Understanding Computers
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  Go Ahead, Back Up
There are very few moving parts in a computer, which has often made me wish I had taken up auto mechanics instead of computer science. Most of the problems which frustrate computer users stem from the applications, not the equipment.
Unfortunately, the one device whose failure can be devastating, the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or hard drive, is mechanical. If every other component in your computer stopped working altogether, all your term papers, financial records, email addresses, and music files could be recovered, if your hard drive was intact.
To prolong the life of your HDD, make sure you have sufficient Random Access Memory (RAM), 128 megs should be enough; and defrag your hard drive at least once a month. These measures keep your HDD from "thrashing", which is nerd-speak for running constantly. You should also run a disk utility like Scandisk or Norton Disk Doctor at regular intervals to correct potential problems before they get out of hand.
The data on a faulty hard drive can sometimes be recovered by connecting it to another hard drive and transferring the files. At other times, the only way to save the data is surgery. Skilled professionals open the HDD in an dust free environment and remove the disks, a procedure that makes pet surgery seem inexpensive by comparison.
Files are lost in other ways. Viruses, accidental erasure, and file corruption all take their toll. Inexperienced users sometimes lose files by "saving" them in unfamiliar locations. There is an easy way to find such files. Check the Tutorials page of our website, UnderstandingComputers.ca to find out more.
Data files should be backed up at regular intervals. Burning your data files onto a CD is the most convenient and cost efficient way to make back-up copies of multiple files. CDs are durable and easy to transport. No special equipment or know-how is required to run a CD. CDs hold up to 700 Mbytes of data, roughly 250,000 copies of this article in text format, or more pleasant to think of, six hours of music in Mp3 format.
CD burners are no longer expensive. A brand name burner costs less than $100. Blank CDs cost less than one dollar each which is very little to pay for a lot of peace of mind. Ask anyone who ever lost a 30 page report to a disk failure or a virus what they would pay to get it back.
You won't need many CDs, because there is no point in backing up applications like Word Perfect or Netscape. Applications are integrated with Windows during installation. Backing up applications is like trying to transplant a tree by cutting it off above the roots and sticking the trunk back in the ground. You are allowed to burn back-up copies of most CDs for personal use, but be sure to check the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) first.
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