Hard Disk Crash Survival Kit

No More Excuses

I have described above four solutions that if used in together should make it virtually impossible to lose data on your home PCs during the foreseeable future. While I do not claim that any one of these backup tools are the best in their class, they are all at the very least reliable and robust enough to solve your home backup needs—when used together.

I would not recommend relying only on any one of them to meet all of your backup needs. Like commercial enterprises with sound storage policies in place, your home data needs backups of its backup. You need to complement your on-site data protection with offsite backups in case disaster strikes, whether that might be a fire, flood, or anything else that can physically destroy your PC equipment and the backup media with it. Conversely, Internet services get interrupted, and after all, your data is in the hands of a third party, so you do want copies of your data stored locally as well.


I would also strongly recommend investing in the My Book Studio II or a similar device that offers an extra layer of redundancy with a RAID 1 setup and combine that with the Paragon Backup and Recovery software package. Backup software and hardware have come down so much in price that it is now possible to buy commercial-grade backup systems for less than $500.

While My Book Studio II’s software could theoretically serve your local backup needs by itself, using Paragon’s tools will let you get booted up on a PC in a matter of minutes with all of your applications and data in tact in the event of a disk failure. The alternative involves having to reinstall Windows or Linux on a new disk along with all of the drivers and then accessing your recovered data from an external drive, which can take hours. The Paragon tools also offer a long list of extras that the bundled My Book Studio II’s software does not offer.

Then there is the final fallback, when for whatever reason you have failed to make backups and you have to turn to a lab for data recovery. But as I describe above, data-recovery fees, while never cheap, are not always excessive, either.

So never give up hope. It is relatively cheap and easy now to ensure that your data never gets lost during your lifetime (although what will happen to your data in 100 years is another story).

  • FYI, many external HDDs are coming with built-in disk encryption, which would make the "recovery facilities" impotent at restoring your lost data. If your drive(s) has this "feature," you may have to ensure your data is recoverable if the case/drive has issues. (yes, some solutions, WD has one, requires the external drive enclosure to read the encrypted data from the HDD)
  • longshotthe1st
    Please do something about the spam or I am outta here, as well as others I'm sure.
  • Scanlia
    Yeah, there are spammers everywhere and the +1/-1 system doesn't seem to be working... DO SOMETHING TOM!!!
  • syrinxx
    I can't believe there is no mention of Aconis True Image.
  • rdhood
    This is an extremely simplistic article.

    There are *many* partition/disk imaging packages available, often for free (Acronis, Paragon and Easeus come to mind, they offer old additions for free on a regular basis), and 1TB drives are now $60! You can regularly back up your entire drive to a bootable hard disk. Have a drive crash? Swap disks and boot. Downtime is about one minute.

    If you have two computers, it is a good idea to back up data from one system to another.

    When 1TB drives are $60, there is no good reason not to have a full image backup.
  • ctmk
    For desktops, What about software disk mirroring in Windows 7?

    It "seems reliable" on my case. even i unplug one of the drive and plug it in another Windows XP machine and the Dynamic Disk can still be recognized and mounted. Performance were good and no extra hardware required.
  • Darkk
    I personally like CrashPlan as it offers multiple ways of backing up your data to including offsite either for free (buddy) or for a fee at the data center.

    I use the native disk image backup in Windows 7 which is set to backup at least once a week. CrashPlan is always backing up every 15 minutes of any file changes. Very handy to recover a file that have been accidently overwritten.
  • Any linux live cd!

    A friends mac book pro died before xmas and Apple couldn't recover the data (their recommendation was new hdd - unit was still under warranty).

    Booted from Linux mint and recovered about 95% of his work and family files (other 5% were on broken part of disk). I'm no expert but it was pretty easy to do and after some file permission issues were sorted was as simple as drag and drop the files to a usb drive
  • stokesj75
    I would have like to seen applications like photorec and testdisk (both Linux applications) covered in this article . These allow for recovering from minor hard drive corruption or crash. as long as it is just bad blocks/sectors, missing partitions , deleted files and folders.
  • LuckyDucky7
    Windows Live SkyDrive.

    That is all.