How I compute – Part 5: No room for ‘whoops’!

by Paul Goodchild on November 8, 2010

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been relaying to you a few things I think are important when it comes to computing.  This is how I do the things I do, and while I’ll not win awards for my ‘amazingness’, I’m efficient and I navigate my digital life with confidence and surety.  And I want you to also.  Please review my previous articles in this series for a complete overview of how I compute.

In this part, I’m going to show you just how easy it is to mitigate disaster in the form of any of the following:

  • hard disk crash
  • virus attack and inability to access your computer
  • accidental file deletion
  • name your poison…

Before you even consider backup

If you’ve read the previous articles in this series you’ll have come to realise that there’s nothing fundamentally difficult about any of it.  It just takes an investment of your time.  The same is true for backing up your data.

There is no point, and even a cost, to making a backup of data you don’t use, or consider worth recovering in the event of disaster.  So, in this light, you need to dedicate some time to perform the following steps:

  1. Consolidate – move all your stray documents, downloads that you want to keep, and other bits and pieces into your ‘My Documents’ folder.  You can move them wherever you like, but I suggest ‘My Documents’ for simplicity.
  2. Delete – I find it easier to combine the process of consolidate and delete at the same time.  As you’re moving your files to your main document folder, say ‘My Documents’, delete what you don’t want.  If they’re program installation files, you can always download them again – just delete them.
  3. Categorise – if you have heaps of pictures that take up a huge amount of space (greater than 2GB), move them to another folder, say ‘My Pictures’.  The same goes for music and videos, though it’s better to move it using your music and video library application or you’ll break your “links”.  The reasoning behind this is that the program we’ll use in the next section to backup your data is is limited to 2GB for the free account.  I don’t want all your limited space taken up by videos and music at the expense of important documents.

Free online backup

I’m sure you don’t need me to walk you through backing up to another hard disk, or to CD/DVD, so I’m going to skip right ahead to “the cloud”.  There are 2 aspects to the backup process that are the most challenging to overcome.  If you did the section before this, one of them has been covered – you have organised and pruned your data saving you both backup space and time.  The other difficult side to backups is actually doing it!  It’s not until we’ve been burned by a disaster that we realise how important this all is and so most of us rarely feel the urgency.

So, we’re going to automate it so you hardly need to think about it, and we’re going to use Mozy and backup online, for free (up to 2GB).  Here goes…

  1. Go to and complete the registration process for the free “home” account.
  2. Log into your account and click the “Download Mozy” in the menu.  Choose the appropriate download – Windows or Mac.
  3. Once downloaded, install the program and launch it.

Mozy gives you 2 ways to specify what you backup – you can either backup by ‘file type‘ (documents, music, video, pictures, etc) or ‘file location‘.  The file types are outlined in the “Backup Sets” section.  I don’t personally use that method for because I prefer to know where all my stuff is (hence the consolidation earlier) and I backup from there.  The sets will typically search your whole computer for files of various types that fall under each set.  For example, the Music set will search for files of type .mp3, .wav, .flac, etc.  There are pros and cons to each approach, and you can do both if you like, it’s down to your personal style.

Either select your backup sets that you’d like to take a backup of, or specify the location on your hard disk that contains all your data (that you consolidated earlier).  Mozy will then periodically back up your data up to a maximum of 2GB – for free.  If you have much more data, such as a huge picture library that you need kept safe from disaster, you may have to subscribe for Mozy Pro.  The choice is yours and this guide can’t really advise you on it one way or another.  Whatever you decide to do, ensure that you have at least 2 copies of every single item you do not want to lose.

Please feel free to post any specific questions in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to address them as thoroughly as I can.

How to recover when disaster strikes

Mozy offers an online interface for recovering your files when you accidentally delete something, or your disk crashes.  Take a moment to explore the interface so you’ll be more familiar with it if the time comes.

Also, please take some time to become more familiar with the Mozy program itself by exploring some of the options.  It may take a while for all the different settings to take on meaning, but have a go and explore.

For more articles and how-tos please follow some of the related links below, and if you any comments or feedback you’d like to share, please feel free to do so.  Thank you for reading and following along!

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