If you’ve spent any time on the various data recovery websites you’ve no doubt come across lots of advice on what to do once you have a data loss situation. Our website also has a page on it http://www.memofixdatarecovery.com/protect-your-data.php. But I’ve always felt the best advice would be to avoid such an unpleasant experience in the 1st place. So after some interesting discussions with our data recovery technicians, we have created a list of useful tips and suggestions that may keep you from losing your data in the first place.
1. Start by choosing the safest storage device you can. Here are some specific recommendations that may help …
- Don’t buy the latest and greatest hard drive. Stick with a true and tested hard drive model that has been around a while. Not only will the bad models have been discontinued, but any bugs or known issues on seasoned models, will have been addressed. Search the web to discover problems other users may be having with a specific drive model. For example, don’t buy the first helium filled hard drives until time has tested them 1st.
- Don’t use an old hard drive. If your drive is older than 5 years consider replacing it. And no matter how old your drive is, if it starts acting up in any way, whether making a strange noise once in a while or whether read errors keep popping up, make a copy of your data and get rid of it, before it fails.
- Buy the lightest hard drive you can! Huh? Preferably one with a single disk. Sounds strange you say? Less mass requires less power = less heat & less stress combined with less parts = less crashes. When a hard drive requires 4 disks to keep up with the maximum capacity being offered by the competition, you know they’re likely stretching the design limitations.
- Consider using a laptop drive in your desktop. Laptop drives by design are meant to take more physical abuse and are designed to be light in weight, low in power needs and quiet in operation.
- If you’re using an SSD or Solid State Drive, ensure you regularly backup. SSD drives use extremely complicated and always proprietary methods of distributing the data across multiple memory chips. The point is, if your SSD becomes damaged, recovering your data may be very very very expensive … if it is even possible. I also wonder how an SSD will stand up to a power surge. If a hard drive gets a power surge the electronics get fried but the physically stored data remains intact. In an SSD, fried electronics could very well be your critical data disappearing into the cosmos.
- Use USB Flash Sticks only for transferring data from one computer to another. Do not use them as temporary or permanent storage devices. They are very susceptible to both physical damage and ESD damage. Every few months a student walks in the door with the sole copy of their thesis on an inaccessible USB flash drive.
2. Then maintain and protect your storage device or hard drive with these suggestions
- Connect your computer to a UPS or surge suppressor. This simple device can prevent electrical surge damage to your drive as well as preventing damage to any open files or the file system itself should your power source be interrupted.
- Ensure your system has adequate ventilation. One of the most common causes of drive failure is overheating, so make sure your computer’s fans work or even consider adding an additional one.
- Use an antivirus program and keep updated with the latest virus definitions.
- Be gentle! A hard drive is a delicate device. Be sure it has a chance to stop spinning before attempting to move your desktop or laptop computer. And be extremely careful not to knock over any external hard drives you may have attached. Every week we see damaged external drives where the external case was merely tipped over while it was running.
3. And finally protect your data just in case bad things happen!
- Backup the important stuff! Yeah, yeah … we all know this and yet few of us do it, me included. If it’s important to you, prove it and back it up.
- Backup to the Cloud. While it may still be slow and cost a few bucks, a cloud backup service of at least your most critical stuff is an excellent idea. And most of us need not worry about the prying eyes of the United States NSA.
- Don’t Backup Archival Data to USB Flash Sticks! The data is stored electronically and unless the device is re-charged periodically by plugging it into a powered computer, the data will start to leak away over time. If you put your data on a USB stick and throw it in a drawer for a year or two, odds are your data will be gone or seriously corrupted. Some authorities on the subject claim your data could be in jeopardy in as soon as 3 months if not re-charged.
- Defrag often! If the data is contiguous (all stored sequentially together) there are ways to rip off data files even if the drive’s file system or “index of file locations” is totally missing. Be sure to use you computers defragmentation utility on a regular basis.
- Don’t encrypt your data, unless absolutely necessary. Even if you never forget the password, a failing hard drive combined with encryption means the odds of getting your data back are slim. If you must use encryption, use it only on individual files that must be guarded at no cost.
While it’s virtually impossible to be 100% diligent in safeguarding our data at all times, hopefully a few of these tips will lower the chances of you losing your data. But if all else fails and you find yourself in a data loss predicament, please give us a call.
(this blog post while slightly modified, was originally published on January 25th, 2010)