Backing Up Your PC Data?

I'm curious about how people are backing up data on their home machines. My normal regiment includes CD-Rs, but I'm concerned about longevity, I'd like to be able to pull data from these disks in 10 years (assuming of course hardware still reads CDs). Good archival CD-Rs are about $1 a piece, which might be good for storing bunches of small files. External hard drives are a relatively cheap option, but I'm not so sure those will even be functioning in 5 years. DVD burners and disks have come way down in price, but I have the same concerns about DVDs as CDs. I suppose I could just print everything out onto paper :-)


So what's your long term personal back-up plan?

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Back-Up Plan

Paper files. You'd be surprised what this does for deciding what is worth keeping.

My Plan

I use an external hard drive, which is actually larger than the one in my slightly aged laptop. I figure I'll replace the drive every 5 years or so.As a side note, external drives are much more affordable if you buy a normal internal hard drive and an enclosure with a USB plug. Not quite as compact as some of the premade ones, but easy to upgrade.

Re:Back-Up Plan

I'm with you. All my important stuff is on paper. I'd hate to recopy it, but at least I don't need to buy new software to read it. Pity the libraries that have dumped all those old serials. The next generation won't even be able to check a footnote without making a trip to the one or two research libraries in the world that own a copy.

Archival and backup plans

I usually have separate plans for my backup and archives. For backup, I use DVD or CD-R. For archives, I also use DVD and CD-R, which I think are more reliable than the others. But I will rebuild the archives once every five years or so.

I will admit...

I admit to being a storage junky, my wife and I have 4 active computers. I have hit nearly a terabyte at home, here is what I do for longterm storage...

My fourth best computer (usually two gens of replacement/upgrades back) I call Divination ( I can always find the answer there heh) always has 4 hard drives in it, right now my wife and I have 80gig drives in our main machines, and Divination has a pair of 200GIG drives, an 80GIG, and a 60GIG. Everything that is on our primary drives is imaged ( Norton Ghost) to Divination, and I do DVD backups of vital data on a regular basis.

I used to DJ as a side job, and have over 1000CD's stored as MP3's, and since it would take weeks to rerip them, it is worth the time to back them up. Then add in backup images of all the software we use, and old pics/sounds/etc.

Of course this is out of bounds for most people, as having a File Server is a little too geeky so I would recommend going to a place like Newegg and getting a DVD+R-R burner for USD$70, and once every 5 years re-burning. Oh yeah make two copies of everything, one to use and one storage.

Really considering USD$70 for the burner and in 50/100 packs you can get blank DVD's for 30cents each there is no reason not to have adequate backup.

The last and simplist method is to buy a hard drive that would hold all your data, then buy a mate and keep everything on both of them, you can find 200 gig drives for under USD$100 now easily, so there is no excuse to do anything harder.

On backing up data at home

I have to admit that I should know better, but I have not given it that much thought past using CD-R's as needed for certain things. I am not a pack rat, so to speak,so I don't keep a lot as it is. However, reading the other comments has given me some ideas and new possibilities. Thanks.

Re:I will admit...

Something else to keep in mind is the importance of file validation... using something like sha1sum or md5sum to generate values for each of your archived files so you can tell if the copy you make in five years is still good. :) ...brig

Re:I will admit...

It already sounded confusing enough to a novice :-)

But you have a point for archival level work!

Internal hard drive

A big fat internal hard drive, with criticals being archived to dual layer DVD once a month.

I keep the Christmas card labels in three places

Gevult. What is there to back up? I throw myself out of geekdom, not that I had a castle or dungeon or anything.I hang my head in shame. I don't seem to create much data. I park a few things on my family web site, administered by my brother. Semi-trustworthy. I have to talk to him about my grandmother's photo album, which I've been scanning. I've started leaving a few things as attachments in Gmail. There are floppies around. I trust Blogger and del.icio.us to remember where I've been. There's Flickr. Other than that, there's the Christmas card labels. I would hate to lose those. I do keep a copy in paper. My daughter is on her own with her personal data.

Backing Up With Software

I recently did deal with having to reload the operating system on my home PC. I don't keep many data files on the hard drive. I keep most of my work and other projects on my university's network drive - which is routinely backed up. But on the home PC I backup MP3s, photos, and the contents of my flash drive to CDs. When I had to restore the backup files - I couldn't at first because they were in a unique file format. I used Nero to make the backups (which did make it easy to do), but Nero compresses the files and you can't uncompress them with Nero. The problem is that my PC didn't get Nero back after the OS was restored (it came on the PC when it was new). So I had to go out and buy Nero Ultra Edition 6. While restoring the compressed files takes a bit of time it is far less time consuming then re-ripping - and of course I was able to get the files back - which was a relief. But it raises the question - what about saved photos 10 years down the road. What if Nero software no longer worked or the company was out of business. I couldn't get my files uncompressed. I am considering dedicated backup equipment - and I'll print out more photos that I really want to save.

How can you be sure...?

There's no definite assurance that Gmail, Blogger, Flickr, or even your family's website will exist. Granted, some are more reliable than others, but what if del.icio.us suddenly disappeared, regardless of the reason?

Re:How can you be sure...?

I'm not sure of almost anything. I stopped keeping a calendar years ago. Somehow I manage. There's a good chance I won't exist either, at some point ;). Posterity must take care of itself. In the meantime, there's my brain. Does pretty well for an awful lot of stuff.

Against CDRs

I've had CDRs last less than two years - with no use, other than checking the files directly after burning (sometimes not all of them), and storage in sleeves, in the house (room-temperature).I'm gambling on multiple offline HDs from now on.-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

automated versions?

Some of my CDs have upwards of 10K files on them. md5ing them, and/or checking those versus another CD is a friggin pain. Any automated solutions?-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

Re:My Plan

Here's something to keep in mind regarding doing backups via hard drives. Recently, the majority of drive manufacturers have reduced their warranty periods from 3 or 5 years to just ONE year. And very few of them offer extended warranties. IBM wasn't the only drive manufacturer to suffer fallout from the reduction in quality that seems to have come as a side-effect of higher and higher capacities. They were just the most notorious.

Re:Backing Up With Software

I've never been a fan of file compression. I've seen (lots of) compressed files get corrupted in either the compression and / or decompression of them. That is, there was a lot of room for error (i.e. hardware, electrical, etc.) in the past.
  I stick to the basic data file formats; avoid the proprietary compression / image / file formats (ISO standards for 'images') and still have the original CD-Rs I started with in 1997, still readable, still good data.P.S. Back then I had a CD writing program called "Gear" that came out of a company in Europe which has since all but gone out of business. From what I've seen, Nero is a good choice.

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