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Back up data to save files, time, money

By Mariah Smith
Extension Center for Technology Outreach

Smith click to enlarge

Backing up computer data is not only a smart move; it can save the files, time and money in the long run.

I cannot count the number of times computer users have said to me, “I know I saved it, but I can’t find it anywhere on my computer. It just vanished.” While there is a small chance that your computer is evil and out to get you, the more likely scenario is that you saved the file incorrectly.

When saving files in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher, be sure to left-click the “File” tab at the top of the menu bar and in the drop-down menu left-click “Save As.” Be sure that you have the “Documents” folder selected so that your file will save in that folder. Next, in the “Save As” window, locate the “File Name” field and type in a meaningful name for the file.

Consider including the topic or event name for easy reference. For example, a photo of the grandchildren in their Easter outfits should not be simply named “grandchildren.” Name it “grandchildren_EasterOutfits_2013.” Just remember that a file name can be no longer than 260 characters, and that includes everything from the “C:/My Documents” to the very end of the file name. If the name goes longer, the computer has difficulties copying and backing up the file.

Next, be sure to save the document so that is compatible with older computers. If you have Office 2010 and are trying to send out the church newsletter, many people with older computers will not be able to open the file. In the “Save As Type” field, left-click on the drop-down arrow and select “Word 97-2003.” This allows users who have older versions of Word to open the file. Next, left-click “Save.”

Data can be backed up to USB flash drives (also known as pen drives or jump drives), external hard drives or CD-ROMs. A USB (universal serial bus) is a small device that fits in the palm of your hand. It allows for the rapid transfer of data from the computer to the flash drive and from the flash drive to the computer.

Most computers recognize USB devices automatically and do not require any additional software. Additionally, USB flash drives are very cheap. A 16 GB flash drive costs less than $10. You can store one copy of your computer’s data to a jump drive and leave it in your purse or the glove compartment of your car. Leave another copy at work or at the in-laws. That way you have a backup of your computer in more than one location.

Unfortunately, backups must be done frequently or they are of very little use. Make a backup of important files and folders whenever there is a substantial change made to them. This includes folders such as “My Documents” and “My Pictures.” Other things to be careful of when backing up are special programs, such as Quicken, Kodak and Family Tree Maker. These programs save their files to folders located in the “C:/Program Files.”

Another type of storage device is the external hard drive. External hard drives are about the same size as a book and plug into the USB port on your computer. A 500 GB external hard drive can be purchased for around $50. External hard drives are becoming increasingly more popular as the amount of data people keep on their computers grows exponentially. External hard drives are good if you do a lot with photos and videos.

The third method, and the one that will last the longest, is backing up your data to a CD or DVD-ROM. If your computer comes equipped with a CD-RW drive (this means that your computer can read a CD-ROM and write to a CD-ROM), you can write, or save, information to the CD.

There are two types of CDs on the market today: the CD-R and the CD-RW. Users can write to the CD-R once, but they can write to the CD-RW multiple times. A package of 100 CD-Rs costs around $25. Each CD-ROM holds on average 750 MB of information. Many users choose to save data to DVDs because they hold more information.

Backing up your data is a smart money move. It saves valuable time and energy when something goes wrong with computer files.

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Released: Febuary 28, 2013
Contact: Mariah Smith, (662) 325-3226

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