...that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone? (from Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, with kudos to Amy Coffin's We Tree blog for the idea.)
OK, this post is about backing up your data, as an entry into the Geneabloggers Data Backup Weekend Contest. Like Amy, I've suffered some major computer meltdowns - three in fact since 2004 (and for some odd reason, they all seem to happen in the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season - why IS that?).
Currently I'm using our spare computer (a Dell whose innards were almost completely replaced after its 2004 meltdown - either the power supply or the graphics card was at fault - or both - I can't remember). That's because our main computer started acting up at the end of November. It had the Google redirect problem, so I started copying all my data files to thumb drives before it failed. Now it will boot but then the monitor goes black and Windows XP won't start. Not sure if it's a virus or malware, or if it was because of a Microsoft update to Windows or Internet Explorer. The friend I want to look at it isn't available, so in the meantime we pulled my Dell out of its box and set it back up.
The computer failure that really hurt, though, was the one that happened in December 2007. Our main computer was repaired by someone local who did a lot of things to it without checking with us first. It needed a new motherboard, but he also took out a particular 2D graphics card (one of the best to use with photographic work) in the process. He also apparently reformatted the hard drive and decided to install things like Open Office (I own and prefer Microsoft Office Professional). Some of our data files were still there, but many were not. To this day I'm still not 100% sure about what was lost.
My Personal Ancestral File (PAF) software and my two PAF data files were gone. I was able to download the software and reinstall it easily. Lucky for me, PAF asks you periodically if you want to backup your data, and I had, onto a thumb drive. Just not very recently. So, I lost some of my genealogy data, but luckily not all of it.
I'm trying to be better about backing up. I think I get sloppy about it because I have a network drive at work where I save nearly all of my work-related data (mostly so I can access it from any one of the three computers I will use within a single day at work). The network drive is backed up automatically so I don't think about data backup in most of my waking hours. I'm trying to make it a point to copy anything I enter into my Ancestry.com family trees into PAF and vice-versa, and then backup the PAF file when exiting that program. I try to save images and data files on both the hard drive and a thumb drive after creating them. I'll often e-mail myself a copy too. If we end up choosing not to repair the main computer, I will at least pull the hard drive and turn it into an external drive that I can plug in via a USB port and use for backups (both data and software).
Still, I know I can do better. I'll be reading the posts of everyone else entering the data backup contest to see if I can get some other ideas.
© Amanda Pape - 2010