A Lesson In Backup: Taking Care Of Your Data

Where To Put Those Files? Data Organization

As a result of ever-increasing drive capacities and the ever-larger numbers of files that pile up in their wake, users can scatter them haphazardly around multiple drives far too easily. That’s what makes file-system structure and organization so important. Without a system to follow, you’ll inevitably lose track of what goes where (or more importantly, where to look for what you seek). That’s why organization is the key to a manageable desktop (and much of the rest of life as well).

Add Structure to the Home Directory

By contrast with earlier versions of Windows, Microsoft offers Windows Vista users a basic file-system structure inside each user’s home directory (C:\Users\<Username>, which is designed to facilitate access to files by type. Thus, audio files appear in the Music folder, home videos in the Videos folder, and digital images and snapshots in the Pictures folder.

More Organization from Sub-Folders

As a start, the default folders aren’t bad, but for users with thousands of images or music files, a single folder with no additional structure doesn’t provide much organization. It is thus a good idea to create additional subfolders, so as to impose more structure on a collection of hundreds or thousands of file items. Thus, for example, you might want to organize images inside the Pictures folder, into subfolders called “Vacations” or “Birthdays” where you can create individual sub-subfolders to store images from particular activities or events, like these birthday photos, for example:

C:\Users\<Username>\Pictures\Birthdays\Bob.Sr\2007

The same approach also works well for large music collections, where you might create category folders for various types of music, and then subfolders within the categories for particular artists. Movies, TV recordings, and videos are also amenable to this kind of structure, too: C:\Users\<Username>\Videos\Action\Rambo First Blood Part II).

Other Storage Locations

If circumstances compel you to store various file collections outside the comfortable embrace of the default home directory, perhaps on an external drive, we’d advise taking a similar approach. It might be that your C: drive is already stuffed, due to the installation of numerous programs in its Program Files folder, or that your personal files have consumed its available capacity. Either way, using a similar structure will make files easy to find outside the C:\Users\<Username> hierarchy as well.

Once you’ve got things organized and squared away, and all your files in their proper cubbyholes, it’s time to think about backing things up.

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22 comments
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  • truehighroller
    I just had an External Hard Drive die on me. The drive had all of our family pictures from the last 4 1/2 years on it.

    I managed to get, getbackdata to work for me but, it took 48 hrs for it to read the data and make an image of it on to a new hard drive that I bought "internal".

    I instantly after managing to get them back, put them on a DVD as well. Could of cost us a $1000 if I didn't know what I was doing.
    1
  • Anonymous
    Too many people make that mistake... store their files on an external HD and think they are 'backed up'.
    They are only backed up if another, duplicate copy is held somewhere separate to the first copy. Keeping photos *only* on an external drive is not being backed-up!
    You were lucky to get them back... far to many people don't back up and learn the hard way...and unfortunately, usually there's no prior warning of when a drive fails.
    8
  • feraltoad
    Mozy or Carbonite are cheap right now...
    1
  • zodiacfml
    yeah. same with the guy above, i have more than 4 years of pics and vids but i don't have an external or network drive, just uploaded them online.
    0
  • Anonymous
    My backup solution? Using Ghost 2003, I backup my hard drive to a image file that is stored on a 1 TB drive. Then, I ghost the entire 1 TB drive over to another 1 TB which is then stored off-site.
    0
  • pbrigido
    I have thought about purchasing a 32GB cheap MLC SSD to use as a backup for pictures to eliminate the mechanical failure aspect of a conventional HD. I wonder how long a SSD can be without power before the memory cells lose their information.
    -1
  • truehighroller
    TorchWoodMy backup solution? Using Ghost 2003, I backup my hard drive to a image file that is stored on a 1 TB drive. Then, I ghost the entire 1 TB drive over to another 1 TB which is then stored off-site.



    As long as it is stored on a Raid 1 or 0+1, 5 , 10 then you should be ok. The drive that crashed on me had an image of an install on it as well and all the files "pictures" were part of that image. Now I have a recent copy of everything on a DVD as well.
    0
  • Shadow703793
    It's good to have an External USB/eSATA drive for back ups but those drives should also be backed up to a more "permanent" storage solution such as DVD or even tape (Yes, I know, it's old school). The best method of backing up critical files (such as a very important CAD file for a product, PhD Thesis,etc) should be backed up online. The best free online back up solution is to create a Gmail account and use GmailFS. For more info see: http://www.viksoe.dk/code/gmail.htm
    DL here: http://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/GMail-Drive-shell-extension-Download-15944.html

    That's what I use. With ~7GB worth of space, it's enough to back up important files.
    -1
  • MU_Engineer
    I am a little surprised that this article was on a geek-oriented website like THG. I was hoping to see something like setting up a RAID NAS or a home server and then automating the backup process. I mean, wasn't expecting to see anything significantly complex like setting up a headless server, writing a shell script to sort and move files by file type, and then setting up an automated differential backup system to run on a schedule. But come on, the article was just how to plug in a external USB hard drive, sort some files with the Vista GUI and manually run a couple of GUI backup tools.
    5
  • Katsushiro
    I too was disappointed with the lack of techyness in this article. I don't recall a single mention of a RAID solution. And I didn't see anything that could help me; I have a 160GB raptor and a 500GB media drive that I want to automatically mirror/backup both to a 750GB drive.
    0
  • Anonymous
    I use Cobian Backup. It's free and very full featured. more people should use it.
    -2
  • PLATTERMAN
    "Certainly, more effort is involved in installing and hooking up" Yes, i admit i am a newbie, but as far as adding internal drives i put 2 of them in in less than 15 minutes so its not complicated. It is wise to keep your OS and software on a seperate drive i have been told. Externals are priced reasonable also so they are a good choice too. You can back-up real important files, then disconnect them and store in a fire rated safe.
    -1
  • Anonymous
    I was a bit surprised how it recommends to save all your music and pictures and movies and what ever else in your profile under 'User' directory. I never use Vista, but would be the same as saving to the My Pictures under docs and settings in XP. This is no good to make your profile too large. I store all my data on separate physical disk D Drive (500 gb). I also have 2 external hard drives, a 500Gb and now a 1TB, so I can back up D and E drives all to the 1TB Drive. C Drive is only used for the OS and applications I install. Even my Mail goes into a pst file on the D Drive.
    -1
  • Shadow703793
    PLATTERMAN"Certainly, more effort is involved in installing and hooking up" Yes, i admit i am a newbie, but as far as adding internal drives i put 2 of them in in less than 15 minutes so its not complicated. It is wise to keep your OS and software on a seperate drive i have been told. Externals are priced reasonable also so they are a good choice too. You can back-up real important files, then disconnect them and store in a fire rated safe.

    Still not that safe. What would happen to the HDD if it's dropped from about 10-15ft? I'm pretty sure the HDD would be damaged.

    People should back up their files on DVD/USB Flash drive and also online along with HDD back up.
    -1
  • randomizer
    I don't really backup anything. I laugh at Murphy's Law; I've never had a HDD fail :kaola:
    -2
  • Anonymous
    A couple of notes:
    - TEST your restore. I have had corporate customers who never tested restore and had it fail when they really needed it. Oops.
    - RAID (not RAID0) plus backup is ideal.
    - Make sure your RAID device NOTIFIES you of drive failures and SMART errors. If you don't know a disk failed it defies the purpose. My ReadyNAS started sending me emails about SMART errors. I replaced the drive BEFORE it failed. Pretty neat.
    - Don't forget that data can be lost for other reasons than drive failure. Fire, flood and theft come to mind. I bet more drives are lost than fail.
    -1
  • Anonymous
    Our house got struck by lightning and both my iMac and the external drive used by Timemachine for backup died.

    Lesson learned: Have an external (as in out of house) backup and backup to that regularly.

    Fortunately I had a fairly recent (only 4 months old external backup), but I still lost pics from 2 vacations... :-/
    -1
  • Anonymous
    I have this HD and I backed up all my media files with it. When the drive I was using got destroyed. I replaced it with a new (bigger) drive, but when I connect the Samsung to it and install the software, it doesn't give me an option to copy those backed-up files onto the new drive... It seems to only want to restore these files to the original disc. And since I don't have that disc any more, I'm stuck...

    Any ideas on how to restore a drive's backup on to a new drive?

    Thanks,
    denver.obsession (at) gmail (dot) com
    0
  • Anonymous
    wTF' this review is really below tom's hardware standards! I can't see any tech info, nothing about RPM, cache, and what kind of a HDD is inside! Shame on Marcel Binder who wrote this so called 'review'!
    0
  • Anonymous
    I keep all my files in at least 3 external different external hard drives... And the important stuff is also stored on my desktop computer, my notebook and my netbook.
    0