Back up [and recover] your files!

Hello Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Blessings to you as you finish this semester. We have had a number of people contacting us about recovering lost files in the past couple weeks. We wanted to share some tips about how to prevent the loss of these important files.

Strategies for keeping your data safe.

Save files to an alternate location

As a Malone student, you have access to a couple places to back up your files. The first place is your “H:” or personal network “Home” drive. When you are working in a computer lab on campus, you can save directly to the H drive. Your H drive is backed up nightly and will follow you to whatever Malone computer you sign into on campus. It is a great option especially if you use the computer labs or classroom computers a lot. You can also access your H drive from your personal computer– on or off campus– using the “Remote Access” service. Instructions on how to use Remote access can be found in FAQ140 and FAQ40.

A secondary option is to upload your file to your Google drive account. You can upload files without having to convert them to Google format. Google provides an overview of using this feature if you are interested in using it.  Each student is allocated 30GB of space for this purpose.

Set up a cloud-based backup of your files or of your entire computer

There are a few options for doing this. There are free and paid versions of this type of service.

“Magic Folder” Services

There are several out there. Our favorites are dropbox.com and box.com but there are many others. There are advantages and disadvantages to these services. In these sorts of services, you typically choose a folder on your computer that will be “synchronized” to the service. Be careful to review and accept the company’s privacy and copyright/data-ownership policies before proceeding with a particular service. Many have free accounts available and you can purchase additional space as a yearly subscription.

Magic folder services are handy because the backup is done without you having to intervene. As long as you save the file to the synchronized folder on your computer, the service will automatically copy the file to “the cloud” when you have an Internet connection. When you are away from your computer, you can then retrieve the file by visiting the service’s web site and signing in with your account.

Backup your entire machine

Internet Cloud-based options are often subscription based services, the likes of Carbonite or Mozy. These will back up your entire hard drive rather than some select folders. This is very handy if you have a large music collection or want to make sure that you have EVERYTHING. Remember that the first time you back up to one of these services it will take a LOOONG time. Subsequent backups are quick because it only tracks the files that have changed since the last time you backed up.

You can also opt for an external hard drive back up. Apple users can back their computers up using a service called “Time Machine.” For Windows-based computers, most external hard drive manufacturers will have utilities that can be downloaded or used for backing up your machine.

Looking for a reliable external hard drive? We have had very good luck with Western Digital mybooks. For added safety of your data, use an external dual-drive that copies data to both disks. This is called a mirrored RAID in geek speak. Shop around for the best price and beware of reconditioned drives as they normally do not carry a long warranty.

Email a copy of your files to yourself

One of the easiest ways to make sure you have a copy of that important paper is to email a copy of the file to yourself. Just be careful to keep track of which version is the latest version– you don’t want to turn in an older draft as the final paper.

Tip: When you download a copy of the file from email to edit it, remember to “Save File to Desktop” rather than opening and editing it directly. If you don’t save the file to your desktop or to some other known location on your computer first, you might not be able to find it again. This one tip can save you hours of heartache 🙂

Recovering lost files

Inevitably, your computer hardware will be lost, stolen, or will suffer some catastrophic failure (otherwise we wouldn’t have bothered writing about backing your files up). When this happens, it is time to recover your data. The amount of time and pain this will cause is directly related to how much attention you paid to backing up your files and having a plan.

From your backup service

If you have a backup service, you can usually sign into their service web site and browse and retrieve your missing files. Backup services will often keep multiple versions of your files too, so if your file was overwritten or corrupted somehow, you can look at the document history and try earlier copies of the file.

From temp files on your computer

Sometimes when an original file cannot be found, there will be pieces of, or older versions, of the file still on your computer. You can look for temporary files that have similar names to the original. In Microsoft Word, these files will sometimes have a tilde (~) in front of the file (this changes from version to version, you can do an Internet search to find more strategies for recovering a file from temporary files.)

From a paper copy

If you don’t have a backup but you happen to have a paper copy of a draft, you can save some work. Short of typing your paper back into the computer manually, you can scan the draft using a copier on campus and then use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to translate the picture of text (the scanned copy) into text that can be edited in a word processor. Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the closest public copier (library has one and so does Media Services in the lower level of the library) and scan-to-email your paper draft. If you need help with this, ask the nearest librarian or come the IT Help Desk located near the Media Services copier. You can scan using the “text/line art” settings, no need for color here.
  2. Retrieve the file from your email. You now need to “OCR” the scan. You can use Adobe Acrobat Pro — this is installed on the computer lab computers– using the “Recognize Text” option or you can upload and convert the document into Google docs. In the upload options, specify “Convert text from PDF and image files to Google documents” option.
  3. Once the conversion is complete, you can copy and paste the text into your preferred word processor.

With the help of the IT Help Desk!

If you are unsure how to proceed, we will do our best to assist you. Please stop by the IT Help Desk “garage door” in the lower level of the library during business hours.

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