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How to make backups, Part 1
technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
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How to make backups, Part 1

Technofile for May 9, 1999

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers

If you keep important files on a computer and if you don't want to spend all weekend getting your computer up and running after a major crash, you need to make backups.

Most of you don't do it. I won't lecture you or try to make you feel bad. You'll feel bad enough when disaster strikes. But if you want to make backups the right way, keep reading. This week and next I'll explain what you need to do and how you should do it.

There are only two kinds of backups. There are backups of files you create word processor files such as letters and school reports, for example and there are backups of your entire computer. You need the first kind when something happens to a file you created (the cat walked on the keyboard or you accidentally hit the Delete button, that kind of thing). You need the second kind when your computer crashes so badly that you can't get it going again.

You can make the first kind of backup (copying files such as word processor documents) any way you want. All you're doing, in the most basic way, is copying a file from one place to another, and Windows lets you do that easily. You just click on the file in a file-and-folder window, hold down the Ctrl key and drag it to another folder. Note that I said you need to hold down the Ctrl key! If you don't, Windows might move the file instead of copy it.

The other folder should be on another drive. That way something that happens to the original drive won't wreck your backup copy. "Another drive" means another hard drive or the floppy disk drive. Making a backup copy on a floppy disk seems like a great idea after all, you can pop the disk out of the drive and take it to work or to school but you need to know something first. Pay attention and save yourself some grief.

Floppies don't hold much, only about 1.4 megabytes. If you try to put a file larger than that onto a floppy, Windows will act VERY dumb and tell you to insert another disk. So you do that and, after grinding away for an eternity, Windows tells you to do the same thing again. IT'S NOT COPYING ANYTHING. It's just wasting your time. If the file is too big, Windows does not put any part of it on the floppy disk. It just loses all semblance of intelligence and keeps telling you to insert another disk.

(This is an outstanding example of poor programming in Windows. Anyone who thinks I am exaggerating when I point out that Windows is an unfinished operating system should look at the way Windows copies files to a floppy. Microsoft has had plenty of time to fix this Windows 95 came out in 1995 and the problem still exists in Windows 98 and yet nothing has been done.)

So don't try copying a file to a floppy if the file is too big. Right click on a file and choose Properties to see the size. If the file isn't too big, the easiest way to copy to a floppy disk is through the Send To menu. Right click on the file and choose Send To, then choose the floppy disk. (You don't need to hold down the Ctrl key in this case.)

You don't need to copy to floppy disks if your PC has more than one hard drive. Just create a Backup folder on the other drive and copy files into it. Open the folder that holds the originals and open the Backup folder next to it on the screen. Then hold down Ctrl and drag the files you want to back up from one folder to the other.

Next: Backing up the Big Kahuna.

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