Guess what happened to me yesterday? My hard drive crashed.
I’ve never actually seen a Blue Screen of Death result in death; it’s always been a signal that something’s wrong–usually a virus or something else that’s messing around with your system. Rebooting and starting to run virus software, etc. sometimes does the trick. Or else, if it was like my computer at work, you back up, fight it for a week, then give up and have the OS wiped and you start again.
But not so yesterday. My Blue Screen of Death got into an endless loop of rebooting. When my husband sat down to look at the error codes, he gravely shook his head and told me my hard drive was hosed.
That’s when you realize that it might have been a while since you last backed up.
When I was still working, I carried my important stuff (meaning books and book covers) around on my USB key. Having had a USB go bad on me before (and of course it contained the only copy of a research paper I had), I was paranoid about that, so I regularly backed up the USB key on my computer at work, and occasionally also on my computer at home. When I left my job, I dumped all of those USB key backups into DropBox, so they’re safely in the ether.
But, since I’ve been home, I’ve not been good about making backups. Okay, I’ve not made any backups of anything since November. And while a critical failure of my hard drive would not result in the total and permanent loss of any of my books, it would mean the loss of some of my more recent work. (A virus on my USB key once made me lose some newer versions of one of my book, and although it wasn’t a catastrophic loss, it still irritated me to no end, because I couldn’t remember what all had been lost.)
So, take my cautionary tale to heart and backup your hard drive and/or USB key(s) TODAY.
If you can afford the monthly fees (which, admittedly, are not very high… unless you have no money, like me), use a cloud storage device like DropBox (they offer some free storage, so at least take advantage of that and back up just your books and artwork). This is the best solution, because even if your house burns down (God forbid), and your computer and CDs and USB keys are all wiped out, everything still exists on the web.
If you have Scrivener, it makes automatic backups (it only saves the last 5 backups, so it doesn’t consume an endless amount of your drive space). Go into settings and tell it to save your backups to another drive–such as a secondary or external hard drive, or to a USB key. That way, if your primary drive crashes, you have your latest save safe on another drive.
If you can’t use cloud storage, burn some CDs or DVDs and store them somewhere separate from your computer: at work, at your parents’ house, in a safe-deposit box. This way, if something happens to your entire house, you still have your backups.
I will close the story with a happy ending. My husband ran a repair on my hard drive, which allowed it to recover. I backed up everything on my spare drive and a USB key (I actually ran out of room on my spare hard drive; I have been backing up over the years, albeit not as frequently as is prudent), so I haven’t lost anything. Now we just have to order a new hard drive before this one dies its final death.