Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today

Bits & Bytes

Most Popular


Sooner or Later Your Hard Drive Will Fail

Computer backup is like digital fire insurance

Some people call it "The Blue Screen of Death". You turn on your computer and instead of getting the Windows logo you get a nasty message on a blue screen. Often it means your hard drive has crashed. And Macs are not immune from crashes either. The hard drive is the device in your computer that stores all your data, usually a rapidly spinning platter. Because it has moving parts it will fail. It's just a matter of when.

Cloud computing is a safe, affordable online digital backup storage option for computer files.

Cloud computing is a safe, affordable online digital backup storage option for computer files. — John Lund/Getty Images

It Won't Happen to Me

There's a pretty good chance that you keep important documents in a safe deposit box or a fireproof box. It's almost a certainty that you've got fire insurance for your belongings. But most of us don't take the same precautions for the data on our computers. According to IDC analyst Ron Glaz, only about 30 percent of professionals backup their files regularly. And when it comes to most consumers, the numbers could be a low as 5 to 10 percent. When you think about the stuff that's on your computer, the prospect of losing it all should scare you. Tax files, emails, spreadsheets, documents and music. But they all pale in comparison to your digital pictures, which for many of us are just irreplaceable. Unfortunately, most people only find religion after a disaster. David Friend, the founder and CEO of cloud backup provider Carbonite, says people don't realize how fragile their computers really are. He says 10 percent of all laptops are lost or stolen. And there's about a one in eight chance that a computer will require complete data restoration in a given year. And he says that somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of all computer users have experienced some data loss.

Two Solutions

There are a number of ways to backup your data, but some are more effective than others. You can put files on a thumb drive, CDs or DVDs. But storage on these is limited, and your ability to remember what's where and retrieve what you want is problematic. But two solutions do work, and you can think of them as "local and long distance."


Next: External hard drive storage is another option. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Social Networking

Step-by-step instructions on how to use some of the Web's most popular networking sites. Go


How to Use Your PC

Guides covering everything from setting up your desktop, to getting the most out of Excel. Go


Protect Your Digital Life

Keep your computer secure, your web surfing safe, and your inbox spam free with these tips. Go


Discounts & Benefits

Geek Squad Computing

Members save on Geek Squad services with Geek Squad® Tech Support & Guidance for AARP® Members.

AARP Discounts on ADT Companion Services

Members get 20% off NEW installation and activation of ADT® Personal Emergency Response System.

AARP Discounts on Consumer Cellular Phones and Plans

Members save 5% on monthly service and usage charges with Consumer Cellular.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today


computer questions and tips

Computer Questions & Tips

Pick up some handy how-tos from this savvy group of techies. Discuss


Freebies Group

Favorite Websites & Freebies

Share your top sites for interesting information, helpful resources — and free stuff! Discuss