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Question about external hard drives


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#1 jb1468

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 05:56 AM

I have some PC knowledge, but far from extensive. I am looking to buy an external hard drive for a friend who has even less knowledge than I have, therefore any suggestions need to be user friendly.

 

She has just had her first baby and wishes to use the external hard drive as a device to store all her photos and videos only (currently on Windows PC). It will not be used to back up/store any other items. I use Dropbox myself, however cloud services are not an option for her due to cost. Over the next 10-20 years she would use an estimated 500GB of space for photos/videos.

 

I have never had/used an external drive and this is where I have a few questions. I would have no problems showing her how to drag/copy and paste etc from the files containing the photos etc to the external drive, but I would prefer to have an option where each time the drive was connected to the PC it could grab any new photos/videos and move them to the drive, without it having to be done manually.

 

Is this at all possible or easy to do, taking into consideration the lack of PC knowledge the person has? (I can of course show if easy enough) Do external hard drives either on their own or coupled with software have the ability to do this. It seems a pain to have to add manually each new photo/video. If you are familiar with cloud services you will know that they do this automatically once you have linked the folders to the service you want it to take from.

 

Hope this makes sense and thanks for your time

James



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#2 rp88

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 12:27 PM

I can see the CRITICAL need for backups but I would advise against an external hard-drive for the backups. An external harddrive Can provide a backup in some cases but as they are often left plugged into the computers they back-up they would not be much good in the cases of fire,theft,power surges or malware. The best option is strength through redundancy, using as many TOTALLY SEPARATE devices as posible. Your main tools for this, mine certainly are, are the USB flash drive, the CD-RW disc and an online backup system (like google drive). The idea is that each backup is separate and that they are in different forms, these different forms provide safety because, for example: a usb drive will survive impacts better than a cd-rw but a cd-rw will do better should there be a CME(coronal mass ejection, often referred to (not entirely correctly) as a solar flare) or EMP. Below I outline a series of steps for several different types of backup and a plan for how to combine them, it is cheap but requires some effort to set up. The actions you/your friend will need to perform are technically simple. Please note in the following instructions "you" and "your" refers to the friend you are talking about, or any other person with files of any value they want to backup.

 

A. Local backup to USB. this is the easiest from of backup, though not the cheapest, it provides safety against hard-drive failure, power surges and viruses (that is viruses acquired after the backup was performed) but does not defend against fire, CME, EMP, or flooding. It also provides some protection from theft as USB drives are not valuable enough to interest a (insert expletive adjective of your choice here and make it foul) thief who already has his hands full with laptops and televisons . here is how to do it:

1)plug the USB drive into your computer, SanDisk is a reliable manufacturer but there are many others

2)open the folder containing the precious photos/videos and select them all (or select the folder) right click and choose "send to-->removable disc F" "removable disc F might have a different name, it could be a "local disk" and the letter could be anything from F onwards. It might not be called "local disc" or "removable disc" at all instead using a name like "SanDisk Cruzer".

3)wait as the files are copied, this may take some minutes

4) go to  the "my computer" folder and double click on the drive, when it opens check that all the files you wanted to backup have copied onto it

5) close the file browser window, find the icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and "safely remove" the USB stick.

 That gives you one backup but you should make more, put this USB stick in a safe somewhere in your house. make another and put it elsewhere in your house, as far from the safe as possible.

 

Remote USB backup, all the advantages of a local USB  backup but with added protection from fire,flood, local natural disaster.

This time Before You send files to the USB use a program called 7zip to put the files into archives, this program gives the option to encrypt the files when you create a new archive. You should encrypt them for reasons i will explain. Use a password which you will remember but which is hard to guess, also avoid dictionary words. With the encrypted archive files on the computer copy it to another flash drive just like you did for the local USB backups. Once this usb with the encrypted 7z archive on it(the archive contains all the images/videos) has been made give a copy to a close friend/relative to look after(perhaps the friend who asked for help here for you). The reason for encrypting is not because you don't trust the friend/relative but because they might accidentally run it (if anything on it is at all secret) or because it might be stolen from their house. That is ofcourse a reason to encrypt the ones in your house as well but you probably want one in your house that isn't encrypted just incase you forget the password. When giving a usb drive to a friend to look after it choose a friend who lives as far from you as possible, this will help protect from natural disasters and such as long as they are localized ones. You may also consider setting up an agreement between you and your trusted friends/relatives  to store flash drives for each other for safe keeping, that way you all benefit from having backups spread over many locations. You could give a USB drive to friend 1 to store, and then you owe friend one the favour back (you store one of friend 1's USB drives at your house). Businesses pay a fortune for this kind of remote backing up but with some friends who live along way apart you can all do it for free, it is important that all friends involved know not to plug a flash drive they are storing into their PC, just incase they have a virus or something. Another thing to do is store precious files on a usb stick you always carry (next to your keys, in your wallet, etc)

 

CD-rw backup, this is similar to backing up to USB, right click the files and "send to"  "CD RW drive" (usually E). but when you have done the "send to" you need to write the files to the disk also which is easy but i won't go into it here. Discs will protect against EMP,CME,theft, viruses (viruses caught after the backup was done, not before), power surges, hard-drive failure. CDs (or dvds for that matter) are more vulnerable to impact than USB sticks and have a lower capacity, you might want to only use them for backups of your most precious files, that "once in a lifetime perfect pic" rather than every single one you take. Files can be put in encrypted 7z archives before giving to friends to store. as a CD is an optical medium (hard drives are magnetic, USB drives use "flash memory") it can survive electromagnetic hazards better than other types of storage, it ought to survive EMP or CME. 

 

Online backup, the golden rule of online backup is "don't use a backup service that is a program on your machine, use one that is only accessible by login to a website via your browser". When an online backup service runs from a program on your hardrive it updates changes to your files in near real time, this means that if you accidentally deleted a file the one n the online backup would be deleted and if you were infected with malware the online backup would get infected. If you use something like google drive IN THE BROWSER (or dropbox or skydrive or amazon's cloud, or mediafire)  then you are much safer as the backup is totally separate from your computer, if you got an infection and continued backing up to google drive VIA THE BROWSER only files newer than the infection would be compromised. If you have a google account you already have 15 gigabytes of free online storage, if you don't you can set one up very quickly. If google's reputation for seeing people's data scares you then encrypt before backing up to google, if not don't bother encrypting. make sure not to download "drive fro your computer" just upload files via the red button in the left hand corner of the screen. It may take some hours for large amounts of data. It is also sensible to backup online with a few separate backup companies, if one goes bust or has a server crash you still have data safely in the other and on USB drives and CD discs.

 

 

The rule of thumb is data in less than three places does not exist because it is so easily lost", with the advice given here you can see that having each precious file stored

1. on your hardrive

2. on a USB in your safe

3. on a USB elsewhere in your house, encrypt this one

4. on a usb in your wallet, encrypt this one

5. on a usb at a friend's house, perhaps one at the house of several different friends, this one should be encrypted

6. on a cd-rw  or dvd-rw in your safe

7. on a cd-rw or dvd-rw at a friends house, encrypted again

8. in your gmail account

9. in another online backup service

 

should make it very hard to lose. If your house burns down, it is online and at a friends house. If every online backup service crashed, it is on CDs and USBs at your house and your friends. If a CME or EMP wipes out electronic devices over a large proportion of the earth, you still have the photos/videos on cd-rw for when power and computers are restored. But this is not the whole sotry. there is more to do to make sure your backups stay safe.

 

Continuing to backup over time: what you have just done is make enough back ups to ensure your current data is safe but in time you will have more valuable photos/videos you want to protect. DON'T TOUCH THE OLD BACKUPS, MAKE NEW ONES. When you have put files safely on a USB or CD backup, on a DVD or online leave them as backups. The idea is that they exist as well as the ones on your hardrive, in case of emergency, not as replacements for the ones on your machine.

 

1.Every few months, or weeks do the full procedure of backing up with any new files you have produced in that time.

2.Every few days do a quick backup to a USB or to google drive (for these quick daily backups you can keep using the USB for more backups at later dates, it would be wasteful to use a whole usb for just 1 photo.). 

3. When an online account becomes full of files, don't delete them and put others in their place, make a new account.

4. With online accounts ensure you log into each one atleast once a month, some providers of backup services might delete accounts that have not been logged into for a month.

5. Never erase or write over any backups, for more recent stuff buy a new USB stick/CD-rw disc/DVD-rw disc

6. Don't even open most of the backups, if your computer gets a virus it could infect anything plugged into it, by not plugging in any old backups you don't risk infecting them with anything that has got onto your computer since they were backed up. From time to time open one of the backup USB drives, CD discs, open the same one each time, this helps you to know if the usb stick is starting to "die of old age". if it is make sure all the files on it are copied to another backup medium, keep the old and dying one anyway. 

 

 

What if your hard drive dies? hard-drives die, at some point. none last for ever, this is why backups are needed. When your computer dies what should you do. The first thing is to get a new computer, ensure it is virus free. Plug the oldest usb drive/CD into it first  and work your way up, you shouldn't need to plug in every drive you ever used, some should still be left isolated (the drives at your friends house were supposed to contain exactly the same files as the one's of equal age in your safe). Plugging in the oldest first, copying their data to your hard drive, then moving to later drives and discs ensures that IF there were any very sneaky hidden infections on the later backups they cannot harm the older backups. Only after finishing the process of copying across (and unplugging the final most recent backup) should you take the new PC online/ start installing programs on it. 

 

The procedures  have just described are what i do for files which some might say were LESS precious to me than those photos/videos will be to you, if you do anything less than that to protect your files you are being somewhat reckless. remember, and this might sound like a line from an advertising campaign but it is utterly true: USB sticks cost £8,  CD-RW s cost 50p, memories are priceless.

 

 

 


Edited by rp88, 03 September 2014 - 02:12 PM.

Back on this site, for a while anyway, been so busy the last year.

My systems:2 laptops, intel i3 processors, windows 8.1 installed on the hard-drive and linux mint 17.3 MATE installed to USB

#3 jb1468

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 01:49 PM

No need to retype, I understand it clearly and thanks a lot for the detailed response. Appreciate the points made. The external drive would only be connected as and when a transfer of the photos/videos was required, say once a month. I have spoke to her about the potential for the drive to fail of course and to consider a 2nd back up such as a flash drive.

 

I was hoping that some software exists to allow for automatic transfer of new files as oppose to manual transfer, but that software would need to recognise whats on the PC and external drive and only move the ones over that it does not have. Don't know if such software exists


Edited by jb1468, 03 September 2014 - 01:52 PM.


#4 rp88

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 02:23 PM

i had retyped the post before i saw your latest response, you will see my comments about reconnecting old backups and the potential dangers of it (a newly infected computer could compromise an old backup). As for software so you only have to backup recent stuff, have your friend make a new folder after each time she backs up, this way she can quickly find files newer than the last backup and she can easily know what is already backed up.  Although it looks a lot everything in my post can be done by someone without much skill with computers, just teach her the procedure a few times until it is automatic (make a habit of it, no-one forgets how to do their habits). It is also cheap, CD-RW's are 7.5 giabytes (10 discs) for £10 sometimes better value than that. USB sticks are £8 for 16Gigabytes, or sometimes better. Google drive storage is free, as are many other services. the 7z program not only allows for encryption of files but also compression, it too is free.

i hope i have helped


Back on this site, for a while anyway, been so busy the last year.

My systems:2 laptops, intel i3 processors, windows 8.1 installed on the hard-drive and linux mint 17.3 MATE installed to USB




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