It’s been a very bad week for Hard Disk Drives (HDD). Three separate people have come to me with failed hard drives and desperate hopes of some reasonable recovery. Unfortunately all three of these drives have mechanical failures/defects that prevented 2 from software based recovery and the other suffered from either a circuit board or spindle motor failure dashing any hope for easy recovery.
Let me strike a little fear in those of you that have not had a data-loss failure and point you in the right direction for backup. Everyone else who is already sold on the need to backup your data can skip the next paragraph 😉
Picture yourself at work, school or out to dinner. All your possessions at home are [insert terrible event here] now gone. The house itself is…gone. Gone forever. Angry, frustrated, emotionally gut wrenching. These events are outside our control. We have various forms of insurance to make what is gone whole-again. We can pay a contractor for home construction, buy material goods from a store but we are never really fully recovered. Losing data from a computer failure, theft or accident can evoke similar emotions. All your work….family photos and videos….home documents gone. NOW is the time create backups of your important computer files. And I’m going to help get you get setup!!
There is a widespread saying in photography circles that a digital photo doesn’t exist unless you have 3 separate copies of that picture. This is simply stated as the rule of threes…. 1. your working copy or original source, 2. your primary backup and 3. a cloud or off-site backup. Until you achieve the rule of three you are at risk for losing your pictures. We expand this rule today for all digital files because everything is so very important.
I will start by helping you get setup for the rule of threes with your Mac computer running OS X be it a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, an iMac, older or soon-to-be brand new and gold MacBook or a high-end professional MacPro. Apple ships all their computers with a simple and powerful backup program. It lives in your system preferences (the Mac’s equivalent to the Windows Control Panel) and it is called Time Machine. It backs up your MacBook (all of it) to an external hard drive or a wireless hard drive on your home network. It works silently in the background and makes hourly backups of your files as they change. Time Machine manages the backups for you so there are a set of older Monthly and Weekly backups. You toggle an on switch, point Time Machine to an external USB hard drive or wireless hard drive on your network and that’s it. Rules 1 and 2 now solved. (Time Machine Basics: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201250)
(editors note: If you are interested in the wireless hard drive and have an all Mac house I highly recommend the Apple Time Capsule product http://www.apple.com/airport-time-capsule/)
With Rule 3 left to resolve you now have some choices. You can use a 2nd external hard drive, make a Time Machine backup and then take that drive off-site and try to remember to bring it back to your house, re connect it for an updated backup and take back off-site OR you can buy online storage or online backup services. There are lots to choose from. PC Mag recently did a nice roundup. Read, evaluate the offerings, buy, setup the backup on your computer and Rule 3 solved. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2288745,00.asp The best part about this Rule 3 is it is the same answer for our Windows users or homes with mixed Mac/Windows computers.
If the Mac has this simple and great backup software surely my Windows computer does too, right? Well kinda. Starting with Windows Vista (but it really sucked) and mostly with Windows 7 and later Microsoft has included Backup and Recovery section to Control Panel. Setting up backup on Windows 7 is a lot more steps and frequency is user defined. This is bare-minimum backup. You’re really “phoning it in” to check off rule 2 with Windows Backup. Its better than nothing, don’t get me wrong. Follow this guide to get it setup to your external or wireless hard drive. http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/1838/using-backup-and-restore-in-windows-7/
Backup in Windows 8 is much closer to the Mac’s Time Machine with the added feature of “File History”. Windows users I suggest turning on backups and reading this to further educate yourself on Windows backup options. http://www.howtogeek.com/189452/8-backup-tools-explained-for-windows-7-and-8/ Between these backup solutions for Rule 2 and the online backup options for Rule 3 you’re in much better shape to not lose large amounts of your important files and data should you have a hard drive or computer failure.
I hope this helps!!