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How to Avoid Losing Data No Matter What

Stories to convince you to do what you already know you need to do.

Another day, another story of data loss. The frustrating thing is that it doesn't have to happen.
Nuclear explosion on a computer screen.
Question: I lost a huge amount of research and work when my computer crashed this summer.

That’s a quote from an email I received from someone who, honestly, I expected better of. They’re a prominent figure in my industry, someone who has a large team of people supporting them.

To have a simple computer crash cause “huge” data loss… well, this doesn’t need to happen. Ever. Not to him, and not to you or me.

Sadly, he’s not the only one running the risk.

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Avoid losing data

Many people, experts included, risk losing important data because of computer failures. I hear heartbreaking stories of data loss often. It’s simple to avoid: back up regularly. If all your data is in only one place, it’s not backed up.

Imagine your computer… gone

I was traveling once when a colleague mentioned that should their laptop fail or be lost, it would be a serious problem. Apparently, significant work would be lost.

Again, significant data loss doesn’t need to happen. Ever.

Look at your computer. Right now. The one you use most, perhaps the one you’re traveling with, the one with all your work.

Now, imagine it gone. Without warning, without recovery, just… gone.

If that would result in serious data loss for you, that’s a problem. A problem that doesn’t need to happen. Ever.

And yet it does, over and over again.

I hear the stories.

Tales of data loss

In the early years of Ask Leo!, I received a plea from an overseas graduate student working on their master’s thesis. Something had happened to their online email account, and they could no longer access it. They’d been hacked, and all the recovery methods were failing. And, of course, this was a free account (Hotmail, if memory serves), so there was no hope of help.

Calling it a “problem” doesn’t do the situation justice. It was a disaster. That account held their only copy of their thesis.1 Without access, it was gone.

They had to start over from scratch.

A good friend of mine contacted me a few years ago and told me that all of a sudden, pictures wouldn’t open properly on his computer. After a lengthy investigation, we determined that the machine had been infected with one of the early instances of ransomware. The malware hadn’t completely loaded, so he hadn’t yet been presented with the ransom demand. The process had been interrupted, presumably by security software finally detecting and neutralizing it as it encrypted his files.

Unfortunately, it was too late for the majority of his pictures. Pictures kept only on that PC. Pictures that remained encrypted without hope of recovery.2

Pictures of his late granddaughter.

Extreme examples?

You might say these are extreme examples, and I won’t disagree.

But they’re common. Too common.

I hear tales like these often from desperate people grasping at straws to recover something critically important, sentimental, or ultimately irreplaceable.

It doesn’t have to be extreme to be painful. It might not be your life’s work; losing the photos on your digital camera or your smartphone is one example of data loss that might not be tragic but can certainly hurt. And it does happen. Small, portable devices get lost. Memory cards go bad. Well-meaning friends or technicians accidentally delete things.

Stuff happens. You know it does.

I harp for a reason

Significant data loss doesn’t need to happen, and yet it does.

It happens more often and more easily than you might think.

My frustration is that it’s so easy to prevent with backups. Yet people are scared away by details they don’t understand, poorly written and poorly documented tools that are supposed to help, and systems that have become so complex it’s sometimes difficult to understand exactly what’s where.

I get all that. I truly do. But the fact remains it can be easy, and it’s important. Even if it isn’t easy, it’s still important. In fact, if something is important enough for you to work on, if you’re doing “a huge amount of research and work”, then it’s well worth investing the time to protect yourself even at the most basic level.

The most basic level?

Think of what’s stored on your computer. Now envision that computer suddenly gone. Would all the things you’re thinking of be lost forever?

Make a copy. Put that copy somewhere else.

That’s it. That’s all. That’s a backup at its most basic. Everything else is refinement. Everything else is about what gets copied, where it gets copied to, and automating the process of making those copies.

But ultimately, backups are all — and only — about making copies.

If your data is in only one place, it’s not backed up.

Concrete steps

Start making copies.

Learn how to use the tools if you have to, but start. Today.

Get over your fear of the cloud, and start using any of the free services for some basic automation. Encrypt if you’re working on highly sensitive documents or if you’re just paranoid.

Read How to Back Up Windows 10 (& 11) even if you’re not running Windows 10 or 11. Many of the specific steps will work on any Windows version, and the concepts are universal.

Read How Do I Back Up My Computer? for a nice high-level overview of the various options and approaches to backing up. (In fact, have a look at all of the Best Articles: a Collection of articles on backing up and security in general.)

But above all, no matter what you read or how you do it, start backing up now.

If a sudden and unexpected loss of your computer and data (or phone, or account, or…) would be anything greater than an annoyance, you’re not sufficiently backed up.

Do this

I’ll continue to preach about backing up. To me, it’s still the one thing that could save more grief for more people than anything else I talk about.

If you feel the same way — if you feel that this article and the ideas behind it have merit — share it. Share it on Facebook. Share it on whatever other social media platform you use. Send the link to this rant post up there in your address bar to the people you know aren’t backing up as they should. (And I’m betting you know quite a few.)

Spread the word.

And then be sure to subscribe to Confident Computing! It’s my weekly newsletter that gives less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

Podcast audio


Footnotes & References

1: Yes, that feels odd, particularly since this was before OneDrive, but nonetheless, it was the situation.

2: I actually keep an image of that hard drive with the small hope that perhaps someday the master keys for that particular ransomware variant — CryptoWall 2.0 — will be found. So far, no luck.

57 comments on “How to Avoid Losing Data No Matter What”

  1. AMEN, a thousand times over. I lost my HD last December. Fortunately, I had an image backup of the OS (thanks for prompting that, Leo) and automated cloud storage of files, so the recovery was straightforward. It did take time because of software updates since the full image was made but that was no problem. The silver lining was I upgraded to a hard drive much better than OEM. Happy ending.

  2. Insurance is a hard sell. It seems us critters don’t plan so well for the future, or keep putting off actions for the future when there are actions for the immediate moment that can be done.

    So we are busy. And don’t make backups.

    And then we cry when it happens – because bells can’t be unrung.

    Those few who buy my MySQL backup software I *know* are conscientious about their business.

    OK, a rant for your comment section :)


  3. Thanks so much for that! Your article prompted me to check my EHD backup and I just discovered it is full and stopped backing up a couple of weeks ago. I do have cloud storage as well.

    It reminds me of a time ten years ago when my hard drive crashed and I discovered then that my backup had failed months before… Thankfully I was able to get a forensic guy to recover all my files (business records) – at a cost of $500!! – and his comment was that a backup is only as good as the person who checks that it’s actually working!

  4. the problem i have with back up is it backs up everything you do. if i click on and read an article in the news its backed up.
    if i look up a recipe, its backed up. in a matter of months we`d have a few hundred flash drives or disks with stuff we don`t need
    backed up. i don`t need constant back up.
    is there a way to just back up what i choose and only what i choose?
    i`m still on win 7 ult.
    PS. how do i get notified if someone responds to my comment?

    • You WANT everything to be backed up, precisely because you DON’T KNOW exactly what should be backed up. To solve your issue you don’t want to keep all the backups forever, just keep them for “a while”, and then start recycling your backup drives.

      I used to have comment notification enabled here, but it turned into a haven for spammers to abuse so I had to remove it. Sorry.

      • Thanks for the info on comment notification. I always thought I did not receive any (but wasn’t sure), always thought that I might have done something wrong… now I know.

  5. Just happened to me this year! And it sucks. I was using an external hard drive as my cloud and it went bad. There are services that have proprietary mechanisms to recover a failed drive. The cheapest I found was $1800! and that was if they recovered just a bit of the drive, like one document, or all of it. Photos of the kids and vacation photos with the wife for the last 4 years were important to me. A list of contacts for future income work was very very important. Original ideas for songs was extremely important to me. One song could make a million right!? I was willing to bite the bullet and pay the $. The service couldn’t get anything off the drive. As a blessing they did not charge me. I found an old Tbyte drive that had everything before 2014, and was able to recover up to that date, but I basically lost 4 years of data. What do I have now?! That same old Tbyte, a current “new” drive hooked up to my desktop as my cloud and a mirror drive in the safe deposit box, just in case my house burns down to the ground. Seems like a lot of Type A behavior and redundancy….but loosing 4 years of data was depressing and stressful, and recovery is insanely expensive. I still don’t trust the cloud. My work takes me to the cloud. I have seen the cloud. A block long, unmarked building with very high security. Like mission impossible to gain access without an invitation. Seriously. Armed guard and fingerprint verification on at least 2 doors and to get out. Whats inside you ask? Rows and Rows of databanks. Very cold inside to keep the databanks cool. Generators outside in case of a power failure. So how are they going to get gas for the generators is there is a major disaster like there was recently in Texas (2017) where pumps were out of gas for over a week. Think about it. Lesson learned…have more than one backup.

    • I too years ago suffered from loss of data. I started backing up then, with Acronis for years. Then I got an Acronis specific infection and once again ate it. I switched to Macrium Reflect and haven’t lost anything for years. Been infected multiple times, but always had the backup. I live in Mexico where the power fails all the time, am grid tied and island solar systems so complete grid failure I can get by without.

    • As you’ve noticed from your work visits, the Cloud is just someone else’s computer, and a copy of your data on someone else’s computer is great, as you need a remote backup of some sort. I do my own system image backups, but in addition I use the Cloud, specifically Microsoft’s OneDrive. I synchronize the files on 4 computers all 4 machines have a copy of all of those files holding files automatically without thought. So if the Microsoft servers go down, I have 5 copies of all of my files. And I believe the serious players like MS, Google, Dropbox and Carbonite etc. have enough backup fuel to keep those generators running a long while

  6. In addition to actually backing up your data to two different locations, you should, at least monthly, test the effectiveness of the backup by restoring something. This is especially true if you’re in a commercial environment using equipment more than three years old. I once had a client that used high density tape cartridges and two separate tape drives. At a time of crisis they discovered tapes could only be read on the specific tape drive they were created on. Essentially, the existing tape drives became as important than the computers.

    We seem to be beyond the problems that arose when machines were replaced without regard for the archived backups on 5.25″ or 3.5″ floppies but access to archives should be a consideration when upgrading technology. Converting archival material to new media may be annoyingly costly but it keeps available things that you don’t need until you really need them.

  7. Here we go again, for the gadzillionth time, discussing backups data and people who don’t. Let’s face it, for someone who doesn’t take backing up seriously, there is little point in discussing multi-step approaches, tools, images, encryption, cloud, etc. They are not going to do it because it’s either too intimidating or too time consuming. The other side of the story is that if someone thinks using a tool is fool proof and uses the tool without understanding what it does, how it does it and how to recover data, then it all becomes a big waste of time and false sense of security.

    For people that are not amenable to backing up (for whatever reason), it doesn’t have to be complicated. Leo’s advice can be boiled down to “make a copy”. Forget everything else and put a flash drive in your computer, make a copy of your data, then put the flash drive in your pocket. You’re done. You’re certainly better off than not have any backups.

    But even this simplistic advice has a problem: many people have no idea what their “data’ is and where on the computer it is located. I know people you can’t tell the difference between files, folders, browser, desktop, application, or whatever else shows up on the screen. For such extreme cases, there is no hope.

    A partial response to GlenLW above: What should be important to you are YOUR documents, files, pictures, movies – that is, the stuff you created, not the stuff that came with Windows or that you installed. Everything else can be replaced or recreated. Under the worst circumstance, you’ll throw out your entire computer into the trash and buy a new one. So, all that you need to back up are YOUR documents. The biggest obstacle to knowing what your documents are is not knowing where they are stored. No thanks to Windows and applications that you install, the files that you create can be stored anywhere, even in the cloud (ugh). But you can tell Windows and your applications to store files at a specific location, where you can find them easily. Say you create a folder and put everything you create in that folder. Then all you have to back up is that folder by just copying it to a flash drive. Yes, yes, I know this isn’t the most elegant solution, but remember, we’re talking about people who won’t back up and then gripe when they lose everything.

    • For those who you call “people [who] can’t tell the difference between files, folders, browser, desktop, application, or whatever else shows up on the screen”, there are automated solutions like Carbonite and Backblaze which you simply install and the data that Carbonite deems your data will get backed up. Even it Carbonite misses something, you get the vast majority of your data backed up. They might miss some files but probably very few , if any, and it’s 1,000,000 times better than no backup.

  8. Leo,
    Its thanks to you that I have backups today. I use Macrium Reflect free and it works great. Before Macrium I used Windows Home server, which still runs by the way. I figure an extra backup can’t hurt anything!

  9. I’d stress that bit about “leave a copy off site”. A friend had a house fire and lost everything in the house – all those carefully kept backup disks were toast. I now have a regular backup placed in a family member’s house, just in case, and an encrypted file with all my logins with another.
    I think one has to be pretty paranoid about backing up.

  10. I also lost personal stuff at a point in time when I had a single drive pc with being very upset without being able to recover it. Since that time I went with adding a second hard drive just for saving my personal folders as Docs, pics, vids, downloads, Drivers, contacts & music. I made the D drive as the default (1 and only) save location for these folders. My thoughts are if the OS goes haywire on the C drive, I can always reinstall it and the programs I use. Then just redo the linking again to the D drive and I’m good to go.

    • If you keep your data on a second hard drive, it’s still essential to make regular backups of that drive, as that drive is still vulnerable to failure. As Leo often says, “If your data is only in one place, it’s not backed up.”

      • In my thinking, Yes my data is in one place on a second hard drive “but” I believe it is “a safer one place” then everything being completely on one hard drive? :) I do have an external hard drive I could use for backing up my D: drive, and with this I’m thinking my backup could just simply be done with Copy all my folders on D: and Paste them to the external drive with no need to learn a program to use/run.

  11. I second the idea of BackBlaze. Having some experience with helping people with their PCs, I’ve found that a lot of “non-techy” people feel a bit helpless when it comes to backing up. They just don’t know where to start – so they don’t. Even if you explain the concept and steps involved, they feel incompetent to get it done. They don’t know how to pick a solution or how to implement it confidently – or consistently. Backblaze is awesome in this regard because you just install it (also a user-friendly process) and forget it. It finds and backs up all your data automatically and continually in the background wherever your PC is turned on…and it’s backed up to their servers away from ransomware threats. AND you can “test restore” simply by accessing (downloading) one of your files by logging into your BackBlaze account online. I love that program. It addresses some of the main reasons people don’t backup. I recommend it to everyone. Customer service has been amazing, too.

  12. i have the majority of my files on an EHD (drive D:). i have another another EHD (drive F:).
    my files = word docs, excel files, powerpoint files, text files, zip files, images, and install programs for all software on my systems.
    i decided on a copy/replicate technique instead of using proprietary backup formats.

    using FreeFileSync ( – free!), i setup two daily schedules – 1) copy from D: folders to a specific folder on C: and 2) copy form D: to a specific folder on F:. FFS lets you set what kind of copy you want (update, mirror, etc).

    using iDrive ( – $60/yr for 1TB), i setup a daily schedule to copy from D: to my iDrive cloud storage. iDrive copies any file 500MB or less w/in 30mins of when it was created or modified (you set the time frame). they also have a) a once-a-year free service where they’ll mail you an EHD to copy all your files onto which they’ll then copy to your cloud once they receive it and b) a once-a-year free service where they’ll mail you an EHD w/ all your cloud files on it. i currently have 330GB stored in my iDrive cloud storage (85GB i uploaded from my computer; i used the free EHD service for the 245GB of photos). very little gets uploaded each day. i can also backup some iPhone files to my iDrive cloud storage. i can access this cloud from any internet connected device (desktop, laptop, tablet, iPhone).

    so, i have my files on D:, C:, F: and iDrive (in case house burns and my computer and two EHDs melt).

    i do something similar w/ my laptop, plus added a FFS job to copy from laptop to a folder on D:, which then gets copied to C:, F:, and iDrive.

  13. Hi Leo, thanks for your regular reminders to back up, it’s easy to forget when you last did it. Many backup policies suggest scheduling a backup overnight, implying that your computer is left on all the time. I always turn my laptop off overnight, and sometimes during the day as well, so is it OK to leave it on mains power for long periods?

    • I most certainly do. In my opinion if it makes the difference between backing up and not … leave it on. :-) The alternative is to schedule your backup to a time you know it will be on, or to configure it to happen WHEN you log in.

    • I generally leave my computer on at night for backups. I turned it off last night. When I turned my computer on this morning, I got a popup from EaseUS Todo that the backup didn’t run and asked if I wanted to run it now. I clicked Yes and it backed up quietly in the background and didn’t slow anything down. Even though a was listening to a lot of music on YouTube, there wasn’t so much as a hiccup. So back up night or day, Just Do It.

  14. One more point: check your backup to make sure it works. This isn’t as important as it used to be, but I used to back up on a tape drive. Back in those days, I used to reinstall Windows a couple of times a year, just to ensure a clean working copy. I was faithfully following a back up schedule. But too late I discovered that my backup was scrambled. It took me several weeks to recover (this was the days before cloud storage).

    Second point: I changed computers recently, and I’m using both OneDrive and Google Drive. OneDrive is my main online backup since I use Office 365, but I keep a local backup as well. When I read this on the Best of Ask Leo this morning, something caught my attention and I checked. Sure enough I had OneDrive flagged to only download files as I needed them. Which means that my only copy of about 95 GB worth of files was online. My backup routine was actually missing a lot of reasonably important files because I assumed (wrongly) that I was backing everything up. That could have been a rude awakening.

  15. Good article Leo! There are so many scenarios where one could lose their data:
    * accidental deletion
    * hard drive crashed
    * theft
    * fire
    * flood
    * computer failure
    * Microsoft’s wonderful updates
    * a child playing with his/her parents computer (yes, my son-in-law, who owns and runs a business – had Quickbooks up and running and stepped away from the computer for a minute. A minute! My two-year-old grandson decided to be like daddy and tapped away on the computer. Somehow, the files in Quickbooks were deleted – gone! Fortunately, being a geek most of my life has rubbed off on my daughter and she was able to recover the .qbb file to a point where my son-in-law could recover what he was doing that night. And yes, my daughter is the one who insisted that his Quickbooks files be backed up nightly. And yes, my daughter is the one who set that up for him – because he’s somewhat technically challenged (haha)).
    * and many, many more
    Taking backups of one’s data, if it’s even remotely important to you, is a necessity. However, taking backups on a continuous basis is very important if your data is important to things like your business and/or your life. Taking backups nightly, weekly, monthly, are not good enough any longer. Consider using a backup application that backs up your data continuously.
    Then consider where that data is being backed up to so regularly – an external hard drive? the cloud? both? Consider both!
    I’m using a Mac computer and use the application “Time Machine” to back up my data continuously, only the changes that is, to an external hard drive. I also use a cloud backup service from “Backblaze” where every few minutes my computer is checked and any changes made during that time are saved to the cloud.
    Then too, consider how many backups you want of certain data. How important are those pictures of your kids from 30 years ago? ones that can NEVER be replaced. You’ve got them saved on your computer – good enough, right? Wrong! Oh, you’ve also got a backup of them on an external drive – good enough, right? Wrong! Some data, like those precious photos that can NEVER be replaced, are important enough to back up to even more locations. With my photos – yes, it’s excessive what I do. They are on my computer’s hard drive, three external hard drives (two that are only connected for monthly backups), a USB drive, my wife’s computer, and on multiple DVDs and CDs that I possess, my daughter has, and for family pictures – multiple members are provided them as well. Yes, excessive, right?
    I’ve had a computer’s hard drive crash on me in the past and everything on it was lost. Oh, I could have paid big bucks to have someone try to recover what was on it, but why? Those files were backed up in multiple locations and I was able to recover them once I put a new hard drive into the computer.
    I’ve had many external hard drives fail me (never to purchase from Seagate again, by the way), but all the data on those drives were located elsewhere.
    I’ve had USB drives fail me too – but that data was saved elsewhere as well.
    I’ve been fortunate not to have a disaster (fire, flood, theft, etc) where my computer equipment was simply gone. But had that happened, all my important files and data are found on other devices in other locations – and let’s not forget about the cloud. That people, can be a real life saver for some. This summer, I knew of some people badly affected by the severe flooding we in Wisconsin had. They lost their computers, hard drives, data, everything. However, one person I knew was using the cloud for backups and all of his files and data were safely recovered once he got his new computer up and running.
    Don’t take chances with your important data. For me, using a Mac, that application “Time Machine” is free. It comes with the Mac computer….nice, right? And “Backblaze”? Read up on that one folks – it’s clearly the best cloud service one could ask for. For a mere $50.00 per year you get UNLIMITED storage backups for one computer – yes, UNLIMITED. I’ve used other services previously and anytime you increase your storage needs – it costs you money. Nice money maker, right? I’ve also extensively tested “Backblaze” and restored files successfully – the most recent backup and several versions previous. It worked flawlessly!
    With “Time Machine” and “Backblaze” and the backup strategy that I use – my data, in my opinion, is safe.
    Excessive, right? What is your data, your files, your photos worth to you? I can NEVER replace pictures of my child’s second birthday, first day of school, etc – but they are safe in the multiple locations I have them saved. Think about yours now!

  16. I’ve been a firm believer in backups for years. I use Norton Ghost in my desk tops to backup to an internal 500gb hard drive. Then I also have 3 dedicated 500gb hard drives for each computer that I use Acronis Disk Director 12 or 15, depending on if it is a 32 bit or 64 bit computer, to clone the main hard drive at least once a month, then take it out and keep it in safe storage. This method has saved my bacon several times in the past. As you said, it’s not if but when a failure will occur.

  17. I felt I should make a comment to Leo regarding backing up a system. “Ask Leo” I have found over many years now is the #1 source of information I refer to on questions related to backing up a system. I was initially encountering many of the usual “loss of all my data” stories in my own dealings with my computers. It took some time and failure to ultimately develop my current strategy — which is an overkill I suppose to some, but I think Leo would appreciate my progress and efforts. I purchased four (4) separate external USB hard drive docking stations, and put one on each of my 4 computers. I purchased four(4) 500GB Solid State Drives — one for each of the external backup docks. I made Full Image Backups for each computer on their respective Solid State Drive and then have automatic weekly Incremental Backups done on each computer on Sunday nights. After verifying backups were completed correctly on Monday, I remove the SSD disks from the external docks and store them in clearly labeled boxes for each of the computers. I intend, eventually, to peridocally CLONE image done for each computer as well for safe keeping. So far, my data has not been lost again by some system failure. I have had to “RESTORE” each of the 4 computers at some point or another, but thanks to Leo’s persistence to his subscribers, I have been able to get keep my computers running as well as one could expect. Attention to backup and the occasional pit-falls is an on-going learning process. I read many articles related to backing up and malware issues every week to try to keep up on the subjects. Still studying password protection and encryption issues which are likely something I will learn better from Leo. Thanks Leo for what you do for many of us.

  18. Leo:c

    I have seen this problem before, and at a company where I was working that should have known better.

    The incident happened in the late 1980s, and involved a company that had developed a chip set that emulated one of the higher end processor chips, similar to the M68000.

    All engineering files were kept on the same computer system, and used the company chip set in the equipment. After all, it was one of OUR computers, which were the BEST. Why wouldn’t we the use one?

    One morning I came in to work, to find everyone walking around with long faces, and no work being done. The main computer had crashed, and we were dead in the water. It was also determined fairly soon that the crash involved the main disk. The one where ALL of the company engineering information was stored. Like the masks for our chip set.

    It turned out that in the interest of saving time and tape (1980s, remember), incremental back-up were moved from daily to weekly. In addition, full backups were only done on files of less than 1MB. So, all of the backups that were available were useless. The IT manager was in deep doo-doo, as he had made these decisions without consulting anyone.

    The end of the story was less dramatic. All of the data was recovered, intact, from the crashed disc, because I had a bright idea. I spoke with a Field Engineer to make sure it was feasable, then I presented my idea to my boss, who approved it. Then we determined that the problem was indeed electronic, and recorded all the information we could find on make, model, size, etc. of the disc. We went to the storage area where field returns were kept, and found an identical disc that had a bad bearing.

    I carefully removed the control boards from the disc with our information on it, removed the same boards from the field return, and installed those on the disc from our system. The FE and I went back to the computer room, reinstalled the disc, and held our breath as we powered up the system. The experiment was a success, and all the files were there, intact, and readable. The FE began to copy the entire contents of the disk onto another, larger disc, to avoid potential problems with the longevity of the composite disc.

    My next step was to inform my boss, who was at the time in a meeting — the inquisition into the IT manager’s fate. One of the outcomes of the meeting was that there was NO REASON, EVER to NOT do daily backup of all accessed files, and weekly full image backups of the entire system.

    Sorry, I didn’t intend for this to be so long winded, so I apologize for that. I know this doesn’t contribute much to the real discussion, but it does show that it’s not always the individual user that doesn’t do what they should.

  19. I am a Computer Tutor who consistently hear from people who have had their computers crash and they lose the lot. When asking “didn’t you have everything backed up?” I get the usual response ” I would have backed up if only it wasn’t so complex to do it”. I think that this is a valid point. Inexperienced computer owners find it too confusing trying to learn how to do it. What files do I back up; is it only Documents? What happens to my Office Suite if my Computer fails? If I back up how do I go about returning all my files/ folders to my Computer from the backup? What are the simple steps from which I can complete the entire process from starting the back-up, what files/ folders do I need to backup and if needed how do I recover the files/ folders lost as a result of the computer crash. As these matters seem far too complex for many computer owners, they are prepared to take a risk of losing everything rather to attempt to undertake the backup process. Is there a place where all this info can be acquired ( in an easy & simple to follow, step by step procedure) for the novice computer owner to follow on a day to day basis?. Unfortunately I consistently find that a majority of knowledgeable IT people really suck at explaining a procedure to another person; they know what to do themselves but are unable to adequately relay the info to a third party. If this situation dramatically improved, you would find that many many more people would back up their files/folders.

    • I used Backblaze for a while and it worked well. I now use OneDrive because it comes with 5 TB storage along with my Office 365 subscription. For people who aren’t sure what to put into their OneDrive or Dropbox folder, Backblaze or Carbonite will backup up very close to everything you might want to recover later. One great feature of Backblaze is that they can send you a hard drive with your backup if you need it. It costs extra but much cheaper than a data recovery service.

  20. Saturday when I started up my computer I got a surprise, from microsoft. They decided to update windows 10 (brrr) and completed deleted my desktop. So I spent all day retrieving my programs and restoring them. The ones that were still on my computer didn’t work correctly.
    First I don’t how the a-holes got in my computer, with it being turned off. Second is why? this the second time it has happened sense I have been using windows 10. BTW I do backup often but am wondering why bother.
    If I restored my backup (as I understand it) it would overwrite my operating system, so when windows 10 (brrr) would update it again I would be right back to the same problem.
    I backed up regularly on my old computer my hard drive crashed I bought a new computer but found out on “Ask Leo” that I couldn’t restore, my backup to my new computer so why bother backing up?
    I will continue to backup both on windows and easeus todo in case someday it will work for me.

  21. After forty years in the I.T. business I’ve seen it all, and Leo is so right about backups! In government, we had backup servers to automatically backup all the other servers and even some other the user workstations. Funds were available to do that.

    Here at home I manually backup our systems monthly to a portable 2TB SSD drive. I bought the case and drive separately on EBay. While working I learned to open Windows folders manually and copy and paste files. It’s easy to open two windows… one the computer and one the backup drive… and copy and paste files. Don’t worry about programs… they can be reloaded if desired… back up USER created files like photos, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, etc. These are irreplaceable. There’s also a way to back up the whole hard drive to what’s call an ISO image file. Consult YouTube on how you do that. I use EaseUS Partition Master for such jobs. Learn how to backup and take the time to do it!

  22. Perhaps I’m taking things to an extreme, but here’s how I am backing up:
    1) I use Macrium Reflect to do a full backup monthly and daily incremental backups.
    2) I also use Macrium Reflect to make a monthly full backup on a separate hard drive from my normal backup drive.
    3) My Documents and Picture folders are in my OneDrive folder. OneDrive is set to keep copies of all files on my computer. Sensitive files are in a Cryptomator vault in OneDrive.
    4) Copies of files stored in the Cryptomator vault are stored unencrypted on a separate hard drive kept with the Macrium monthly monthly backup drive.
    5) Recovery codes for my Microsoft account, Bitlocker, and Cryptomator have been setup, saved to a file in Bitwarden, with hard copies printed and kept in a fire-proof safe.
    6) I have a laptop that duplicates everything on my main computer and is kept up to date.
    It does take time and effort to set everything up but once everything is in place it takes only a little effort and a calendar reminder to keep it up. I feel confident that I can recover from just about anything short of an EMP event.

    • Overkill? There’s no such thing as overkill when it comes to backing up.
      All are good practice. I do everything on your checklist except 2,4,&5
      2 – I simply copy ma backup file to a drive kept in another room and once a year, I copy it to a drive I keep in another country (now that’s overkill).
      4 – I don’t keep an unencrypted. To keep from forgetting them, I keep them in my password vault. I can’t forget my password vault master password because I type it one or more times a day.
      5 – Very good Idea. I don’t have a safe. All my vaults are digital. I’m mentioning the differences incase anyone wants to do something similar, they can adapt to whatever suits them.

      Here’s Leo’s recommendation for a backup regime. You’ve got all of his points covered:
      How Do I Back Up My Computer?

  23. Hello, Well I have been ding my backup’s to a 4TB Easystore external HD for about two years now and keeping a Word doc. showing the date-time-backup size-starting HD point. Now I can not find that word doc. any where. When I go to the Backup HD ; I get a message that it is not connected to my PC. F:\ is not accessible. Access is denied. When I can clearly see that it is connected to my PC. That issue #1.
    Issue #2 is that I can not login to my Microsoft to make a pswd change at the “User Account Control”
    Issue #3 is I did pay for a years subscription to Windows Office 365. MS has verified that that is in their files.
    Issue #4 on 09-30-2023 MS pushed out a new Email protocol and that is when all of this started.
    I really need some technical help.
    Bio info: retired 76 yrs old – When I was working in was on Big Northern Telecom switches in Minnesota.

  24. Jerry, If changing the drive letter doesn’t work, try these steps in order to see if you can regain access:
    1. Plug the external drive into another USB port.
    2. If the cable is not permanently connected to the drive box, try a different one.
    3. If you have another PC, try connecting the external drive to it, or to a trusted friend/family member’s computer.

    Note: Following each step, check to see if the drive is listed in Disk manager.
    If none of these steps help, the drive may have failed. From what I can see by doing an Internet search for a 4TB Easystore external HD, the drive is not designed to be removable from the enclosure by the user so the only remaining step may be to take it to a local computer repair shop to see it they can help.

    Ernie (Oldster)

  25. I have used Macrium Reflect Free as my backup solution for several years. The only feature I want that the free version didn’t have was the Image Guardian. Following a recent similar item from Leo, I went to the Macrium website, and learned that I can get an annual subscription for $49.95(US), so I made the purchase and downloaded the current version of the”Free Trial” for Macrium. After removing the free version from my computer, I installed the current version and used the license code I got with my subscription to activate it. There is also a One-time purchase offer the costs $79.99 for version 8, has one year of Home Essentials Support, and includes access to minor updates & fixes for version 8 only.

    I won’t go through the details of my backup regimen, because we all have different needs/situations, but I will say the $49.99/year is not a lot of money to pay for the safety a good backup provides. The feature that got me to pay for the annual subscription is the ransomware protection provided by the Macrium Image Guardian feature. If you haven’t started backing up your computer(s) yet, when you inevitably lose your data for any of several reasons, you’ll wish you had, so get to it and start backing up – NOW!


    Ernie (Oldster)

  26. Leo,

    On many, many occasions in your Newsletters you or your readers refer to an “account being hacked.” Could you clarify what is meant by this? Thanks much!

  27. Mark:

    Actually, a lot of commercial backup generators run off of natural gas or propane so they don’t need to worry about gasoline supplies. The only difference between using natural gas or propane is the size of the orifice used on the supply feed, which is usually easy to change if one source failed & you had to switch to the other.


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