Backing up is definitely not as easy as it should be. One faithful reader wrote in to say that even though he backs up faithfully, he had to get a consultant in to set up e-mail backups on his Macintosh, and still only has the consultant’s word for it that the e-mail is being backed up.
So a tip to everyone regarding your e-mail: go into the advanced options section and check “leave mail on server for 3 days.” (The exact phrasing of this will differ from program to program and platform to platform, but both Outlook and Eudora will allow you to do it.) That will protect your most recent messages from accidental destruction. (If you get mail in any volume, leaving it on the server for more than 3 days will result in a full mailbox and new messages won’t get through.)
Speaking of mail, a reader wrote in after last week’s reminder to say that he uses his Gmail account to back up his files. If you want one of his 100 remaining Gmail invites, e-mail him at email@example.com. Others have used Yahoo! Groups for the same purpose.
A few months ago, the person who first suggested the Backup Reminder Newsletter to me called to ask for help setting up a new FireWire hard drive. He was tired of the slow speed of backup to his USB 1.1 drive, and none of the USB 2 cards he’d bought for his laptop had worked.
I set up the drive (a matter of taking it out of the box, plugging it in, and connecting it to the laptop’s FireWire port) and started DriveImage. Not long into the backup process, an error message popped up. The drive had completely disappeared as far as Windows was concerned.
I took the drive home to test on a different machine to try to figure out where the real problem lay. I hooked it up to a desktop computer’s FireWire port and tried reformatting it. This worked flawlessly. Later I attached the drive via USB to my own computer (this one doesn’t have FireWire, more’s the pity) and left it running for hours on end. The drive, or more probably the fan, made a slightly odd noise every so often, but it worked just fine otherwise.
So I took it back to my client to try to figure out what was wrong. Once again, we connected the drive. Once again, it disappeared after a short while. This time I remembered to look at the Event Log, which was showing me SBP2 Port errors. I was familiar with those from occasional problems with the FireWire port (or rather the controller for it) on my old laptop, but I’d never had a problem there that wasn’t solved by removing and replacing the connection.
I had asked my client whether he’d had any problems with his FireWire CD-RW/DVD drive, and he’d said no. I’d forgotten to ask when he’d last used it, though, and when we went to connect the CD drive to the laptop, it never showed up at all. Windows simply couldn’t tell it was there.
Conclusion: a perfectly good external hard drive and a dead FireWire port. As the USB port on that side of the computer is also unreliable, there may be wider damage. Cords plugged into laptops do tend to get tripped over and yanked on much more often than those connected to desktop machines, and even though this was a solid 6-pin FireWire port, something probably got jiggled loose.
This story has a mostly-happy ending, however. The main reason the client wanted the FireWire drive was that he didn’t want to lose the 2-3 hours required to make a backup with DriveImage. I helped him set up my favorite free backup tool for the PC, Karen’s Replicator, to back up his My Documents folder, his Quicken data, and his Outlook PST file automatically. The total time required for that was under 20 minutes. So now he can keep his files safe without losing a lot of time and only needs to make a new drive image when he installs new software or upgrades the operating system.
Next week I’ll tell you about why I have a 24 GB Ghost backup of a client’s PC on my external hard drive and what I had to go through to get it there.
Keep sending in the feedback and suggestions, and please—post comments and questions to the blog. It’s easy to do and you get free publicity that way. 😉