I have observed that many people take technology for granted. They expect it to simply work when they need it and they become shocked when something goes wrong. One of the worst things that can happen to anyone is to lose data (precious memories in the form of photos or videos, notes/plans, school or business work, client lists, accounting information, contacts, etc). Just like I encourage corporations to do fireproofing versus firefighting, the same goes for everyone in their personal everyday lives. Here is a very basic list to help prevent data loss (which can also occur due to data corruption).

  • Backups! (manual and automated, backups and archives)
  • Use updated anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware software
  • Have email filtering in place and don’t click on unknown attachments
  • Avoid moving your laptop when in use, helps prevent accidents
  • Protect your equipment against power surges
  • Practice good working habits, save often, backup often
  • Keep systems shaded, dry, free of dust, and well-ventilated
  • Do not install unnecessary programs and toolbars
  • Safeguard your hardware physically
  • Practice disk maintenance where applicable
  • Pre-empt failure, fireproof! Stop being the firefighter.
49 Comments
  1. Redundancy can be very important to in the event of data loss. Of course, creating redundancy is often pre-empted by catastrophic data loss before people “wise up” to the fact that they need to invest in protection.

    Remote replication can be an excellent way to move your data offsite, as well as ensure that there is a secondary location for recovery should the original be lost or destroyed.

  2. Taking good care of the hardware is important, too, I agree. Backing up data is so necessary, but at the same time, we should do everything we can to keep computers running well. In daily life it’s so easy to overlook the basics, such as keeping computers a safe difference from food and drink. A bad spill can be a disaster that doesn’t need to happen.

    Likewise, we shouldn’t neglect security and anti-theft measures especially when traveling with laptops. The risk of losing a laptop or having it stolen, as unpleasant as it is to contemplate, is something we should prepare for.

  3. I think people take for granted the benefit of having an external hard drive. As soon as it became a more affordable technology, I did away with my CD ROM and thumb drive backups and centralized everything I could into my 500 GB external hard drive. Sure, I don’t have many things from long long ago (stored on DVDs that I’ve misplaced), but at least from this point forward I can comfortably upgrade computers without losing all my important data. The only downside I’ve come across is that my external hard drive in particular is only formatted for Macs. I’m not sure if there are external hard drives that can write between NTFS and FAT32 these days, but this will be something I have to consider for future purchases.

    • FAT32 is read and writable from both Mac and Windows. NTFS is read and writable by Windows, and only readable on Mac (by default; there are applications to resolve this). Mac uses HFS by default, this is read and writable by Mac and inaccessible by Windows.

      There’s a company called Paragon that sells software that aids in the process in either direction – if this is something that is causing you grief, I recommend you checking it out. Otherwise, simply format your external as FAT32 (assuming you place your data elsewhere first to prevent loss).

  4. I am surprised still by the number of people who know about preventing data loss but aren’t making any necessary safeguards. Our 1 TB hard drive was about to fail, it’s already showing as a “Bad” hard drive and my sister wasn’t really doing anything about it. Before it failed and before have to use Recuva, I managed to buy another hard drive and transfer all the important files into it.

    Anyway, that took quite a long time and I swear, when I have the budget, I’m going to buy another hard drive to back up on periodically to avoid all these hassles.

    • That’s not a bad idea at all. It comes down to whether or not you are comfortable losing the data you haven’t backed up. Often, not everything has to be backed up, but you can be toying with some important work files or files that you need to build off of when disaster strikes. Just making sure you have everything you can’t live without safely tucked away provides a comfort it’s hard to get any other way.

      • True. Actually, my most important files are backed up through cloud. The only reason why I want a 1 TB external storage is for easy access of the larger files (not necessarily as important as the ones I backed up online) that I have. It’s good to mix and match data loss prevention, depending on what one has.

  5. Simple and easy to use tips! I agree it’s better to prevent ‘fire’ rather than ‘fight’ it when something goes wrong. I think people definitely do take technology for granted, its evident when people say “I love computers, but its a pain when they stop working” It shows how dependent we are on technology for everyday things,

  6. Great tips! Another thing I like to do is to sandbox. Sandboxing allows you to experiment with unknown programs and prevents them from actually effecting your computer.

    • Yes, I agree. That’s a preventive measure that people may be overlooking. There is Sandboxie, for instance, which is free. It’s also good for Web browsing to protect your computer from malware and other dangers. It also gives you some privacy when surfing as an added advantage.

      Over the years, it’s been invaluable. As far as I know, it has not saved me from what otherwise would have been a computer catastrophe, but to have it is very reassuring.

  7. This makes a lot of sense, it’s easier to prepare and do small steps over time then deal with something huge later on down the line. Personally I find a lot of these tips common sense but I think it’s something that should definitely be taught in computer classes. It can’t hurt to stress how important it is to err on the side of caution especially with important documents.

  8. A tiny bit of megabytes worth a lot more. I once lost almost all of my photos, videos and all backups due to windows system malfunction which require me to format whole operating system. Since then I am over protective over data and I follow most of all those steps by david. And now I keep backup of important files in cloud which prevent any data loss plus accessible via web around any corner of the world.

  9. I’ve heard people complain about how it can be too much work to maintain a computer. I should just go give them links to David’s website which emphasises preventive measures on data loss. I mean, it wouldn’t be sooo much work if people keep on securing their files from time to time.

    • I agree. Preventive measures should be considered part of the routine responsibilities of owning a computer. People take care of their cars and make sure they are properly maintained; it should be just the same for computers.

      And if we have files that we believe are worth keeping we have to secure them. After all, with our important papers and photos, we are careful about how we store them; filing them securely as needed, and perhaps for the most important ones locking them away in a fireproof box or a safety deposit box.

      It should be the same way for data. To lose it needlessly can be heartbreaking.

  10. A few months ago I lost all the information on my hard drive for an error in the data architecture. I’m pretty careful with sensitive files on my computer and make backups a daily basis, but that is never enough.

    We must be extremely careful and prevent that from becoming a traumatic computing experience. I think this is one of the most common fears among users. Thanks for sharing these valuable advice I’m going to consider it.

    • Not to mention the fact that recovery of data can be a very expensive process if it is beyond your average consumer recovery software. Taking it to data forensics can easily cost in the hundreds of dollars per hour to pull out relevant data. That’s given that the drive is even in a condition that can be recovered from.

      Better to just spend the cash up front to do proper backups with redundancy.

  11. #13 – Do not drink near your system.

    A few years ago I was drinking a cup of tea while the laptop was sitting on my lap. The cup magically slipped out of my hand and liquid spilled over the entire keyboard.

    The only thing that saved me was the fact that I was using an offsite backup service (Carbonite), or else you would still hear me wailing today. My entire business existed on that laptop.

    A lot of my friends use an external hard drive at home, which is good if you don’t have anything else. But I’ve had one of those fail on me too. Nowadays I have two different offsite backup services. This is overkill for most people. But I do a lot of writing for different clients, so I can’t afford to lose anything. As we say in my house, an ounce of prevention is worth of pound of hair falling out.

    • Amen to that. I have cats who like jumping around the keyboard and if we left our drinks near it, I’m sure I would be kicking them off the house by now.

      Anyway, if you really need to have a drink near you while doing work, you can just use a container you can seal. I drink my water in bottles or special container that doesn’t spill any even if they’re tipped over.

      • This really shouldn’t be an issue with a desktop computer. At worst you would ruin your keyboard, that is unless your tower is right under your desk where you’re sitting.

        Your laptop on the other hand…

        • Yup, the tower is right under the desk. D: I’m stingy so I don’t really want to lose even my cheap keyboard. I don’t have the same problem with my laptop but that’s only because the place where I put my drink on isn’t in the same elevation (lower). 😀

  12. I move my laptop around all the time even while I’m using it. I think it caused my hard disk to misalign because now my laptop is in the shop and my hard drive is dead. I have lost plenty of important files because my external drive is already full and haven’t been able to back up as I usually do. I haven’t had the funds to buy a new external drive yet. Thank you for this. It is “painful” to lose family pictures and videos.

    • Oh! Sorry. This recently happened to my kid brother. He has this old laptop he uses which houses his stuffs but the laptop is on the weak side and must have had hard disk defect more than 10 times already. Although, I was able to get the comp fixed back with no glitches all those times.

      However, I warned him the last time not to ever move the laptop around otherwise the HDD could shake again, and we could never get it to work due to internal damages but he didn’t yield to my advice.

      Now, it’s almost a week and the HDD it’s not been working, even after I’ve tried my best to keep it working. Perhaps, it’s never going to work again which would result to loss of data.

      I think it’s imperative to move laptops lesser especially when they are working to avoid silly accidents.

      • This is a very important point. I wasn’t aware of just how delicate laptops are until I had a close call. My laptop crashed as I was moving it, but fortunately I was able to reboot it and there were no lingering hardware issues in the aftermath.

        It’s so easy to get carried away with how portable a laptop is and to think that because its exterior looks durable that the HDD is equally durable. But it is delicate and must be handled with care.

    • Even if you don’t move it around, there are still other dangers such us other people/kids/pets moving around it. If someone trips over a wire or something, it can pull the laptop and make it crash to the ground.

      • Very good point. We have to make sure the entire area is secure and safe for both the computers and those who move around them, whether human or animal. It’s so important to look after the wires, cables and power strips to make sure they are secure and out of the way so that no one has a chance to trip over them. Cable clutter, besides being a nuisance, can also lead to accidents and we don’t want human, animal or computer injury!

        Sometimes, to make doubly sure, after I have shut the laptop off, I disconnect it from all the cables, especially if I’m going to be away for an extended period of time and others are in the vicinity.

        • Yeah, heh. I worry more about the kittens, they might get electrocuted or just get squished. Although I do like the thought of physically ensuring your data is safe also keeps you, your family and your pets from getting into accidents.

  13. Nice tips. In my opinion, even with good maintenance of the hardware and the software of the device back up should also be considered because of the other cases you mentioned other than physical and internal damages.

    My own back-up style is simple and not that elaborate; I make back-ups of important data and put on my external hard drive and then my other computer. I do this for just incase I lost two at a time.

  14. Oh! Sorry. This recently happened to my kid brother. He has this old laptop he uses which houses his stuffs but the laptop is on the weak side and must have had hard disk defect more than 10 times already. Although, I was able to get the comp fixed back with no glitches all those times.

    However, I warned him the last time not to ever move the laptop around otherwise the HDD could shake again, and we could never get it to work due to internal damages but he didn’t yield to my advice.

    Now, it’s almost a week and the HDD it’s not been working, even after I’ve tried my best to keep it working. Perhaps, it’s never going to work again which would result to loss of data.

    I think it’s imperative to move laptops lesser especially when they are working to avoid silly accidents.

  15. I am surprised still by the number of people who know about preventing data loss but aren’t making any necessary safeguards. Our 1 TB hard drive was about to fail, it’s already showing as a “Bad” hard drive and my sister wasn’t really doing anything about it. Before it failed and before have to use Recuva, I managed to buy another hard drive and transfer all the important files into it.

    Anyway, that took quite a long time and I swear, when I have the budget, I’m going to buy another hard drive to back up on periodically to avoid all these hassles.

  16. Taking good care of the hardware is important, too, I agree. Backing up data is so necessary, but at the same time, we should do everything we can to keep computers running well. In daily life it’s so easy to overlook the basics, such as keeping computers a safe difference from food and drink. A bad spill can be a disaster that doesn’t need to happen.

    Likewise, we shouldn’t neglect security and anti-theft measures especially when traveling with laptops. The risk of losing a laptop or having it stolen, as unpleasant as it is to contemplate, is something we should prepare for.

  17. All good points. Doing backups is the best one, to me. I use a usb 3.0 Western Digital drive, and never fill up the 1TB capacity.

    • I don’t think that’s really a blanket statement that can be made. Your storage usage will vary wildly depending on your needs. Some people will only need a hundred GB or so to perform sufficient backups, meanwhile other people who regularly work with a lot of data may need hundreds and hundreds.

      • What do you suggest are good backup options depending on the amount you want to backup? For me, I use an external hard drive to store my files because our internet connection slows down considerably if I choose to store my larger files on cloud storage.

  18. This common sense approach is vital to the prevention of data loss! I’ve been slow in adopting fireproofing versus firefighting approaches myself. I have lost so many files over the years due to poor planning or catastrophic computer failure. Once I lost an entire epic novel. Sure, it probably would never have seen print, but now it definitely won’t!

  19. Thank you for the tips. As a certified personal trainer, I believe in preventative medicine. Apply preventative medicine here. Take care of your machines and they will last you their lifetime. The thing is that the too bars are free. They are good programs for when you are going to need them to run video. So hackers hack them. They send viruses, malware and spyware to slow down your system so that they can see everything in there. Not safe. I recommend when you get a new computer, iPad, or tablet to immediately contact the manufacturer. Have them send you the recovery disks for your system, within the first week. Then do a system backup. Install virus protection software. Don’t wait by also down loading an anti-malware program. You might have to run that weekly.
    Also at the beginning of the week, I delete the history out of my browser’s cache files. Some of these flies are infected. If you can afford it, comp[anies like Best Buy, offer a virus protection program for $200 for the whole year, the Geek Squad will clean viruses and malware out of your machines and software. With that, you can’t go wrong.

    • I agree. These are great tips and pointers. You just never know what you are encountering with a new computer. Years ago, I got a desktop computer and the first time I turned it on, it malfunctioned. I mean, it did not even boot up! Fortunately I had an in-home repair plan. But I was quite surprised to find out that the motherboard had to be replaced. It was all covered under warranty, but still, just the idea. At least it had happened before I even had a chance to save a single file. But it just goes to show, that early precautions are necessary as it’s not just older hardware that fails.

  20. Some of your points are great, i now use 2 different backup services, cloud , and a physical, 64gb usb drive, just to be sure.

  21. Whenever I think about this subject the first thought that comes into my head is ‘common sense?’. Then I remember that so many people are really computer illiterate and to them it just is not common sense. If I tried to look from the outside it just seems logical that if you have something stored somewhere that is not physical (e.g a picture) then it should be fairly obvious that this should be stored in an alternative location in case of hardware failure. This is probably me just being a normal IT snob though!

    In your list I don’t think you put enough emphasis on the BACKUP side to things. There are so many options these days such as external hard-drives, emails, virtual drives and cloud storage. There is always the chance that something unexpected can happen to your machine or data (even if you do take every precaution), so this should be a key aspect for anyone that uses a computer.

    • I think the term “common sense” is a misnomer as it’s not really common at all. I don’t think you’re being an IT snob too, just a concerned IT person. >.> Someone else mentioned redundancy, which is something I do with backups, more so for the more important files.

      • Okay maybe it’s not. I do feel that it is one of those things that people should get a basic knowledge of though. The tools and software available are easy to use once you have a basic understanding, and the benefits they give are great.

    • The majority of people give no consideration to data loss prevention. That’s just how it goes. People think that the IT department handles all of these issues while it is actually imperative for the individual users to take preventative measures. It just is not common sense yet. As we all become more technologically inclined over time then, yes, it will eventually become common sense.

      • I can understand about people depending on the IT department but the lazy attitude about data prevention is also prevalent in people who do not have regular IT support. It’s so weird because I know people who are aware of scary stories about data loss and still, they do not really do anything to protect their data unless you prod them with a stick.

  22. The importance of backing up files cannot be really overstated. Even if today’s technologies have made it possible to secure data easily, it’s still important to make backups of your data should the unexpected happen. Better yet, just assume that your data could be wiped any time and just follow a good backup schedule. It pays to be vigilant, especially when talking about one’s data.

  23. Oh man, do I save often! My girlfriend says that I am probably saving my excels every 2 minutes! It’s just the way I am. There can never be too many saves. I also make sure I save everything important from my PC so that in case something happens I am safe. I save data on DVD’s, USB flash drives, on other PC’s and wherever else I can. I always make sure I saved the same data in at least 3-4 places so that if something happens to anyone of them, I have a backup for that.

  24. These are great tips on taking a preventative measure for the health of your system. I always run mus anti-virus and malware programs often – maybe it is because I am a little paranoid when it come to these things. And the feeling you get when you locate a infected file and delete it is quite refreshing.

  25. Thanks for this. I am a solid believer of taking care of your data by backing up and doing all those stuff that to prevent data loss. I once lost 1TB’s worth of project files, applications and other important data when my drive crashed.

  26. Also maintenance is probably one gem that is overlooked when it comes to data. Usually we just go “Hey make a backup” or something but if you actually take good care of your drives and always check on it hardware and software wise then it helps prolong the life of the hardware and possibly prevent unexpected data loss.

  27. I try to take care of my computer as best as I can but you never know when there will be an error. I’ve lost all of my info far too many times! I now back up regularly with an external hard drive. I have a lot of work and photo files I’d hate to lose.

  28. I find it kinda amazing that some people in this day and age don’t back up files. It seems like some users don’t know basic things like saving work pretty often and backing up important files to different locations. Also, what’s worse is that some people see “backing up” as putting the file on an external hard drive and then deleting it on their computer. It’s not a “back up” if you only have one copy of the file.

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