Tag Archives: external hard drive

Where have my photos gone?

29 Jun

This should have been the next installment of my series of Sussex Day 2012 posts, but I turned on my PC this evening only to find my external hard drive sitting there doing nothing.

I am pretty sure that it is a power supply problem, which will hopefully be fixed in a matter of days thanks to Amazon, but it is nevertheless rather frustrating not being able to get at my photos.

It is especially frustrating because I hadn’t made a backup copy of these photos yet. I would normally have burnt a copy of them onto a DVD by now but I have been a bit lazy over the last few months.

Even if it is a complete hard drive failure then I won’t have lost anything of great significance, I have alternative backups of important stuff, so no need to panic or lose any sleep tonight.

It probably is a good reminder to make sure my backups are done on a regular basis.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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A backup wake-up call

30 Jan

Last night I received a nasty reminder from my computer on the importance of having a good backup.

It was around 10 o’clock and I had just finished working on my family history for the night and started my nightly backup routine. I synchronised my family history files to my USB flash drive, my grab and run emergency backup (and netbook synchroniser).

I started the synchronisation to my external hard drive and was met with a couple of error messages, to the effect that the external hard drive didn’t exist. Surely there must be some mistake, I thought, it had probably been assigned the wrong drive letter.

I opened Windows Explorer and there it was, with the correct drive letter and it looked like all the folders were there. As I drilled down I found each folder was in fact empty. All my files had gone.

I stopped and thought about it, this was my backup, I still had the original files on my PC and my USB flash drive. There were a few non-genealogy files lost that didn’t really matter, but the external hard drive stores all my digital photos. Fortunately they are all backed up on DVD and stored off-site, so I hadn’t lost anything important, it would just be annoying to have to replace the external hard drive and start again.

But something still didn’t seem right, surely the files couldn’t just disappear and leave the folders where they are, that didn’t sound like hard drive failure? The more I thought about it the more it didn’t seem right. Something told my they were still there but I couldn’t see them.

So I did the most obvious thing and rebooted my PC. Of course when the system came back up all the files were there present and correct. I ran my backups successfully and shut the system down.

Does this mean my external hard drive is on the way out or is my PC getting it’s USB connections confused? I don’t know, but it sure made me stop and think. I would consider my backup regime pretty good, but those few minutes of lost data really made me wonder if it would all work if I had to restore my files.

Not only am I going to give my external hard drive a thorough going over, I am going to review what is actual stored on it. I shall probably burn a couple more copies of my digital photos and hide them away somewhere else. Truth is I can probably delete a load of those photos, just because I have the space to store them isn’t an excuse for not going through and deleting the rubbish.

Reviewing my data backup strategy

2 Aug

Yesterday’s data backup reminder over at GeneaBloggers got me thinking about my backup strategy. I would like to consider myself pretty well covered, but it never hurts to have a look and make sure everything is working as it should be.

I have two backups of my genealogy (and other important files including this blog). Every evening all my genealogy is copied over to an external hard drive, then every couple of weeks I do another complete backup to a memory stick. This memory stick lives on my key ring with the house keys, so it goes with me everywhere and would be one of the few things I would try and grab as I left the building in an emergency. I use the freeware version of SyncBack because I find it is just advanced enough to meet my needs, but not too complicated that it takes forever to learn how to set it up.

Thinking about my backup strategy I identified four issues which could cause a problem if the worst did happen:

  1. No permanent off-site backup
  2. No checking of the actual backup contents
  3. No strategy for the backup of my paper files
  4. No consideration of how I would restore the backup

1. No permanent off-site backup – although my memory stick and keys are hopefully going to be with me in an emergency there is a chance I might not have them. I could use an online backup service, but from past experience they take too long to backup and use too many system resources in the process. The obvious solution would be another memory stick permanently kept off-site (either at work or with my parents). In fact I would probably need two, so I could swap it without having to bring it back on-site.

2. No checking of the actual backup contents – the problem here is that I need to be certain that everything is being backed up that I need to be. I need to check every so often (weekly?) that all the folders containing my family history files are being backed up, even the new ones I have only just added.

3. No strategy for the backup of my paper files – this is a problem in many ways, and I have been thinking about this recently, and the fact that I have too many papers and folders. Most of what I have could be easily replicated, the only real issue would be birth, marriage and death certificates which I have paid for, my postcards and any other original material. Ideally I would like have digital copies of everything, so I think that the next step is to start scanning documents and whilst I am at it, throw out anything that I don’t consider to be an original document, such as reports from Family Historian and prints of census images. One of my goals for the next few months is to make my family history virtually paperless.

4. No consideration of how I would restore the backup – fortunately this is not likely to be a problem, the backups I carry out are just straight copies of the files and folder structure, not compressed or zipped in any way. So all I would need to do is just cut and paste them back onto a new hard drive.

I feel much happier now, I will get a couple more memory sticks and start a weekly (probably) off-site backup routine and before I carry out that weekly backup I will make sure all my family history folders are being backed up. The biggest challenge however will be the paper, hopefully over the next few weeks I can weed out the original documents from the “rubbish” and start scanning and re-organising my files.

If there is anything I have missed let me know? or if you think I am being overly paranoid let me know? Either way it will help put my mind at rest!

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