Article ID : S1Q0340 / Last Modified : 06/02/2009

Why it's important to keep a backup of your files

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This document explains the importance of maintaining a safety copy of your personal files stored on hard drives, optical discs (CDs, MDs, DVDs, BDs) or on portable media (Floppy discs, flash memory, Memory Sticks, magnetic tapes, etc).

What is a safety copy or back-up?

A safety copy is the copy made of data from one storage device onto another, so that said data may be restored in case the original data are lost. This process may also include accidental erasures or the corruption of data.

Why to I need back-ups?

People store a lot of important information on their electronic equipment. These equipment, just as any other product may present defects. When the defect happens on a disk, on storage media or in the electrical circuitry which accesses the information that have been stored on said media, the information that have been recorded may become compromised, or else, they may become corrupted or inaccessible, getting lost for ever. Almost nobody is aware of the importance of having a back-up until a disaster strikes and the information get lost.

In case my computer presents a defect, will the factory be able to retrieve my data?

Not always. Under certain circumstances, not even the factory is able to retrieve lost information. This is why it is recommended that regular back-up copies be made of the files. This way, lost information may be retrieved, or at least part of them in case something happens with the original files. It is also important to store these copies at different physical venues. For instance, it would make no sense to make a back-up of a file stored in the computer on a directory inside of the same hard drive. In case this drive fails, both the original file as the copy may get lost.

Will I then only loose my files in case a piece of the device goes bad?

Not always. Software updating failures, errors during installation or a virus attack could cause the device to become unstable and any recorded files to become corrupted. In these cases it may also be necessary to reinstall the firmware or the device's operating system, which are procedures that will erase the device's internal memory. In other situations, portable media may present failures and they may need to be reformatted, that is, the file system may need to be rebuilt, which would completely erase all the files that had been recorded. In brief, files with no back-ups are destined to get lost.

Important tips regarding back-up:

  • Make a list of any important information that may not be easily replaced. This list will help determine which files are to be backed-up, and it will also serve as reference in case it becomes necessary to retrieve the files.
  • In order to make a file back-up, it would be necessary to know where the original files have been stored. On laptops, for instance, most programs save their files in the My Documents folder (in the case of the Microsoft® Windows® XP operating system) and in the Documents folder in the case of the Microsoft Vista® operating system.
  • For safety's sake, make the back-up of the files on some external media instead of copying them on one alternate internal unit. For instance, when you store important information on your computer, save a copy on a pendrive. When important information are on the pendrive, save a copy on the computer. There are many programs that will help you perform the back-up procedure. Some of them, even, are available in the operating system itself. Searching about the subject on Internet may help you choose a good program.
  • Back-ups should be made regularly (either on a weekly or on a monthly basis).