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Should I trust my computer?

There are many machines in our lives that we trust. Traffic signals regulate traffic to prevent accidents, medical equipment helps doctors protect our health and voting machines tabulate our support for our favorite political candidates (although we sometimes take the results with a grain of salt). It’s a fact: machines are present in nearly all aspects of our lives. We are so used to computers that we trust them without giving it much thought. We can now include our personal computers in the list of machines we trust and depend upon on a daily basis. We may not trust them with our lives or safety but we do trust them with something almost as valuable: our data.

In my experience in tech support, the one thing that can cause the most angst among customers is the unexpected loss of data from their computer. This can happen due to hardware failure, mistakes made by technicians, users or just simple and unavoidable file corruption. Over the last few years ITS has noticed a steadily increasing number of hard drive failures. We feel these failures are not due to defective materials or workmanship so much as the pressure for manufacturers to make drives larger and faster while keeping costs low.

When a computer fails we think of all the time we spent that is lost and the difficulties we will have in getting back to where we were. Most of all, we think about how much we wish we could get that data back. Like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” we cry out for another chance to appreciate our data before it’s all gone.

In most cases, machines we depend on daily have built-in backup systems to prevent catastrophic failure. Computers, however, do not come with such systems so we as users need to take an active interest in protecting our data. Here are some simple ways you can protect your data and, if the unexpected happens, recover you data with minimum disruptions.

  • Back up files to a CD – This option is built in to the Windows operating system. To back up your data using this option, your computer will need to have a CD-RW drive or “CD burner”. You will also need several blank CDs.
  • Back up files to an External Drive – Using an external hard drive or jump drive is a simple and effective way to back up files. Plug the external drive into the computer. It should then be accessible under Hard Disk Drives in My Computer (Click Start>My Computer). Simply drag and drop files to the external drive to back them up. External hard drives can be purchased from several retailers, including Dell Online.
  • eDocs – ITS provides students of the University with an online storage space for your academic-related data. Files in your eDocs space are stored securely on ITS servers. Store your important school papers, spreadsheets, class notes, etc. online and access them from any Internet-enabled computer. (Note: ITS does not recommend storing non academic use music or video files on your eDocs space)
  • Backup Utility for Windows – This option also comes built in to the Windows operating system. The utility creates a single backup file of all of your data, which you can store on your hard drive, a USB Key, an external hard drive, or burn to a CD or DVD. You can also use the same utility to restore your data from the backup file, should your data become corrupted or lost.
  • Third Party Backup Software – There are several third party software programs available that help you back up the data on your computer. Visit PC Magazine’s Web site to read reviews of third party backup software. (NOTE: Third Party software is not officially supported by ITS. Please use at own risk)

Contact the Technology Support Center at 206-6000 or techsupport@uis.edu if you need assistance or have any questions.

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    Toll Free: (877) 847-0443
    Email: techsupport@uis.edu
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