September 3, 2007 HelpLine

Q) I appreciate your recent advice on keeping files backed up (the June and September issues of PCPhoto). I’d add one more caution: If you’re using an automated backup program (i.e,. one running automatically on a schedule), be sure that the program is actually running and that there’s still room on the drive to which you’re backing up. I’ve had programs abort, possibly due to power failure, and not run on the next scheduled time. I thought I was getting regular backups and had gone about a month with nothing. I’ve also filled the destination drive without knowing it, and I received no message from my backup program that it was unable to run.

Bob Herrmann, Via the Internet

A) Last week I had a comment from a reader about the success they’ve had with their backup scenario. This e-mail caught my attention because it shows that even the best-laid plans are only that-plans. Without proper followthrough and maintenance, you might only think you’re safe. Just like automatic exposure on a digital camera can lead to under- or overexposure, automatic backup can ignore some data.

Aborted programs, bad or damaged configurations, full drives or even drives that are wearing out can all happen “under the radar.” If you have a drive failure, you may find that what you thought was backed up wasn’t.

Turn this false sense of security into real security by verifying that your backups are happening. Make it a habit to check your backup drive for files that you know you recently added to your internal drive. Compare file dates to make sure they’re correct. If you run backup software “behind the scenes,” make sure you know how to tell if it’s running. Some backup software will show up on Windows machines as an icon in the Task Bar’s Tray; for others, you may need to check the Task Manager. On Macs, check out the menu bar or the Activity Monitor application in your Utilities folder.


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