One last prep item - BACKING UP YOUR DATA! : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

OddOne here... Back on the attack and looking to shake a few people up with another prep item that has probably gone undone...

Have you... YOU... Spell it out with me - WYE-OH-YOU... Have you backed up your data?

I don't want to hear your opinions on how bad Y2K is going to be, as THEY ARE IRRELEVANT to this discussion. What is relevant is whether you've made a off-machine copy of any data and applications you feed are critical to your ability to use your computer purposefully, IN CASE Y2K has surprises in store.

S*** happens. We all know it. You can't have a PC without knowing to at least some degree, often firsthand, what sorts of bad things can happen when something crashes. And some of you out there also have the scars from battles with the dreaded reformat-reinstall sessions that are occasionally common things when one dabbles with Microsoft's little OS that doesn't, Windows. One programmer's axiom is that there are two kinds of computer users on the world: those that have had their machine hose itself thoroughly enough to require wiping and reinstalling everything, and those that will.

What can often spell the difference between a no-brainer basic zap the drive and reinstall everything in an afternoon exercise, and a week or more of purified concentrated digital hell, is whether you've backed up your important data. If Y2K does not wipe out the infrastructure significantly, you'll still have a need to get your work done on your computer. But, if your data gets scrambled or your machine fried or whatever and you have no backups, you're sunk. Downtime is REALLY expensive, especially if you're self-employed and the machine holds your critical business data, in which case downtime can be fatal.


"So, what's the solution?" you may ask.

It's simple. Get some sort of backup medium that suits your needs, budget, and amount of data to protect. Learn how to use it effectively. Use it OFTEN. If you have data that is important to your business or job, back it up. Downloaded some software that might be hard to find again? Back that up too. Got the latest drivers for your computer's hardware? Back it up so you won't have to hunt it down after a reinstall.




Don't say cost is an issue as you can get a Zip drive for about a hundred bucks, which ain't nothin' compared to the software you might have (the OS is often that expensive or higher!) or the value of the data you need to protect. Don't say usability or ease of use is an issue because a lot of backup devices (Zip and Jaz drives, Orb drives, and the like) are as easy to use as a hard drive, so copying files over is a simple exercise. Don't say installation is an issue because a lot of stores will install stuff you buy from them for cheap or even free. Don't say your machine's too decked out to allow adding a new device as you can get Zip drives that plug into the printer port. They're slower than the IDE ones but hey, IF you don't have room to add an internal device you'll need to use whatcha can.

"But," you might add, "Zips aren't big and/or durable enough for my needs." Okay, then you need something a touch more advanced. Get a CD-R or CD-R/RW recorder and "burn" your data to CDs. Decent CD recorders cost as little as $179 (mail-order) for IDE units, and superb (and superior to IDE) SCSI recorders can be found for as little as $300, sometimes WITH the SCSI controller! (Personally I do NOT recommend IDE recorders at all, due to the limitations of the IDE bus itself which make failed burns more likely. SCSI is definitely worth the price difference as far as CD-R/RW recorders are concerned.) Blank CDs are cheap as hell, and easy to find at most department stores. (Sam's, a club-style bulk-products store chain, is selling a 50-pack of Verbatim 74-minute/650 MB blanks on a spindle for $39.)


"Okay, smarty-pants, I have xx.x (read: LARGE number of) gigs of stuff. What then?!? HUH?!?" some may ask. Well, let me give you a little personal perspective. I develop software among other things, and my main development machine has eight operating systems installed, and it has 36.4 gigabytes of total hard drive space divided among twenty-one hard drive partitions on two drives. That is an INSANE setup, but it allows me to test my developments on EVERY version of Windows my apps are going to officially support. Also, the setup allows me to run all these OSes without them having problems with each other since each is confined to its own partition. Special drivers allow some OSes to see other OSes' filesystems, so that my NT installations can see my FAT32 drives, and my 95/98 installations can see the NTFS drives. That way most of the OSes see the same drive letter assignments. "It's GOT to be a total nightmare to back up all that data, right?"


My backup set consists of five CD-Rs. That's it. 36+ gigs of space archived on five CD-Rs, totaling less than 3 gigabytes of storage space. With the set of five CD-Rs I can wipe my entire machine clean and be back up and running in two days. Why so much data in so small a space? Simple - I don't mirror the drives. I only back up the specific stuff that needs backing up.

For example, I have applications on CD but have downloaded updates for them. Since I already have the original, all I need to back up is that downloaded update. I store the compressed form of the update as it was packaged for download so that it doesn't take up much space. I also compress (and encrypt for security reasons) the sourcecode to my software creations along with development tools and controls and related stuff and burn to a separate development CD. Also, I download the latest drivers for my machine's hardware and burn these to their own CD, organized by both device and operating system. Same for games: Downloaded updates, config files, settings, and so on get burned to a separate games CD. Time taken to do all this, about a day. Including burn time.

Doing this, you don't need an unholy amount of storage space. You usually don't actually need anywhere near as much space for the backup as the space you're trying to back up. After all, you more than likely have your OS on CD, so that's covered and that's a few hundred megs or more right there. Check your CDs and you'll see that you don't generally need much to back up what you need to back up. (Unless, of course, you're a software pirate and have few CDs of anything, in which case, good luck pinhead - try buying the software if it's worth using and you'll have that much less hassle.) The best way to figure out how much space you will need is to step through your drives and check out the applications and data you have, noting what you have on CD, etc. already and what you need to protect. Most home/SOHO users need about one-tenth of their total hard drive space to create a backup set with sufficient attention to detail. More aggressive users might need as much as 25% of their total hard drive space but that's rare.


A backup set is only as good as (1) how thorough it is, and (2) how often it's updated. So update it as frequently as necessary. In fact, some folks have more than one backup medium, one rewritable and one not. The rewritable one is used as a live daily-backup device to drop stuff onto during the day's computing, and once every month or whatever the latest copies of everything get burned to CD or whatever. I do this myself with my Jaz drive and CD-R burner, moving newly downloaded updates to the Jaz every day once I've applied them, and burning a replacement backup set once per month or before any expected or potential crisis. (Think BEFORE-Y2K, for instance.) If you're using CD-Rs, since CD-R blanks are cheap it's worth it to replace them as often as practical, like once or twice a month.

Also, if you expect security problems or the data is REALLY important, make TWO backups and store one of them somewhere else, such as at the home of a trusted relative or friend. This is often referred to as an "offsite backup," since it's not kept with or near the machine it's a backup from. If the data is sensitive or private in nature, encrypt it and back up the encrypted form, but make sure you back up your encryption tools, encryption keys, etc. so that you can get back at the data later.


You've probably prepped your mind and possibly your life as much as you feel it necessary for Y2K. Now, prep your computer. Even if you think Y2K is a "bump in the road" waiting to happen, even a lightning spike and roast a computer and thunderstorms happen all the time so don't think I buy that excuse for a nanosecond.


Back up your data.


-- OddOne (, December 21, 1999


Kinda funny.... I did a backup of ALL my important files today to CD- ROM. I am going to copy that one as well and store them in two different places.

Made me feel good to get it out of the way. I can just see my pc crashing now. With my backup I will get it back up and running and hear the hard drive humming with my data in no time.

-- STFrancis (, December 21, 1999.

Odd one:

ZIPS are too small. One disc per file or they don't fit. That's graphics. I have multiple [and identical puters]. All have the same data. If one fails, I will solve the problem, then and there, and apply to the others. You have to realize that these are Macs. All of the applications have been upgraded, the OS tests-out fine. I don't expect problems, but I have prepared. Now my less important Window machines. Smaller files; and less important. They have been remediated and all files backed-up on ZIP. I have no idea whether W98 will have problems after CDC. Depends on which test program you use. We will see; although I am glad I only have to worry about data and not about chemical releases or something worse. Think about it.

Best wishes

-- Z1X4Y7 (, December 21, 1999.

OddOne - thanks for the reminder! I had planned on doing my tape backup on Christmas day, as I will be home and it takes 7 hours (4 tapes, not zipped, to copy and verify). This is mainly for my programs, I also have all data backed up on floppies (what a job!). Made a copy of the tape program as well on floppies to run the darn thing in case everything goes kaflooie. You must have been reading my mind today.

-- Sammie (, December 21, 1999.

I'm sorry what was that, back-over your data. Why the heck would I want to do that?

-- Squid (, December 21, 1999.

I guess it's my turn to be the object lesson today.

Total system crash early a.m. today. 25 gig HD, wiped. Luckily, much backup. Lost many url's, much new download data. Took all day to get to the point wherte I could log on here, and what do I see? Odd One says: 'BACK UP YOUR DATA.' Sheesh!


What a pain in the butt...


-- Pinkrock (, December 21, 1999.

Several years ago my Gateway computer with three hard drives was partitioned so that my CD-ROM drive was *U*. Later I went FAT32 and changed the entire arrangement. No backups, just more Adventures In Computing.

-- dinosaur (, December 21, 1999.

I'm planning to do a full backup on the 30th. I use CD RW, and it takes two CDs to backup everything that I can't stand to lose. The backup is actually done under DOS, producing a few very large files, which are then burned on two CDs from Windows NT. This allows me to make a full backup while Windows is not running, so there are no open files other than the ones being written to. I've had occasion to use my backups after a major crash, and would have been in serious trouble without them. I also do differential backups whenever I've made significant progress on a project, so I can't really lose very much at any time, but I definitely am going to do the full backup before rollover.

-- Steve Heller (, December 21, 1999.


You did'nt send this to the IRS did you??

The back-up plan I mean!

-- d----- (, December 22, 1999.

Good advice everyone. Right after reading this last night, I shut off my computer. 45 minutes later I thought of something I needed to check on the internet. Went to turn computer back on and hard drive had crashed (I'm sending this from computer at work). Now have to go home with Norton utilities and see if anything is salvageable. Of course, we hadn't backed up. All I can say is that I'm glad I'm between book projects at the moment!!!! Back up, back up, back up!

Will probably not be on forum much for a few days, so good luck everyone! peace, Libby

-- Libby Alexander (, December 22, 1999.

[Begin paste...]

You did'nt send this to the IRS did you??

The back-up plan I mean!

[End paste...]

HELL no I didn't send them this! Let 'em fry! [manic grin]

O d d O n e, who thinks that is 1.6+ billion dolla didn't get the IRS fixed they're on their own! [chuckle]

-- OddOne (, December 22, 1999.

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