Back up your computer!

I got home from visiting the in-laws to find my computer dead.  The C drive is basically toast.  (I’m now moving my stuff over to DH’s old desktop, which I’d been planning to do for a while since my old desktop was OLD, but hadn’t gotten around to yet because change is hard, y’all.  So hopefully no new posts about buying a computer.)

But that was only about a day’s worth of hassle because ever since I lost some pilot data as a graduate student, I have been compulsive about backing up my computer.

Now, I do not have the kind of (human) memory to remember to manually back things up once a week or whatever.  So ever since there have been automated solutions, I have used them.  Early on that meant I had my hard drives set up in a RAID array, meaning that instead of having one hard drive in my computer, I had two that were essentially copies of each other, the idea being that there would probably be some time in between one dying and the other dying.

These days I use the cloud as backup for my harddrives (I also use dropbox and drive etc, but that’s all for work stuff).  My backup program of choice (completely not sponsored) is called Backblaze.  It is comparatively inexpensive at $7/month and it is pretty comprehensive.  And it just works.

Now, there are two potential problems:  1.  if you don’t have unlimited data in your internet plan, it will eat a lot of your monthly limit as it uploads things, at least at first, and 2. it is SLOW.  But for something that you only need for hopefully rare emergencies, slow isn’t so bad.

I also use puresync to copy my external hardrive to an internal one every time I plug it into my desktop.  External hd are more prone to toasting than are internal in my experience (possibly because I am not as careful with my external hd as I ought to be, often throwing them into a bag and occasionally dropping them), so it’s nice having that additional layer of backup.

How do you backup your computer stuff?

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17 Responses to “Back up your computer!”

  1. Leah Says:

    I use Carbonite to backup my stuff. I’m on the plan that includes video because I have so many kid videos. Even with being careful with external hard drives, mine often didn’t last long. Carbonite is a little pricey, but I pay for three years at a time to get a discount. It’s automatic backup (anytime I add new files to my computer) and works well.

  2. Mike Nitabach Says:

    I used to do all my own redundant backing up on my own hardware, but finally just gave up & now I keep everything on Google Drive & don’t worry about it. I guess Google could fuck me over…

  3. CG Says:

    The IT Manager (DH) has us set up to back up to the cloud using iDrive. I think it works…? We had a break-in a few years ago in which my laptop was stolen and I didn’t lose any data, so that seemed like a good test. My work stuff is increasingly stored on Google Drive because so much of it’s collaborative and it’s easier to work that way. The university wants us to use Microsoft Office online, which also stores stuff remotely, but the version control is so much worse that I resist!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My regular ms office stopped working and when I tried to fix it it installed MS office online (365) (from my university) and it is constantly turning grammar check back on which drives me crazy. I don’t store my documents on their cloud though.

  4. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I was previously relying on Google Photos for our pictures and Carbonite for my work stuff and a manual external hard drive for everything but time is at such a premium that stopped working for us, and besides we ran out of space on Google Photos too quickly.

    I wasn’t willing to start paying them for storage, esp because it’s still stored in the cloud in their servers and I was always meeeehhh about having our private stuff on someone else’s servers.

    I set up a Synology server for all our photos and general records backing up, kept Carbonite for work stuff, and bought a home laptop for THAT backup in case either one of our work machines goes down. I will likely also do a periodic backup to my external hard drive as well just to have oh a fifth failsafe?

    Being remote means that we’d lose days of work if we lost the use of our work computers, and I have been in that boat before. Intensely frustrating.

  5. Alice Says:

    I use Carbonite, but it’s been giving me error messages lately when it didn’t used to give any. I need to check into what’s going on and if it’s backing up but is just reporting on a connectivity gap or if there’s an actual ongoing not-backing-up issue that it’s periodically notifying me about.

    Said checking up is probably not going to happen in the next few weeks, though.

  6. Lucy Says:

    I use FreeFileSync. It’s free, but admits donations, super easy to use and very fast. I don’t know if it allows automatic syncing. I do it daily or every couple days, and because it saves the direction for original and copy, I just click sync and it’s done in a few seconds. I actually like checking the files listed, to make sure everything is fine. I lost my thesis dissertation to copying it wrong. I had a week old correct copy, so had to rewrite a week’s worth of work. Could have been worse.
    As an undergrad I lost my capstone design project to the Blaster virus and needed professional help to recover it.
    I have greatly improved since my PhD, with no more backup disasters to report.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    I use a Buffalo “MiniStation.” I guess it’s an external hard drive? My boyfriend got this for me and showed me how to use it. I wrote out the steps on a yellow sticky. I do not back things up often enough, just once every few months and whenever the computer starts acting up. My boyfriend has always been able to get things off that onto my replacement computers.

    I deal with my paranoia about loss by having a lot more things on paper than normal people do these days.

  8. FF Says:

    I use Dropbox for some particularly important files for my business, and I have a solid-state external hard drive that I use as a Time Machine.

  9. pyrope Says:

    Dropbox – love it. Syncs flawlessly, easy to store stuff both locally and in the cloud, makes for easy transitions between computers. I pay for a dropbox subscription. University used to offer Box (clunky – hated it), now offers OneDrive (okay, but the usual not quite right of Microsoft). I use Google Drive for collaborations. So many clouds!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My work harddrive started dying the other week and it went and started deleting things from dropbox. I had to restore to a previous version. If I hadn’t caught it, that would have been a huge problem!

  10. FF Says:

    I was not familiar with services like Backblaze or Carbonite until seeing them mentioned here. If anyone can comment on their experience using these or similar services with a Mac, it would be much appreciated.

  11. Lisa Says:

    Not sure how packed your “Ask the Grumpies” queue is but this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and would love some crowdsourced insights:

    When is it worthwhile to file a gender discrimination complaint? Things have been going on in my department and college that have opened the door to such a complaint, but I am hesitant because 1) I find it difficult to determine whether my current circumstances are the result of cumulative mini-discrimination events over the course of my career, the decisions I have made myself, or (most likely) a combination of the two, 2) it’s hard to define a desirable outcome from such a complaint, and 3) I am concerned about a complaint causing all sorts of acrimony that makes my life worse rather than better.

  12. Cloud Says:

    I use Backblaze, too! I have only had to use it to transfer files to new computers but that + peace of mind is worth it for me.

  13. danavarroli Says:

    I run three manual backups along with two Time Machine instances that are constantly running. I have lost data enough times and have been saved by this an equal amount of times to know that making sure my data is saved is the most important thing. You can never have too many backups. Time Machine makes the everyday process ridiculously easy that there’s no excuse to not run it.


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