why not double that? By purchasing dual-layer DVD blank disks
instead of standard ones, you double the capacity of each disk. That
means you get 8.8 gigabytes of files on each DVD. Make sure you use
non-erasable DVDs, too. Don't use RW disks. They can be erased, and
that means you could lose your backups.
(A warning: Older DVD burners might not be able to use dual-layer
disks. Buy one blank disk and try it before you buy a bunch.)
4. Don't waste your time backing up stuff you can easily replace.
Programs are easy to get back; you simply reinstall them from their
original installation CDs or get them from the Web sites you
downloaded them from. So the secret to manageable backups is to back
up ONLY your own documents and data. Music you created? Back it up.
Music you downloaded? Naw. Excel files your software created? Back
them up. Excel files you copied off the Web? Naw. You get the point.
For many of us, the most important "documents" on our computers might
be our photos. (Yes, in a way they're documents, too.) Make sure you
back them up.
5. Never trust a shiny silver disk. Your DVD-burner software should
verify every disk it burns, and then you should check each disk,
also. Backup disks are worse than no good if they won't give back
your files. An easy way to check is to copy the entire contents of a
backup CD or DVD to a temporary folder. If everything copies OK, use
your marking pen and put a checkmark on the disk.
6. If you need more backup space, buy another external USB drive. The
cost of a new drive is practically nothing compared to the cost of
losing priceless photos or financial records. Its cheaper to be smart
than to be sorry.