Back it up or lose it!

“It’s not a matter of whether your computer’s disk will stop working; it’s a matter of when. The question is how much it will disrupt your life?” -Lifehacker

Lately, I have been thinking about how valuable the data that we keep on our computers can be.

In my life I have the following important things on my computer’s hard drive:

  • Priceless photos from my wedding, honeymoon, world travels, and family events
  • Documents that I have spent countless hours working on
  • A large music collection that would be a pain in the butt to reassemble if I were to lose it
  • Phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing address for hundreds of people
  • My calendar

I want to share a few stories to try to paint a picture for you the importance of backing up your data.

Story 1: College Student Lost A Term Paper

A few years ago while working at the Apple Store Mall of America, I approached a girl that was sitting at the Genius Bar to find out why she looked so distressed. I found out that she was a student at the University of Minnesota and earlier that day her Powerbook G4 had stopped working. She immediately made a Genius Bar appointment and the early indications were that her hard drive was toast. While we were chatting the genius was in the back trying to see if he could recover anything off the hard drive.

There is never a good time for a hard drive to fail, but for this particular student it was really bad timing. The term paper that she had spent considerable amount of time working on was due the following day and she did not have a copy of it anywhere else. At this point, there was not enough time to recreate her paper and when the genius came back with the bad news that he couldn’t recover anything she burst into tears. She knew that she would likely fail the class and it could have all been prevented if she had a working backup of her stuff.

Story 2: Wasted Money and Lost Time

I learned this lesson the hard way when I was an 18 year old real estate agent. I had a folder on my desktop containing important real estate documents. I had no backup strategy in place. One day I was trying to clean up all the random files on my desktop. I was dragging various things to the trash and when I was satisfied with my efforts I emptied the trash can. A couple hours later, I needed to access a file for a client and I was perplexed that I could not locate the folder on my desktop. I searched the iMac using Spotlight and couldn not find it anywhere. In my horror I realized my error. I had deleted it when cleaning up the desktop.

I made an appointment at the Genuis Bar at the Mall of America and was chatting with a genius within the hour. He informed me that the files were recoverable but I would have to purchase a $100 piece of software and there was no guaranteee that I would be able to get the files back. I purchased the software and proceeded to spend the next few hours working on trying to undo my mistake. Fortunately, I was able to recover the majority of the files but they no longer had the correct file name and it took me many hours to open each file, determine what it was, and rename the file.

I was lucky. Many people are not. Even though I recovered the files, I lost $100 and numerous hours of my time. The next day I went out and purchased an external hard drive and have been backing up my stuff ever since.

Story 3: Important But Not Urgent

Over the past year or so I have been encouraging a close relative of mine to backup their aging iMac. This computer contains priceless photos, important documents, tons of music, and much more.

People often intend to backup their computer but it usually lands in the important but not urgent quadrant along the same lines as going to the dentist and exercising.

A couple weeks ago I was at this person's house for dinner. As we were chatting over the meal he informed me that the family iMac was starting to “act funny”. He asked me to go to the store and purchase an external hard drive and make sure that everything was backed up before the iMac stopped functioning.

Fortunately, the next day, I was able to go to Best Buy and purchase an external hard drive and get everything backed up. Not everyone is so fortunate though. I remember a man who came into the Apple Store after his hard drive had failed and he told me that this was the week he was going to get his computer backed up and it failed only a couple days prior to him getting around to it.

It’s best to backup your computer when the computer is working fine! Don’t wait for the computer to start having issues because at that point it may be too late!

Story 4: Apartment Fire

A friend of mine from high school suffered through an apartment fire in June. She is a video editor and has many current projects and past projects on her hard drive.

After a few months of dealing with the insurance company and getting the computer replaced all she had to was plug in the external hard drive that contained her backup and she was back to work. I can’t tell you how happy she was that she had everything safely backed up!

I didn’t write this post to cause fear and anxiety. I wrote this post to remind you of the importance of backing up your computer. If you have no clue on how to go about this process feel free to contact me and I would love to help you out!