The Norman Transcript


December 13, 2013

If your computer dies, will all your files vanish forever?

NORMAN — I hate being the computer guy who has to tell someone that all their computer files, including the Excel spreadsheets of their family finances and the pictures of Grandma at Thanksgiving are gone. Poof, forever, vanished into thin air, all of them, and they are never coming back.

I’ve been that guy way too much, lately, and it’s a real drag. I’ve been meeting numerous customers who seem to think that computers are magical, indestructible devices that will last forever. Captured by this thinking, they have never backed up their computer files, ever.

Instead, they come to me, depressed after their computer’s hard drive crashes and burns and they have lost every email, letter and digital photo they’ve ever had. They’ve heard somewhere that computer guys like me are miracle workers, techno Elmer Gantry’s, and hope I can lay hands on their hard drive and raise it from the dead. Well, here’s the deal, folks: Sometimes I can raise hard drives from the dead and sometimes I can’t. That’s just the way it is.

Here, too, is the dirty truth that computer and hard drive manufacturers don’t like to talk about — your hard drive will fail. Yes, your hard drive will crash and burn and everything on it will vanish. It’s not a matter of “if” your hard drive will fail, it’s a matter of “when.” Hard drives are imperfect devices made by imperfect people and they do not last forever. I’ve seen them last for ten-plus years and I’ve seen them fail after ten days. I’ve seen them bad, brand new and right out of the box.

The cheapest way to backup your files is to burn them onto CDs or DVDs. Next on the “cheap” ladder are flash drives. USB sticks, flash drives, pen drives, jump drives, thumb drives, they’re all different names for those rectangle-shaped thingies that plug into a USB port. Copy your files onto a flash drive and, bingo, your files are backed up.

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