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Backup your Data

Imagine working relentlessly on a huge research project for weeks or months and then losing all of your hard work when the computer file is lost or damaged. It's irreplaceable...unless you've made a backup copy of your work, that is. So be smart and make backup copies of your important computer data, store them securely, and consider storing extra copies at another location.

What Files Should I Back Up?

Deciding what to back up is really up to you, but a good rule of thumb is to backup whatever can not easily be replaced. Here are some suggestions:

  • Email folders and address books.  If you want to keep your address book and email folders intact, you’ll need to back up the corresponding files.
    • If you’re using Outlook Express:   You'll track down your address book by using Find to search for a file with the extension WAB. You'll then track down your email folders by using Find to search for a folder called Mail. This folder contains all your email folders as well as links to any newsgroups that you subscribe to.
    • For most other programs (Eudora, Opera, Netscape, and MS Outlook): You may want to consider downloading Email Saver Xe 2.0 which regularly backs up your messages, address book, and personal settings.
  • Internet URLs (Bookmarks). In addition to your connection information, chances are that you want to save your web site shortcuts or URLs.
    • For Internet Explorer: You'll find the URLs in the C:\Documents and Settings\Your Username\Favorites folder. Simply back up the entire Favorites folder to an external storage device.
    • For Mozilla Firefox: Firefox versions 1.5 and up automatically creates backups of your bookmarks.  To locate the backup files, just use Find to search for a folder called “bookmarkbackups”—this folder is also in your Firefox profile directory. To replace lost bookmarks, just copy the backup file to your profile folder (one level up) and rename it “bookmarks.html.”
    • For Netscape: Use Find to locate a folder called “Bookmark.htm.” Then just copy the files to another storage area.
    • For other browsers or operating systems: Check with your documentation to find out where and how your URLs are stored. Then back them up.
  • Personal Projects. Don’t let your groundbreaking research project disappear—be sure to save your files throughout your work process and then back up these files regularly.
  • Digital Photographs. Keep those “Kodak moments” alive by backing up your photo files on an external storage device.
  • Purchased Software or Other Digital Media. If you have software that you purchased online and was delivered to you as a download, you should keep and back up the installers in case your hard drive crashes and you need to reinstall it. Other digital media such as movies or music that was purchased through an online service might also be a good idea, as you might not be able to re-download the content without purchasing it again. However, this type of content typically takes up large amounts of space, so if you have a lot of digital media or software, you may need a larger backup device.
  • Application Information.  If you're using Microsoft Office or some other application suite, you should also backup any templates, macros, or other customized items that you don't want to have to recreate. For example, suppose that you're using Word and you've created a lot of macros that help you to quickly and easily produce your documents. You'll find most of your macros stored in Word's templates. By default, macros are stored in the template. If you've created a custom template for your word processing needs, the template also probably has macros stored in it.

What Software Can I Use for Backups?

We recommend utilizing a backup utility on your personal computer. Directions for both Microsoft and Mac users are below. However, we also recommend using an external source as well in case of serious computer failure. 

MICROSOFT USERS: If you are using Windows 2000 or Windows XP, you can back up your data using Microsoft’s Windows Backup utility. A third party software called Second Copy is also useful for more advanced backup functions.

MAC USERS: You can download Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), now available for most Mac OS systems, use the .Mac Backup application, set up Time Machine to automatically backup when you plug in your external hard drive, or buy the network based solution called Time Capsule.

Where Should I Store My Backup Files?

While it’s generally up to you to back up your files, check with your local IT support specialists—they may have network provisions that make it easier to save your files. Depending on how much data you have to back up, you have several choices for external storage devices.  Compare your options in the chart below then choose what will work best for you.

Compare External Storage Devices (Removable Media)

*Check the UR Computer Store for availability of external storage devices for purchase*

Zip Disks Disk drive that uses removable disks.  Each disk has 100, 250, or 750 MB of storage Disk--$3-$8
-inexpensive (if you already have the drive)
-many public lab computers no longer have disk drives
CD-RW A CD onto which you can burn information. Each disc can hold up to 700 MB Not sold singly:
average 10 pack for $10
-most new computers come with CD-RW drive installed
-older CD players cannot read CD-RWs
-possible to accidentally write over data & lose files
DVD-RW A DVD onto which you can burn information. Each disc has gigabytes of storage. Not sold singly: average 10 pack for $15 -portable
-most new computers come with DVD-RW drive installed
-DVD burners double as CD burners offering more flexibility
-possible to accidentally write over data & lose files
USB Flash Drive Like a small hard drive (2-3 inches long) that plugs into your computer through a USB port. Has between 128 MB and 16 GB of storage! $15-$40
(higher storage capacities are more costly)
-compact size
-holds a large amount of data
-works on any computer
-due to their small size, they can be easily lost
Remote Backup Services
Important noteDo NOT store sensitive data online!
Lets you save files online. If you have Internet access, you can get your files from the online storage site whenever you need them Between $10 & $150 per month, depending on storage capacity and service -includes download  and backup software
-offers more storage space than most other options
-stores info outside of your home or office
-you might have to pay monthly fees for use (prices vary)
-if company’s servers fail, you may not be able to access files
-if the company is hacked, your info could be stolen
-if company goes out of business, you lose your back up resource


 Important note For sensitive data, the following are bad places for backing up your data:

  • Web Server - Even if there is no direct link to the backup file, a single configuration change or search engine could make your material accessible to the entire world.
  • File Transfer Protocol Site (FTP) - An FTP site allows users to transfer data from one computer to another over the Internet or through a network. You’ve probably used it before without even knowing it to download files from the Internet. FTP is vital for music downloading tools such as iTunes, as well as for online auctions and game enthusiasts. For the same reason as the web server, unless the files are intentionally available to the public, it is generally not a good idea to back up data to an FTP server unless you are certain who has access to it.
  • Third party backup sites - Particularly for information about other people, third party backup sites should not be used for University (or other sensitive) information.

Better locations: Although every backup location can be risky, the following are generally better for backing up sensitive data:

  • A file server set aside for this purpose - Across the University, there are several locations that are specifically intended to provide protected areas for backup purposes. To find out where these areas may be, please contact your local IT support professional. For a list of departments providing service to the University Community, please visit or you can call x5-2000.
  • Offline Media (CD, Flash Drive, etc) - Although care should be taken to protect backup media, the nature of this type of backup makes it less likely to be placed in a public forum than many other methods.

In general, it’s best to also encrypt sensitive data when it’s backed up. This helps protect the data even in the event that the backup media itself is unintentionally disclosed.

How to secure your removable media

Securing your removable media is extremely important because removable media can be easily stolen or damaged if it's not stored in a safe place. Below are some tips:

  • Lock up removable media containing confidential information when not in use.
  • Do not place them near magnets or other magnetic devices because they could destroy information.
  • Label them properly.
  • Be careful not to damage the media.
  • Do not dispose of removable media that contains important data without ensuring the destruction of the information. Remember that simple file deletion does not permanently erase files; in such cases, the information can still be restored. If the media contains sensitive information, reformat the media or physically break it.
  • Be sure to inventory the contents of your media on a regular basis and remove any files you no longer need.

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