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5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Data Organized and Protected

This little guide will help you in maintaining a clean and easy to use file system that is protected for many years to come.

Written by Robert Blanda of CaddisArt, Inc. on 2020-08-13

Most of you already know what a hard drive is, while others often confuse it with the actual computer tower or desktop. it’s actually a much smaller component inside the unit. For the unenlightened, it’s basically a small component (magnetic or not). There are basically three types of hard drives, but we’ll divulge into that later.
 

Three Hard drive types

Modern desktop computers typically have two hard drives; one solid state drive – smaller, faster and more expensive; and one data drive – mechanical and with a larger capacity. Let’s set aside the solid state drive (SSD) for now and talk about your data on the larger mechanical drive. For you Windows users, it’s usually “drive D.”

 

Let’s Practice Good Storage and Backup Habits

Let’s take a typical scenario of a home computer to better understand what we’re working with:
  1. A Windows 10 Desktop Computer
  2. Drive C: is your boot / SSD drive – typically 250GB, and Drive D is your “data” drive (typically 2TB).
  3. You use the computer for Microsoft Office, Browsing the Internet, Checking your email and possibly playing a game or two.
  4. You’re PC is connected to your home router or cable modem using an Ethernet Cable.
 
Take these handy little tips (in order) to organize, protect and backup your data. Even if a few of these items don’t apply to you, you may find them useful in the future.
 

Good File Structure Practice will help you find and backup your files easier.

1. File Locations, Naming Directories, and File Naming Conventions

I know this may be a rough start, but there’s an important lesson to be learned about knowing where your files are and how they are named. In a corporate setting, your files are typically stored on a centralized file server. But at home, it’s a different story. Microsoft has tried to simplify this process by making “Libraries” such as Documents, Videos, Photos and more. Unfortunately, most PC’s are storing these files on the C drive under your user account (i.e., C:\Users\John\). This is an immediate red flag. That smaller C drive is really intended to host your operating system and boot your system faster. It’s also prone to filling up quickly which could cripple your operating system from operating properly.
 
Let’s start a new habit and begin storing your personal files on drive D.  Make a ‘John’ directory on your data drive D.  Inside that folder, create sub-directories that reflect how you store data, either by documents, projects, clients what have you. This is completely your realm, so modify as you see fit.
 
For instance: 
  • D:\John
    • Taxes
      • 2017
      • 2018
      • 2019
      • 2020
    • Documents
      • Letters
      • Receipts
      • Spreadsheets
    • Photos
      • 2020
        • BBQatJohns
        • Sherrys50thBirthday
        • BabyJason-1year
    • Videos
      • Home Videos
        • 2019
        • 2020
      • Funny Stuff
      • Other
    • Other
      • Misc Files
  • When naming your files and folders (directories) it’s important to remember that you cannot always rely on the creation date of the files stored in the file itself. Many times when you copy files from one location to another, the date will be changed to the actual copy date. Instead, name the files in such a way that if the date is altered, you can still tell when it was created simply by looking at the name. Also, try to avoid spaces in a file name if you can. Instead, use hyphens where needed.
     
    For example: 
    • If you have a photo named John Birthday Candles.jpg, you should adopt a habit of naming the file in this fashion:
      • 2020-08-13-JohnBirthdayCandles-01.jpg
        This accomplishes several things:
        • It will allow you to sort the file by date even if the date of the file is altered by a file copy. It’s also easily identified if you’re not searching by date.
        • It allows for several versions of John blowing out the candles by adding a number or version of the file (e.g. -01, -02, etc.)
        • We’ve eliminated the spaces in the title of the photograph to reduce the overall title length. Searches will not know the difference.

 

 

A typical External Hard Drive can be purchased for under $100.

 

2. Let’s go grab a portable USB external hard drive from the store. 

External hard drives are really cheap these days. Most drives can be purchased for under a dollar per Gigabyte. We’ve even seen 2TB Hard Drives for under $60. In either case, be sure to match the size of your D drive or larger. At those prices, you may as well look at a 4TB or 8TB. Western Digital and Seagate make an external 8TB drive for about $150 on Amazon. Don’t pay much attention to speed or performance, since this is going to be used for backup purposes anyway.
 
An important thing to note: Keep it external and portable. If it’s very important data (such as John blowing out his candles!) it should be stored in a fire safe or at your neighbors house when you’re not using it. A fire or flood can be devastating to hard drives, so keep that in mind. Be ready to pick it up and take it with you if you’re evacuating for any reason.
 
 

3. Let’s backup that D drive easily and without interaction

Free File Sync may look complicated, but it’s actually quite easy to use

There are several ways to back up your files, but let’s make it so you can easily set it and forget it:

  • Download an application called “FreeFileSync” – it’s a very easy program to use and you can automate the process. It’s free and you can download it here.
  • Set up the application to backup your D drive using the “update” option. This will only update newer files as you move into your subsequent backups, making it faster while putting less strain on your hard drives. There are a few easy tutorials here.
  • Save that backup as a Batch file and make Windows Run it on a schedule while your computer is on. If you always leave it on, pick a time while you’re sleeping or typically not working. You can learn about batch scheduling here.
  • That’s it! It’s worry free and you no longer need to worry about it.
 
 

4. Now let’s talk about that pesky C drive. 

Like I mentioned before, that C drive should be dedicated to storing your programs, operating system and the like. It’s important to create an ‘image’ of your C drive. This backup procedure for your C drive will be different because it contains special files and instructions to boot the system and maintain your operating environment that you painstakingly took the time to set up. Face it, your computer is yours and you’ve personalized it. Let’s get it back in case it fails.
 

Macrium Reflect is an easy and free way to image your computer’s boot drive

So what is a Hard Drive Image? 

An image of a hard drive is an exact snapshot of how the drive is structured. Copying the files from this drive to another will not (and I can’t stress this enough) allow you to restore your system without an image. There’s an easy (and yet free) way to create an exact copy of the drives boot record, partitions and files needed to restore your system in the event of a catastrophic failure.
  • Download the free application “Macrium Reflect” – Although this tool does more than just drive imaging, it’s a great way to schedule your backups unattended and without interaction from you. You can get it here. Download the “Home Use” version, not the business version. Do not sign up for the free trial, since you don’t need the features that they are trying to sell you.
  • You will then create a Windows Drive image and set a schedule. Your destination files should be sent to your USB external hard drive. You can learn the step by step here.
  • Remember, this may be a little daunting at first, but once you do it, it’s done. You shouldn’t have to do it again. Ever.

 

5. Got it all running? Good – Let’s Verify it. 

This step is easy. Once you’ve got your first few backups completed, let’s browse over to your external hard drive and look at the directories and dates of files. Peek around and look to see if your latest files ended up on the drive. If so, you’re golden. If not, you need to figure out which backup isn’t running and why. Remember, if your computer falls asleep, your backups aren’t going to run at all. There are ways around this, but the easiest way is to make sure it’s awake during the time your backups are running.
 
In addition, you can have the system backup while you’re working. Both of these applications can be set to work in the background. If your computer is relatively new, you probably won’t even notice a slow-down in performance.  You can also watch for any errors that may occur since you’re at the console.
 
In conclusion, I hope this will help you in maintaining a clean and easy to use file system that is protected for many years to come. As is our mantra at CaddisArt, Inc., Advise is always free. We love talking to our existing and new colleagues.
 
 
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CaddisArt, Inc. is a digital media company with ties to cinematic filmmaking and unparalleled web design & development. The company also has a host of other services such as digital signage, print and other graphic design services, web hosting and VPS development. CaddisArt continues to grow with companies such as Amazon®, HazTek Safety Management and is a proud sponsor of the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber®.