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I hate to harp on backups, but

A poll of Ask Leo! readers shows some good, and some scary, results when it comes to backing up.

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This is Leo Notenboom for

So with a lead-in like that, you know what I’m about to do: harp on

But I think I have good reason.

You may have noticed that when you submit a question to Ask Leo!, I actually
ask you to optionally answer a few anonymous questions. For the last month one
of those questions was “How often do you back up?” and earlier today I
collected the responses.

The good news is that of those who responded, 60% are backing up at least
monthly, and many are backing up more frequently than that.

The scary news is that 40% are not. They’re either backing up when they
remember to think of it or like a full 15% of the respondents, not at

No backups. At all.

Now, the timing’s coincidental, but just last week I answered a question
where someone was having an issue with their machine, and they were concerned
that they were about to lose everything on their hard drive, including
important family pictures. Unfortunately that’s an all too common concern. I
regularly get questions from folks who are absolutely frantic because their
computer has a serious problem, and as a result they risked losing the only
copy of something critically important to them.

“If you don’t mind losing everything … then by all means, don’t backup; there’s no need.”

The only copy.

Folks, if you can afford a computer, you can afford a backup solution. And
if you can afford to be using it for things you think are important to you,
then you can’t afford not to be backing up regularly, automatically,
and without thought.

Yes, it’s that important.

Well, ok, it’s really only as important as your data is important to you. If
you don’t mind losing everything, all your data, all your pictures, all your
email, all your documents, well then by all means, don’t backup; there’s no

But if you value any of those things at all, then start doing something and do
it soon.

What “something” should you do? Well, personally I’m a big fan of external
USB hard drives and automated backup software like Acronis True Image. But in
reality what you choose is less important than simply choosing
something. As I said in my article What backup program should I use?
it’s a lot like exercise: the best program for exercise or for backup is
whatever one you’ll actually do.

Because it will happen.

Your hard drive will die, or you’ll erase it by mistake or the kids will, or
something will happen that will make you curse. Loudly.

And wish you had been backing up.

I’d love to hear what you think. Visit and enter 11734 in the go
to article number box to access the show notes, the transcript and to leave me
a comment. While you’re there, browse over 1,200 technical questions and
answers on the site.

Till next time, I’m Leo Notenboom, for

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5 comments on “I hate to harp on backups, but”

  1. Thats it….I have finally cracked & simply need to know!!!
    On your Podcasts,you tout your site as ‘’, but it is not….I see it as ‘’ in my address bar. Am I missing something? It’s been bugging me for a while, so, yes I have cracked…and asked the question.

    As for backing up, I choose to just back-up my files, e.g. Documents, Pictures, Music etc to a DVD.
    Should my HDD die, I face the laborious task of re-installing my software, but all my ‘files’ are safe.
    (I also have a external drive, which I ‘soft’ back-up to, but find it safer to ‘hard’ back-up to a DVD.
    (That was incidental to my ‘other’ point, by the way).

    Hash: SHA1

    Your comment is a *perfect* example of why I do what I do with respect the URL.

    It’s NOT A domain squatter has that.

    It’s – with a dash.

    So, when I’m doing something audible like the podcast, I use “”,
    which redirects to the right place: It’s easier for people to
    remember, and easier for people to get right. The alternative would be to say
    “ask dash leo dot com” which is clunky and error prone.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  3. Hi,
    I’m a regular listener and love the podcast. Your a valued “stickler” so here’s a stickler of a question. I DO back up to alternating odd/even ext USB drives every month or two and would like to back up more often but still can’t find this no brainer feature…
    I would like to simply put all my sacred stuff in one directory for a one click backup, BUT I need to be assured that full dupe checking is always performed AND append the name to a new name if found to be a dupe. This simple approach also safely handles versioning on my files. MANY vendors claim to do this, but I still need a good recommendation on a product that has this kind of aproach down to a few clicks and not all the expensive bloatware/suites. BTW, I’m in the process of migrating everything to Linux, so xplatform would be great. Most backup software is intimidating. If it was dead simple or “built in” your poll numbers would probably go way up!
    Many thanks!
    Jeff in Orlando

    Hash: SHA1

    Versioning’s a problem, and I’m with you … I know of no package that just
    does it in a way that is similar to what you describe.

    The closest I can get are the incremental backups performed by standard backup
    tools that simply record differences from one backup to the next.

    I think most backup software is still designed with the mindset that each
    backup you do will be saved, off-line, separately. Thus to get a previous
    version of a file one would go to the backup at the time of that previous
    version and recover it from there. With storage expanding to dramatically in
    recent years, that’s not what a lot of people are doing any more.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  5. Hi Leo,
    Keep harping on backups, because it’s really important. It’s a very sad day when a friend loses all their data for lack of a backup, and it’s really hard to just be sympathetic and bite your tongue when the urge comes up to say, “I told you so!”.
    Over many years of trial and error (and too many CDRs to remember), here is what I finally settled on: First of all, because rebuilding a system from scratch is way too time consuming what with all the updates to Windows and applications that have come out since what came on my Windows installation CD, I decided I needed an image of my system drive. After quite a lot of reading up on most of the available products that do that, I settled on BootItNG because it also handled a second part of my backup equation (read on). However, not wanting all the data that is constantly changing to be a part of that image, I decided to create a seperate partition for that data. I used BootItNG for that task also. In order for all that to reside in a safe place, I purchased a second (smaller) hard drive to contain both the image created with BootItNG and also the regular backups of my data partition. For the regular backups I use a freeware solution called SyncBack. It has a number of options which include both synchronizing and backing up. I set it up so that it’ll copy anything that isn’t on the backup drive yet or that has a newer date than the same file that’s already on the backup drive, and to delete any file found on the backup drive that isn’t on my main drive. I know this sounds like synchronization, but it’s not as it’s done only once daily. Oh – one other thing: I also run a little batch program ahead of running SyncBack that backs up those loose ends (address book, bookmarks, etc that change regularly on my system drive) over to a zip file on my data partition. To a beginner this all may sound complicated, but it doesn’t take long to see what’s going on and why it’s happening that way. Also, once it’s set up it can be easily automated (although I don’t have a problem remembering to do this every night as I am somewhat a creature of habit, plus I don’t like having task scheduler running constantly).
    Best regards,
    Bob Seeley


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