tech tips for writers / writing

Tech Tips for Writers #86: Back up Your Computer

Tech Tips for Writers is an (almost) weekly post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

Q: I’ve had some virus problems and it reminds me that I need to back-up my computer. I have all of my writing on there–what if I lost it? What’s the easiest way?

A: Use Windows Backup function. Here’s what you do:

  • Click the start button.
  • Go to Control Panel
  • Select ‘Backup and Restore
  • Select ‘Backup Now’

From there, you’ll select a drive with sufficient space and start. Be forewarned: If you have a lot of data, it takes a while. You can work on your computer while it’s backing up; it’ll just be slower.

A note: This is the same location you’ll go to restore from back-up if you have a problem.

Another note: I’m paranoid because I have all my writing for all my gigs on the computer (don’t we all?) so I back up on my desktop, to a flash drive, to an external hard drive, and to Carbonite (the $59 is worth it). And still I worry.


Jacqui Murray is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. In her free time, she is  editor of a K-6 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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12 thoughts on “Tech Tips for Writers #86: Back up Your Computer

  1. Excellent tip, Jacqui, and one that is so often overlooked by the majority of people until it’s too late. Have not tried Carbonite as an online cloud-based backup solution, yet it’s been highly recommended by many. But don’t overlook the amazing array of inexpensive USB external drives that are available to us these days, and excellent offerings are out there from Seagate, Western Digital and others.

    Backing up to an external USB drive on my Windows PCs follows the same procedures that you have described above. On my MacBook Pro it’s simpler still as their built-in Time Machine backup application performs all of this to an external drive in an automated fashion.

    Your point about backups, whichever form is used, is one that should be stressed regularly.

    • I need a Time Machine. I constantly edit articles/posts/books –daily–and need something that seamlessly backs up. Carbonite does that EXCEPT I use my flash drive as the primary save drive and Carbonite doesn’t back that up. I would use the Cloud as my primary storage site for all things writing, but I don’t trust it as much as my flash drive.

      I need to take a breath and think this through.

  2. I joined Carbonite this year, but I still need to invest in an external hard drive. My novel backups are emailed to my hotmail account and on CD in addition to Carbonite but I have a ton of photos that should be on an easily accessible external drive. Thanks for the reminder!

    • I love the email trick, just started that a few months ago. Now everything I write, I email to myself and store.

      I love my T external drive, paid Carbonite extra to back that up (which is simply a back-up of my computer. Love the redundancy.)

  3. Jacqui and Laura, I can tell you from firsthand experiences over years involved in IT (mostily in large-scale environments) that the absolute safest backup plans are those involving external hard drives. Luckily for us, the prices on these have plummeted enough over the last few years that we can afford them. Personally I have a few of these now, including one that is used solely to back up my JPG and RAW image files, even though they are regularly backed up on my larger 2TB USB drive on my main PC.

    I also have an array of USB drives in many sizes, but over the last year or so I’ve been also backing up my documents (including PDF files) to the cloud, using Google Drive, the file storage and sync service that was released to the public in April 2012. I did earlier Beta testing on this, and its reliability and performance are top-rate. Not once have I had a single error, and I use this to back up reviews I’m working on as well, along with a few book chapters.

    Being “in the Cloud” one can access documents on the fly from any computer running Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, as I did in the NY Public Library from their computers during Hurricane Sandy. Furthermore, I can save a large file there on my PC, and as fast as I can switch to the Mac it’s there, and vice versa. It’s well worth looking into, and the first 5GB is free, as I recall. It’s well worth looking into.

    • Have you ever heard of anyone losing files from the cloud? This is my biggest worry (based on nothing). Whereas, holding the files in my hand in a flash drive is quite comforting.

      • Jacqui, regarding losing files from the cloud, I use Google Drive as my default cloud app a number of times each day. I also use Amazon Cloud (music & other files) and Apple’s iCloud on the Mac. I have never ever lost a document or file, though I did have Apple’s iCloud do a hiccup once, as did others. It was quickly cured.

        Besides, you mentioned your use of Carbonite, yet is not that a cloud-based application? In truth, except for the newer USB 3.0 small flash drives (even when used on USB 2.0), I find the cloud to be equally or more secure. Static electricity or stray magnetic fields can wreck havoc with the small USB flash drives, as some of us have found out. But to each their own.

  4. Great tips, Jacqui! I can see you’re as cautious as I am. After having my laptop stolen a few years ago (with all my WIPs on it), I would never leave everything in one place again!

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