Friday, October 31, 2008

Back Up!

First things first, the winners of the AFRAID free book contest were posted on my forum, in the AFRAID CONTEST heading,

Now, in the spirit of Halloween, I want to talk about the scariest thing that can happen to writers:

Losing our writing.

Data corruption, hard drive failure, viruses, operating systems failing to boot, power outages, and computer crashes can all cause our words to disappear forever.

My computer recently crashed, big time. It has crashed before (thank you Bill Gates) but I've always managed to recover data. But this was the mother of all crashes, my hard drive became corrupted, and I lost everything.

Luckily, because I was expecting this to happen eventually, I backed all of my writing up, so I didn't lose anything other than a few emails.

So here are my tips for all writers, for both before and after a crash, so they may never lose data to system instability.


You will lose data one day. It is inevitable. But if you plan for the eventuality, your data loss will be minor. Here's what all writers need to do.

1. Buy a UPS Back Up. There are many makes and models (I use an APC), but they start at only $40 and all writers should have one for their desktop. These are basically glorified power strips, that not only protect against power surges that could fry your computer, but also have a battery in them so they guard against power outages. Even if your electricity goes out while you're working on something, you'll still have time to save data.

2. This is a free program that saves 2GB of your data off site. You set it to automatically save at a predetermined time of day, and even if your house burns down, you can get your data back.

3. MS Word. The latest version of this, and pretty much all word processing software, has Autosave and Autorecover functions. This means that your work is saved automatically while you're writing it, in a separate spot from where it is normally saved. These shadow copiues can often be recovered even when your original copies are lost.

4. External HDD. Back up to an external hard drive, in case your primary drive fails. If you don't have one, look into partitioning your hard drive. Your operating system is probably installed on your C: drive. If C: becomes corrupted, your data on it--even back up data--could be lost. But if you create a, E: or F: partition, and back up to that, your data should be safe even if C: becomes unstable. But having an entirely separate drive is a better way to go.

5. Hard Copies. Keep printed copies of all your work. Printing work in progress also helps witht he editing process, as going at a hard copy with a red pen is still the preferable way for editors to work.

6. Pen Drives, CDs, and Email. Have a pen drive on your keychain, and to back up your writing there in case someone breaks into your house and steals your computer and extrenal hard drive. Burn CDs and DVDs of all your important files. Email your strories to yourself, or to a family member,

7. Backup Now. Vista, for all its flaws, does have an easy, automatic way to back up files. The Backup Now feature enables users to automatically save any of their date once every 24 hours. At Drive>Properties>Tools you'll find this feature. Back up to a different partition, or even better, and external HDD.

8. Why pay for Norton Antivirus when Avast is less buggy, offers just as much protection, and is free? And while you're protecting your computer from trojans, viri, and worms, also protect against spyware and adware by going to and downloading the free programs Spybot and AdAware.


If you followed any of the above suggestions, recovering your writing should be a snap. But if you were lackadaisical in your safety protocol, there are still ways to hopefully recover your lost words.

1. Read Iris. I love this OCR program. If you have a copy of your writing printed out, you can use this and a scanner, and it translates the typed words into a text file. No more retyping.

2. System Restore. If you can't boot your computer, you might be able to get things started again using this function. Tap F8 repeatedly when you start your computer, and rather than booting it will give you the option of starting in Safe Mode, or doing a System Restore to an earlier time (or loading Last Known Good Configuration.) Windows does this automatically, so before you run to the Geek Squad, try this out.

3. Startup Repair. If Vista doesn't start, it tries to fix itself by loading Startup Repair. If this won't load, there are repair disks available for free online (of if you have a hard copy of Vista you can use the install disk.) If this can't repair your computer, it will allow you to run the command prompt, and you can run a check disk which will try to fix itself. First type in C: (or whatever drive is buggy), then "chkdsk /r" without the quotes.

4. Active Boot Disk. This is free. You burn it onto a CD, and it functions as an operating system from your CD drive. This means you can try to repair your HDD, or even remove files from it, even if you can't launch Windows.

5. Spybot and AdAware. If your system caught something bad, you can clean it using these free aforementioned programs.

If you've never listened to another thing I've ever said, trust me on this: when it comes to losing your writing, and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use as many of these as you can. And if you have any ways I missed, put them in the comments to share with others.