'Late adopter' finally adapts

Sometimes I think I am just a late adopter. This certainly has been the case with a backup system for my computer. But the other day I broke down and purchased an external hard drive. Now I have a place to save my backups.

Almost the first thing we learn about using a computer is to always backup our data. This is because sometime in the future the hard drive on our computer will fail. When this happens, all our recipes, financial data and letters to Aunt Jane will disappear.

What should we do? Probably the first thing we need to decide is what kind of backup we want: just data or the entire primary hard drive. Then we need to decide what kind of media to use: hard drive, compact disk, tape or on-line. Then we can decide whether to backup manually or automatically.

Obviously, the data on our machines is difficult or impossible to replace. We don’t want to lose last year’s vacation pictures or our ten years of Quicken checkbook entries.

But what happens to all our programs when our hard drive fails? Sure we can re-install our programs on our replacement hard drive but, wow, does this take time even if we still have some of the original disks. Can we backup everything? Of course.

If we decide to backup just our data, the space required probably will be modest unless we have hundreds of pictures or downloaded songs. We may decide that we will save money and backup to a compact disk. Almost all newer computers have the capability to “burn” a compact disk so backup is easy.

If we decide to backup the entire primary hard drive then space becomes a consideration. Most compact disks have too little capacity and we must think in terms of another hard drive or possibly a tape system.

In my case, so many people have been talking and writing about external USB hard drives that I had to try one. I simply could have installed another hard drive in my machine but then I wouldn’t be “modern.” So I went on-line and found a Western Digital 80 gigabyte external USB hard drive at a reasonable price. This is big enough to backup my data or my entire hard drive.

Right out of the box I plugged in the power source and connected the included USB cable to my computer. Window XP immediately recognized the new drive and assigned the letter “F” to it. I was ready to backup.

First I went to Windows Explorer and “copied” the entire “My Documents” folder to the new drive. Now I had a backup copy of My Documents on both drives. Then I went to my Quicken program and told it to backup to the “F:” drive. Everything worked as it should have.

My next decision is whether I want to use one of the many software backup programs to handle backups automatically. I haven’t decided which one yet. I have a trial version of “Backup Magic” ( on my machine. “Acronis” backup software has been recommended ( for both data and entire disk backup. And Norton “Ghost” is the old standby ( I’ll let you know if I select one of these.

Don’t be like me and take a couple of years to decide on backing up your data or entire drive. Act now!

If you would like to hear more about the backups, or other computer topics, visit “Coffee and Computers” at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. ‘C’ Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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