This post is a little different. It’s not about writing believable characters or situations. It’s about protecting your (the writer’s) computer files.
The hard drive in your computer is eventually going to fail. It’s inevitable, and it’ll likely happen with little or no warning. If you don’t have good backups, you’ll lose everything on your computer: your manuscript(s), research for your writing projects, pictures you’ve downloaded from your camera, banking information, all of it.
This happened recently to a relative. She didn’t have good backups, and her hard drive became unreadable. This was devastating to her, especially the loss of ten years’ worth of photographs. She later realized that she could recover many of the photos from an online photo service she’d been using, but she still lost a lot of files.
Backups can protect you against several other things things, too:
- accidental deletions
- the theft of your computer
- malware that encrypts your files and asks you to purchase the decryption key (ransomware)
When you set up backups, you need to figure out where you are going to store your backups. Storing the backups on the same hard drive that you are backing up only protects you from accidental deletions. An external hard drive (something that connects via a USB cable) can be a good choice here. A quick search on amazon.com shows 1 terabyte external hard drives for around $55.
I’m not much of a Windows user, but it looks like backing up Windows files to an external device is a straightforward affair via the Control Panel.
Backing up a Mac is also pretty easy with Time Machine (I did this on my relative’s new Mac, and it just took a couple of minutes).
Backing up to an external hard drive is a great start, but it still doesn’t protect you from really terrible things like a fire, theft, or natural disasters (like a tornado). Even some malware may be able to delete or mangle your backup files.
You may also want to consider setting up off-site backups. This is something that backs up your files to some place that isn’t in your house. I’ve used CrashPlan for this1. It runs in the background on your computer (Windows, Mac OS X, even Linux) and backs up your files to the cloud. It also backs up every version of each file, so if your computer becomes infected by ransomware, you should be able to recover versions of your files prior to infection.
UPDATE (22 August 2017): CrashPlan is no longer offering personal or family plans.
Looks like current pricing for CrashPlan is around $5 or $10 per month per user. I have a family plan which is around $15 per month, and it lets me run backups on up to ten computers.
The files on your computer are probably even more important to you than you realize. They are worth protecting.
1I don’t own stock in CrashPlan or anything, I’m just a happy customer.