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Far too many times I am contacted by a friend who’s computer has crashed or has a bad virus… and they are looking for help.

“Help my computer is dead! I need my pictures/files/work etc…”

My question is always: “Don’t you have a backup?”

The answer is always: “huh?” or “I meant to” or “Nope”

UGGHHHHH…. the time to think about a back up plan is NOW, not after catastrophe strikes. You need to plan in advance.

I do a lot of recovery of files for people as a side project. In the trunk of my car I have a case full of tools and gadgets that let me extract your drive from your computer, and hook it into mine to scan it and try and recover data. I have a suite of software that helps me get it done. I can save data from Hard Drives, Camera Cards, etc….

My success rate? Less than 50%. Sometimes the drive just is dead and will not even turn on. In those instances… your only option is to send it to a lab… with a price tag of around $1,500 to take it apart and recover your data.

Isn’t making your own backups in advance much cheaper and easier? Yes it is. Today I am going to outline an easy back up strategy that anyone… and EVERYONE should employ.

1. Make Recovery Disc’s.

When you get a new computer and boot it up for the first time you will likely be presented with the option to make Recovery Discs. If not, ask the customer service line how to do it.

These discs are really important. They allow your computer to be restored to how it was when it came out of the box. I know this is extreme, but if something really bad happens, we can always use these to get your computer working. This is the last resort, but the time to prepare for it is when your computer is new.

This will take 3-5 DVD’s and less than an hour. Put them somewhere safe.

2. Take a picture of your license key.

On the bottom of your computer is a sticker from Microsoft with your Windows License on it. Dumbest place EVER to put this sticker. It rubs off as your rest the computer on your lap…. leaving the code unreadable.

Take a picture of this sticker, email it to yourself… and save it somewhere special. This can be used to rebuild your computer from scratch if needed.

3. Subscribe to CrashPlan. is a great service that installs some software on your computer that backs up your User Folder (My Documents, My Music, Desktop, etc….). It takes these files, encrypts them, and copies them to their servers. It does this real time and as you add files, change files, etc… it copies the changes to their servers.

This is important because it is: 1. Automatic, 2. Automatic, 3. Automatic. You don’t have to do a thing. It is stored off site, so if there is a fire, etc… your copies can be recovered. For as little as $1.50 a month, you are covered.

Are your files, pictures, etc… worth a $1.50 a month? I am sure they are.

4. Get an External Hard Drive.

USB External Drives are very popular, and very cheap. I suggest the Western Digital Passport series. Any of their models that are under $100 will do. Just make sure it has enough space for how much you need.

Plug it in. Copy your files to it regularly. Once a week, once a month, whatever you want. Just do it. You won’t regret it.

Now you might say “Jeez” do I really need to do FOUR things? Well the first two items are simple, and only have to be done once. The third item you set up once, and it is automatic from there. So really the only thing that is going to cause you ongoing work is going to be #4, which isn’t really that much work and is really the most important step to use because it is in your hand access to your files.

Make sure you have a solid back up plan. You don’t want to be without your files, and if you don’t have back up plan… I can assure you that you will eventually have tragedy strike. It is a matter of “when”, not “if”.

Happy computing.

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