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Fact Sheet 7: File security

Backing up and protecting your files is something you are almost certain not to think about until it's too late - when your hard disc has crashed, when your kids have wiped your vital letters folder or when you've done something really, really silly. If you are in this situation, and you have no backups, all may not be lost. The very first thing to do - even before turning your machine back on - is to buy a copy of Norton Disc Doctor. It costs about 125, but may be able to recover all the files you think you've lost. If a file has simply been deleted don't forget to check the recycle bin under Windows 95 and on your Macintosh, or use the 'undelete' facility in Windows 3.11 and DOS.


Prevention is better than cure, of course, so you should think about making sure you never have to worry. Tape backup devices like Iomega's Ditto are cheap - about 80, with tapes costing about 15 each - and easy to use. It just plugs into your parallel (printer) or USB socket, the software is installed from a CD or floppies and you can back up all your files (up to 10 gigabytes worth) with just one click of your mouse button. CD writers are around 100 and you can make a copy of all your data files which can be read by just about any computer around.

If you don't want to spend this much money, you could back up your important data to floppy discs using the built-in backup system in DOS, Windows and the Apple Macintosh systems - all have basic free backup utilities, although you may get tired swapping discs if you try backing up an entire two gigabyte disc in one go.

The secret here is to only back up your data - keep the original software discs so you can re-install it, and just use the backup programme to keep all the stuff you type in yourself safe on a floppy or 10.

Don't, whatever you do, think that you can back things up once and forget it. You should back up your data at least every week, and do it every day if you use your machine a lot. Just work out how much hassle it would be to re-create a weeks worth of letters, invoices and other information if you only backed up every Friday afternoon and your computer crashed on Friday lunchtime.

Tape drives allow you the luxury of automating the whole process - you can set a timer to complete the whole process over lunch or in the middle of the night when the machine isn't being used. Tapes also mean you can back up your entire configuration, so that if you did have to start from scratch you wouldn't have to re-install all your software again.