Sound Advice: Regular computer backups can bring peace of mind

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 18, 2014 - 1:24 PM
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A program called Time Machine automatically handles backups for Mac users.

Q: I have a five-year-old Mac Pro and use Picasa to organize and print my photographs. Recently, the Picasa icon disappeared from my desktop, and I couldn’t find it. I spoke to a friend who is tech-savvy, and he told me how to drag the Picasa icon from the Applications folder into the Dock. I now have a Picasa icon, but when I click on it, I get an error message saying the program has crashed or stopped working.

I’m extremely worried. It’s bad enough that this problem is keeping me from enjoying my favorite hobby in my recent retirement. Now, I’m worried that I’ve lost all my photographs, as well. There are tens of thousands of pictures from a period of more than 10 years.

What can I do?

A: First, don’t worry. I did some research on your problem and found many stories similar to yours.

If you upgrade your Mac Pro to a newer version of Mac OS X (Snow Leopard or Mavericks) and download and install the latest version of Picasa, you’ll be up and running again in no time. The new version of Picasa will update with all of your previous folders, and you can continue on as before.

This brings me to the second part of my answer.

A network administrator for a large company once told me, “There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who back up their computers, and those who wish they had.” If you had backups, you might have had frustration about your system, but there wouldn’t have been anxiety over whether all your pictures were gone.

It’s just plain good practice, and it’s so easy to do these days. There really isn’t any excuse for not backing up your system.

Your Mac has a program called Time Machine that will automatically do backups for you. Look at the size of your Mac’s hard drive, and get an external drive that’s several times bigger. For a five year-old Mac Pro, a 2 terabyte drive would be a good size.

Connect the hard drive to your computer, and launch Time Machine. It will reformat the hard drive and start doing backups for you automatically. If you ever need to restore your computer to an earlier point in time, it will do so easily.

Windows users will find a wide variety of hard drives for sale with bundled backup software. I prefer those made by Western Digital and Toshiba.

Another reader recently asked about a long-term storage system for photographs from his digital SLR. He was looking for something safer than a hard drive (which can become corrupted) and could contain a lot of photographs.

Blu-ray burners and blank media have come down dramatically in price and are an excellent way to store photographs. A blank, single-layer Blu-ray disc can hold 25 gigabytes of data. Other World Computing (www.macsales.com) sells a portable external Blu-ray burner for $89, or $125 with the Roxio Toast 11 disc-burning software. A 25-count spindle of blank 25 GB Blu-ray Discs is $19.

 

Send questions to Don Lindich at donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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