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Backing up your hard drive contents/files

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Anyone who has been into PC gaming for a while now would have at some time experienced the dreaded moment when you boot your PC up only to find it won't start up, a quick glance into your BIOS and you see that the hard drive isn't being detected, no matter what you do you just cant get the PC to work, you then get the horrible realization that you have lost your hard drive, you start to have horrible thoughts of all the programs, games, priceless photos, downloads and more that you have now lost, you are back to square one. Obviously this can be avoided with a simple backup of your hard drive contents, but what exactly is the best way of backing up your hard drive files and ensuring the backup files stay safe? Below is an analysis of the many different ways of backing up your computer files/contents:

Troubleshooting/Solutions

USB Sticks: These are becoming quite common now and the size capacity is always increasing, who would have thought years ago that a stick smaller than a cigarette lighter would be able to hold 32 GB of data (and increasing in capacity)

Positives
- Small in size
- Portable
- Relatively cheap

Negatives
- Can take a while to transfer files
- Easily lost because of small size
- Can be damaged easily by dropping
- Capacity limited (depends on size of hard drive files)

A second hard drive: Simply buying a second hard drive and setting it to the secondary/slave HDD is a very simple way of backing up files and because of the large capacity of new hard drives (now in the several Terabyte size) you have plenty of room on them to back up all your hard drive files.

Positives
- Fast data transfer between hard drives
- Massive storage capacity
- Being inside your computer case less chance of damage and can't be lost

Negatives
- If system is hit by a current/voltage shock, both hard drives get fried not just your primary one
- If your PC is hit with a virus your backup hard drive can also be the victim

External hard drive: External hard drives are a great alternative to buying an internal hard drive, they are also available in large capacities and usually cost around the same as their internal cousins.

Positives
- If your system is hit with a current or voltage shock, only your internal HDD is effected, your external hard drive will not be affected, this is of course assuming that its switched off or not connected (using a USB external drive you would not need to have it on all the time, only when you are transferring/backing up files)

Negatives
- Can be slower data transfer than an internal hard drive depending on your system
- Can be prone to damage or accidental dropping

DVDr media: Simply burning/writing your hard drive files with a DVD burner/writer to a DVDr is a quick and cheap way of backing up files.

Positives
- DVDr media is very cheap

Negatives
- Limited to the size of a DVDr
- DVD's are easily broken, scratched and lost

Online file backup or "cloud storage": Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular for data storage and backup, especially now with fast internet access where upload speeds are not much of an issue these days. Basically your data/files are stored by a third party on a server in which you have access to 24/7.

Positives
- Your files are always backed up
- Available 24/7
- Can be accessed anywhere in the world

Negatives
- You have to pay an annual fee with most, if this is forgotten you have lost your backup
- You never know if the company providing the backup service could go out of business
- You never know if the company providing the backup service also backs up their servers, if a server crash occurs, could you lose all your files?
- Privacy issues, you do not know if the company providing the backup service is looking at your files
- Hacking issues, the company providing the backup service could have its servers hacked, giving hackers access to all of your data, if your data is compromised can it be used maliciously?

Crashed hard drive recovery programs: Have you already lost valuable data/files and did not backup? This is a list of programs that may be able to recover data/files from a crashed hard drive, usually in this case you need to hook your crashed hard drive up as a secondary/slave hard drive on another PC, then start the PC and let the program analyse the crashed hard drive, you shouldn't run the recovery programs directly from the crashed hard drive, even if the hard drive partially works, the programs need to be run on another functioning hard drive that is set as the master hard drive.

PC Inspector
http://www.pcinspector.de

Recuva
http://www.piriform.com/recuva

TestDisk Data Recovery
http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk_Download

EaseUs Data Recovery Wizard
http://www.easeus.com/datarecoverywizard/free-data-recovery-software.htm

Mini Tool Mac (for Mac)
http://mac.powerdatarecovery.com

In summary your best bet of preserving your data and files is to use a combination of the above, if you have a second internal hard drive and an external hard drive which are both backed up to regularly, its a sure fail safe that if one dies at least the other one will have the saved data and files on it to be recovered. You can also use one of the many automatic backup programs available which will back up all your files to another hard drive, this is set to a schedule so it can be done automatically in the background or while you are not using your PC. Don't rely on the crashed hard drive recovery programs to always work for you, if you have the mind set that "oh well, if my hard drive crashes I can just recover it later with these programs" this is not always the case, a lot of the time they can't recover everything and more often or not if the hard drives cooked then nothing can be recovered.

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