Question of the Week
My hard disk crashed. Help! Is there any way to get my photos back?
- R. Chhetri, Thimphu
Answer (Part 1 of 2)
Hard disk crashes can be pretty awful if important files are involved, such as your family photos or the novel you've been working on day and night for the last 5 years. A crash can be caused by a software glitch, in which case the data - all or part of it - can usually be restored with special data recovery software. A hardware failure is also a possibility, as hard disks don't live forever - they are mechanical creatures with motors and rotating platters, and will eventually die. Salvaging your data in this case is very complicated, and requires an expensive data recovery service. I am not aware of any such specialized service in Bhutan, although there's probably a business opportunity here! Anyway, a good PC technician will be able to at least diagnose the problem, and try and recover your photos in case it's a software issue.
As many of us have learned, usually the hard way (yours humbly included), backing up important files is the key to avoiding an apocalypse. In addition to protecting against an inevitable disk crash, a backup will also protect you against other mishaps: electrical surges, laptop theft and disasters such as fires and earthquakes, all of which are not unheard of in the Kingdom.
What's the best way to back up files? A popular option is to use an external hard drive. For that you'll obviously need an external hard drive as well as backup software. Windows 7 has a free Backup and Restore utility that is quite easy to use and is sufficient for most people (look for "Back up your computer" in the Control Panel under the System and Security group, or you can quickly locate it by clicking the Start button on the bottom left and typing "backup and restore" in the search bar). In Windows XP, you can reach the free Backup wizard by going to Start, pointing to All Programs, then Accessories, from there to System Tools, and finally clicking Backup to start the wizard.
After backing up your files to an external hard drive, move the drive to a different physical location, away from your laptop. For example, if you keep your laptop at home, you might want to store the external drive in a drawer in your office. In case something happens to the laptop, your backup will be safe.
In the next column I'll talk about an alternative way to back up your important data: Storing files in the "cloud" where they will be even safer.
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