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Computer Tips and Tricks
Backups & Security
Last Updated: 04/24/2016

Backing Up Your Computer Keeping Track of Passwords Computer Theft
Internet Security    

Backing Up Your Computer

Essential... you should have AT LEAST two backup hard drives aboard with you.  And preferably a third, which you leave in a safe place ashore.

There are 3 types of backups:

1.  File backups
2.  Compressed File Backups
3.  Disk Image Backups

File backups are just that... dragging your files to another hard drive for safe keeping.  This is simple and easy, and very easy to use the files on the hard drive to restore if you've lost files.  The downside is remembering to back up all the right stuff, and NOT having to re-copy things you've already copied that haven't changed (see No Hands Backup).

Compressed File Backups are backup programs that you can configure to make a backup "set" of all your files in a particular location.  These are automatically compressed (to save space) and saved.  The downside is you MUST have the backup program running on the computer you want to restore to.  If not, the backup is worthless.  Most backup programs are this type.

Disk Image Backups... If your hard drive fails, or you want to upgrade to a larger disk drive on the SAME COMPUTER, an Image Backup works best.  It copies EVERYTHING (including Windows Keys, etc) from the old drive and can restore it to the new drive.  This is useful if you are restoring onto the SAME (or very similar computer), but messier if you don't have the same computer.

The type of backup I most often use is the File Backup.  I have an old program called No Hands Backup which essentially does a file copy of whatever you want to the backup drive/folder. 

- It is smart enough to do a file compare and NOT copy what hasn't changed. 

- You can create 'backup sets' of what you want it to backup.  These are grouped (on my computer) by how often things change, and what backup drive I want to put it on.  As an example, my backup sets are as follows

The program is smart enough to know whether the backup drive is a removable drive, and therefore whether the drive letter might change.  You can then chose to use the drive letter, or use the disk ID (unique for each disk) or use a disk 'name'.  I do a combination of all 3 in my backups.  I now have a thumbdrive used to move (sync) Airmail between computers, 2 Movie Drives, and 2 'Backup Drives'.  (plus the one I take/send home every year).

There are a bunch of other features, including automatic timed backups, and the ability to save the backup log to someplace on the internet (so you can check on automatic backup status).  I don't use these, but they are there if you need them.

I've been using the program since about 2001.  It runs on Window XP and 7.   Costs only about $15, and is free to try.

The best part is, take any backup drive, plug it into ANY computer (Windows, Mac and Unix, if you can read Windows-formatted hard drives) and all your files are there.

Keep Track of Passwords

For security, you should be using fairly complicated and unique passwords for all your websites.  Don't use your BANKING password for signing up for Forums!!

As my passwords grew beyond my ability to remember them, I started using a text file on my computer desktop named '1.txt'.  It was OK, fast, but not very secure.  And as my list grew, it got a bit unweildy.

So I switched to SplashData's password manager.  (Originally called SplashID, but now SplashSafe).  I selected SplashID originally because it had Palm support.  Since they have kept up with small device evolution, I have stuck with them.  I now have SplashID on my computer, my iPad, and my Android phone.

I really like SplashSafe, because not only does it do a good job of helping me manage my passwords, it also has a database-like structure that lets me manage lots of other related information, by Category and Type.

For example, my categories end up being entities (me, my husband, my real estate rental business, another family member who's computers I manage, etc).  The types are things like 'Credit Cards, Bank Accounts, Frequent Flyer Accounts, Email Accounts, Web Logins, Identity, Insurance, Prescriptions, Wifi Logins...).  With each type, you can format the basic data page slightly differently.  Examples:

I now have 347 passwords I manage securely with this software.  And, it syncs the same database from my computer to a companion app on my iPad (also supports Mac and Android).

There are other password managers.  A few are free/cheaper.  But this is the one I use.

Related Article On the Security of Password Managers (PDF)