I’ve been in the computer servicing business for 18 years and I am regularly fixing, repairing or recovering other peoples computers to get them back up and running again. However last month I found out, much to my relief, how much good planning can ease the pain of any computer failure.
The true nightmare scenario is when your computer dies and all of your irreplaceable files, documents, pictures, videos are not recoverable. Luckily this is not the norm. When you have computer issues it is more often than not software related, so a problem with the windows install, or another program that’s preventing your computer from starting up. Otherwise, it could be a failed piece of hardware in your computer, other than the hard drive, like the power supply unit, motherboard etc. In all of the above cases, you can usually get your files back from your hard drive relatively easily.
But when it is the hard drive itself that has failed, that’s when the trouble starts and the tears begin to flow. In some instances using special software or tools, it can still possible to recover these files but generally, it is a lengthy and costly process. Damaged hard drives take longer to respond and it is not uncommon for a recovery process to take a week or more, and when the files are recovered then they don’t necessarily sit inside a folder or have their original names. So whilst this is better than getting nothing back there are things that you can do, now, before the problem hits you, that means you can get everything back, exactly as it was before.
Luckily , because I’ve seen the repercussions of when people and businesses don’t back up properly, I had already set up a couple of things that meant that when two of my hard drives died within days of each other last month I was able to get everything back and working relatively quickly and easily with no loss of files.
My first savior was Microsoft’s OneDrive. OneDrive comes free with any Microsoft email or account, but only a particularly unuseful 5GB of file space. For it to be worthwhile then you need to have an annual subscription to Office 365, because when you do you get 1TB of free space on their OneDrive server. This 1TB is actually more space than most people get in their computers and is therefore ample for securing all of your documents and pictures, as well as possibly your music library and home movie footage. So when one of my hard drives failed, I simply replaced the drive with a new one and logged the OneDrive desktop application on my Windows 10 PC back into my Microsoft account. Hey Presto almost immediately I could see the files starting to load back up on this new drive, and a day later I had everything back in My Documents, Pictures, Desktop, Music and Video Camera / GoPro footage.
Now not only is OneDrive perfect for what I experienced but it is great for accessing those very same files that exist on your home or business computer on other devices like an iPad, Tablet, Phone or other Laptop / PC / Mac. This is actually what I use my OneDrive for 99% of the time when I’m out and about. Also just because it is made by Microsoft that doesn’t mean it only works on Windows, your same Microsoft account which has the full office suite (Word, Excel, Access, Outlook etc) included also works on your Apple Mac (OSX). So whilst most people will buy Office 365 for these mentioned programs, it is actually the OneDrive space that is the gift that keeps giving that is hidden inside this annually subscription.
Unfortunately, Microsoft still hasn’t found a way to get this working nicely on your computer without you needing to tweak a few things first. By default, the OneDrive is a separate folder on your computer, so to protect your files you’d need to make sure you save them inside this OneDrive folder rather than in your usual storage place on your computer. But with a little tweak / know how you can change things so that your computer puts all your files in here automatically.
My second savior of the day was another program I have a monthly subscription to called Backblaze. Backblaze is an automated backup solution backing up all of your files into their cloud storage systems. Unlike OneDrive, Backblaze backs up all of your computer files, not just the files you remembered to put in a specific folder. So because I also build websites and keep my files for the sites I’ve built outside of my normal personal file structure, then Backblaze had got all of these saved nicely and automatically, ready for me to start the recovery process once I had my new drive in place. There are no storage limits with Backblaze either, so I don’t have to worry about if I have too many files or videos on there, or exceeding any limits. This is a setup and forget solution that has got me out of trouble numerous times over the years, none more so than in the last month.
The only downside to the Backblaze process was that the file recovery takes a little longer than it does with OneDrive. The files are not instantly available, you have to put in a request for the files that you want back and then wait for an email to say they are ready. Once this is done then you have to download the file that contains all your files. This whole process took a few days, but I was more than happy because, at the end of the day, I managed to get all of my files back.
So if you have Office 365 already then makesure you activate your OneDrive and have your computer set up to include the files that are most important to you. If you don’t have it already then you should certainly consider it, I have found that initially Officeworks do this the cheapest (cheaper than microsoft themselves!) and if you have kids or anyone else in your family I’d go for the 6 user licence for the extra $6.
Backblaze can be purchased on a monthly subscription and their info is here: Backblaze Link
If you need any help setting up or configuring any of the above then please don’t hesitate to get in touch