Electronic media are unreliable. Disks
can get physically damaged. Disks can get lost. Disks can stop
working for no reason. Computers can crash and wipe out your data.
That is why it is important to make backups of everything you
Sometimes data from damaged disks can be recovered with special programs, such as Norton Utilities, but sometimes it can't. If your files are important, back them up.
When I taught high school, at least once a semester a teacher would come to me and say, "HELP!!!! All my grades are on this disk, and the computer won't read it!" At that point, it is not necessary to give a long speech about backups; simply asking the teacher if he/she made a backup is sufficient. Sometimes, I was able to recover the lost files, and sometimes I wasn't. Don't put yourself in a position where you might lose your work.
When you create something on the computer, ask yourself, "how would I feel if I lost this project?" Sometimes the answer is that you wouldn't care because you could recreate it in 5 minutes. If, however, you would feel horrible, it is time to make a backup copy. The more important the computer files, the more important it is to make backups.
For very important things, you probably want to have more than one backup in more than one location. I keep backups of all my files in my office and at home. If my office burns down, I would still have all my files in the backup copies at home. Some files are that important.
Backing Up a Hard Drive
For this class, you probably will not be backing up an entire hard drive. If you own your own computer, you should back up your hard drive. You can buy programs (such as DataSaver, Retrospect, etc.). These programs will allow you to copy the contents of your hard drive to floppy disks, removable cartridges (such as Zip disks), or tape drives. If you own a computer, you should do this once a month or more, depending upon how often you create new and important things on your computer.
Backing Up a Single File to the Hard Drive
To a back up a single file on the PC,
you simply drag that file from one disk to another. When you drag
a file from one place to another place on the same disk, Windows
moves the file. When you drag a file from one place to some place
on another disk, Windows copies the file so the file ends up in
The easiest way to copy a single file that is on a floppy disk, is to copy it to the hard drive. The easiest place to drag files is to the Desktop. This will copy (or move) the file to your hard drive. From there, you can move to a specific folder.
Sometimes, on a PC, it is difficult to
drag a file from one place to another because you can not see
both the file and the destination at the same time. To copy a
single file, you can find the file and click once on it to highlight
it. When it is highlighted, select Copy from the Edit menu. Now
find the destination (open whatever drives or folders you need
to find the folder in which you want to copy the file). Once the
folder in which you want to copy the file is open, select Paste
from the Edit menu, and the file will be copied.
Backing Up a Single File from Floppy to Floppy via the Hard Drive
Windows is not very good at copying a
single file from one floppy to another. Sometimes the easiest
way to copy a single file from one floppy to another is to first
copy the file to the hard drive (by following the above directions),
eject the floppy disk, insert the second floppy disk, and drag
the file from the hard drive to the second floppy disk. If you
do this, you will probably want to delete the copy of the file
from the hard drive (by dragging the file to the Recycle Bin).
Backing Up Two or More Files
If you have two or more files that you
want to back up, you can follow the above procedures twice (once
for each file), but that would be a waste of time. Instead, what
you can do is locate both of the files and copy them simultaneously.
To do this, follow the instructions above, making sure you can
see both files. When you are ready to drag one file to its destination,
just click on the file so it is highlighted. Now, hold down the
Control key and click on the other file. Both files should now
be highlighted. You can continue to hold down the Control key
and click on additional files. When all the files you want to
copy are highlighted, let go of the shift key. Now, when you drag
any single file to copy it to a new location, all the highlighted
files will be copied as well.
Backing Up an Entire Floppy Disk
Windows makes backing up an entire floppy disk very easy. Simply find floppy disk icon (probably by double-clicking on the MyComputer icon in the upper left corner of the desktop), right click (click the right mouse button) on it, and choose Copy Disk from the flyout menu. You will have to choose a source ("copy from") and a destination ("copy to"), both of which will be 3 1/2 Floppy (A:). When you click the Start button, your computer will whiz and whir for a minute or two while it reads the source disk. When it is done, it will ask you to put in another disk (the destination disk). Take out the first disk and put in a second disk. Warning: the destination disk will be completely erased, so be sure you didn't have anything on that disk that you wanted to save. When the process is done, both disks will have the identical files on them.
Almost everything in this handout applies equally to floppy disks and Zip Disks. The main difference is in copying an entire Zip disk. When you right click on the Zip Disk icon, you can choose the "Copy Disk" option (as above), or you can choose the "Copy Machine" option. Copy Machine is a tool from the makers of the Zip Drive that makes it easy to copy entire Zip disks. If you choose to use "Copy Disk," you will be copying from and to "Removable Disk."
Conclusion: BACKUPS BACKUPS BACKUPS
Backing up your files takes a little getting used to, but the consequences of not backing up your files can be devastating. Once you've lost an important document, you will always backup your files, but it is better never to lose that important document in the first place. Always make backups of all your important work.
This page was prepared by Dr. David M. Marcovitz.
Last Updated: January 29, 1999