CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Think ahead by backing up

Originally published Monday, May 26, 1997

Cathi Schuler

In the last episode of Computer Connection, "Love Your PC -- Immunize Today," this column examined the prevalence of lethal computer viruses that lurk in the shadows of cyberspace, awaiting any opportunity to infest your PC. While anti-virus software is a good hedge against infection, there is no substitute for diligently backing up your hard work and effort.

All too often, irreplaceable files that represent hours of toil are gone forever when your hard disk decides to take a dive for any number of reasons, including a viral infection.

While our PCs appear to have superior intelligence and incredible capabilities, they are only machines that eventually breakdown. Unless your work is backed up, months and years of effort can be instantaneously vaporized.

Backing up your work, in its simplest form, is merely copying your files to an external source, such as a floppy disk, so that in the event of a disk crash, your files can be restored without any loss of data or downtime. Never has copying files to a diskette been easier than in the Windows 95 operating system.

Start the Win95 file management program, Explorer, and locate the data folders, My Documents, for example, on the left side of the screen. Click once on a folder, to display its contents on the right side of the screen, and you should easily spot your dissertation or mailing-list files, for example. Place a diskette in your floppy drive and simply click the right mouse button on a selected file, choose the Send To option and select 3 1/2 Floppy A:

It's just that easy to copy files to a diskette. To copy all the files in a folder, choose Edit, Select All from the menu bar or press Control+A to highlight all the files in a folder. Click the right mouse button anywhere in the highlighted list and choose Send To, 3 1/2 Floppy A: If the selected files exceed the capacity of a 1.4 MB diskette, you'll be prompted to insert as many disks as necessary to complete the copy operation.

Users of Microsoft Office products will find the Send To option available as well from the Open File and Save File dialog boxes, allowing you to copy work to a floppy diskette without ever leaving your application or using the Windows Explorer. This is the easiest way for beginners to start developing good backup habits.

Intermediate users should take advantage of the Microsoft Backup utility that comes with Windows 95. This utility is licensed from Colorado Backup and enables backups to any external drive on your system. This program resides in the Accessories folder in a group called System Tools. You'll also find this option located in the Properties, Tools menus of drive C: in My Computer. (If it's not on your system, you can add it from the Windows Setup menu). Unlike the simple copy command, a full-fledged backup program utilizes data compression technology, thereby requiring less space to backup large files.

From Microsoft Backup you can choose to fully back up your system, or you can create your own sets of selected files and save the file sets for ease in future backups. Backing up your entire system is a Herculean task, but you should probably do it once. After that, simply backing up your data files regularly should suffice, especially if you have your original programs and software in a safe place.

Many of today's programs, especially financial packages, have built-in backup and restore utilities integrated into their software. Users of Quickbooks and Quicken will readily recognize these options and should be backing up their work after every session to insure data safety and accuracy.

New computer shoppers should strongly consider including a secondary-storage device such as a Colorado tape-backup system or perhaps an Iomega Zip drive with their new PC purchase. Given the size of today's hard disks and program files, these larger-capacity storage mediums make good sense when it comes to backing up files and work.

Whether you utilize a full backup utility or simply copy files to your A: drive, take responsibility for your precious work and perform backups regularly. The time invested now will pay off later, averting serious anguish, headaches and heartaches.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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