After one too many bad experiences of waking up to files mysteriously disappearing, I now know better than to throw caution to the wind. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up working on the computer and have gone back to pen and paper; this just means that I take the utmost care to prevent history from repeating itself by religiously backing up my data.
Although the lost data was recovered after I sent the infected drive to a local data recovery company, prevention is better than cure. Sticking by a backup system will give you a peace of mind especially if working on important documents. Here are a few ways you can prevent data loss:
• Keep your documents on multiple drives
A quick and simple drag-and-drop could save you a whole lot of frustration later on. Regularly backup files on another drive or an external hard drive so that if you should have to reformat the infected drive, you can easily retrieve it from a different location.

• Burn your files onto CDs or even back up your entire drive on a DVD
While it might not be the most fool proof plan, it is a cost-efficient method.

• Send the file to yourself through email
This is one method I use a lot especially when working on my laptop on the go or working between the office and home computers. The good thing about this method is that I can retrieve the files from my email account anywhere with Internet access. However, do note the attachment limit of 10MB or so for most free email accounts.

• Check for viruses in incoming attachments
What can be a boon and also be a bane. Have a programme to check for viruses hidden in incoming attachments. While saving attachments, make sure it doesn’t overwrite a file of the same file name and clearly label different versions.

• Utilise the features in the software
Use the track changes function, paste stuff on the clipboard, make copies of the file and save different versions rather than making changes on a single file. This way, you’ll have a copy of the original file and the changes that were made along the way.

• Choose a data backup and antivirus software programme that works best for you
This might be a third party programme or one that is included in your operating system.
An antivirus would nip any potential corruption in the bud and give your computer maximum security. Backups are essential as they usually turn out to be life saver in the worst case scenarios. You could also use some free online tools such as this one http://www.adrc.com/software/data_recovery_tools/index.html.
This will back up the complete disk image (similar to common "Ghost" image), regardless of your operating system used. The advantage of backing up the disk image is that is it backups up every single piece of information on your system, bit for bit. The backup image will include all your data, programs, boot-up operating systems so nothing is missed out. The graphical user interface (GUI) is relatively simple and more instructions can be located at http://www.adrc.com/software/data_recovery_tools/help.html#raw_copy_feature.

You might brush off regular backing up of data thinking that you can always do it another time but trust me - you won’t want to wait till something goes missing. If you found this article in your desperate attempt to recover some lost data, it’s not too late. Experience has taught me not to take it into your own hands but to bring it to the experts who will know the steps to take to retrieve your data. And of course, remember to apply these methods to prevent any future data loss, or better still, insure your data with a recovery plan. With these various alternatives to back up data nowadays, using ‘my computer crashed’ as an excuse is just as good as ‘my dog ate up my paper’.

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