BOOT CAMP 060
BACKUP AND MASS STORAGE
You probably don't want to know this, but all the programs
and data stored in your computer reside in a microscopically thin magnetic coating
on thin metal discs spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute. All it
takes is a single speck of dust, a sharp knock or a virus to destroy all of the
information held on your PC's hard disc drive. Fortunately it doesn't happen
very often, and you are fully protected against viruses (aren't you…?) but suppose
the worst did happen, how would you fare?
If all of your non-replaceable data is safely backed up then
it need be no more than an inconvenience. Mass storage devices are so cheap
nowadays there's no excuse not to protect your computer against hard disc
failure or corruption and it also makes it easier to archive or swap large files
between PCs. Of course you can save data on floppy discs, the 1.4Mb capacity is
sufficient for important system files a few documents or one or two images but far
too small to be of use with today's video and multimedia applications. Data can
be compressed, to make more efficient use of the floppy's limited storage space
and Windows 95/98 has a useful backup utility built-in (My Computer > right
click drive C: > Properties > Tools) but there are simpler solutions.
Basically there are three hardware options: magnetic tape, magnetic
disc, and optical disc, we'll look at each one in turn. Magnetic tape systems
have two distinct advantages, they are cheap and they hold enormous amounts of
data. The cheapest tape-based backup system is the Danmere Backer which sells
for less than £40 and can download the contents of a hard disc drive on to a 3-hour
video tape costing a couple of pounds. More advanced tape systems like the
Hewlett Packard Colorado, Segate Travan or Iomega Ditto use dedicated data
cartridges, drives cost upwards of £140 and can hold 5 or more gigabytes of
compressed data. However, all tape-based recording systems are slow and because
data is stored in a 'linear' form -- along a length of tape -- it can take a
long time to retrieve a particular file or group of files. Since there are many
different types of magnetic tape cartridge or cassette file swapping is
restricted to other PCs using the same system.
There are also lots of different magnetic disc formats on
the market, you could even install a second hard disc drive, though it won't be
much use if the PC is stolen or damaged in a fire. Removable drives solve that problem
but a far more convenient solution is a high-capacity floppy disc system, like Zip,
Jaz or LS120. Zip discs hold 100Mb of uncompressed data (a 250Mb Zip drive is
also available) whilst its larger cousin the Jaz has a 2Gb capacity. LS120 discs
hold 120Mb, the drives can also read and write to 3.5-inch floppies and like
Zip drives they are relatively inexpensive. Basic internal Zip and LS120 drives
cost around £80 and the discs sell for £8 to 15 each when brought singly. The
recently introduced Zip 250Mb model costs £170. Jaz drives are a little dearer at just under £300 whilst the
discs are a quite pricey at £60. File swapping is still a problem unless all of
the PCs in question are fitted with, or connected to compatible drive mechanisms.
Optical and magneto-optical disc recorders are now an
increasingly affordable alternative to magnetic media and are ideal archiving
large picture or video files. The cost of recordable CD-ROM drives has plummeted
in the past year and the newly introduced DVD-RAM format is not far behind.
However, a CD-ROM writer is still the best option for most PC users and home
made discs can be read on any PC with a CD ROM drive, so file swapping is not
an issue. In most instances the new drive is installed alongside the existing
CD-ROM, so you end up with two drives on your PC, which is quite handy if you
routinely need to access more that one disc.
CD-ROM writers can now be brought for as little as £170 and
blank discs that can hold up to 650Mb of data cost from as little as £1 each.
In fact there are two types of recordable CD-ROM disc, CD-R discs can only be recorded
once, files can be added at intervals but once the disc is full that's it.
CD-RW (read-write) discs cost around £10 to £15 each but they can be erased and
re-written many times. Recordable CD-ROMs are not quite as robust as their
non-recordable counterparts but properly stored the data on them should be safe
for several decades. Most recordable CD-ROM drives can do other tricks, like duplicate
data CD-ROMs and copy or create audio CD compilations of your favourite tracks.
Needless to say there are copyright implications in duplicating
commercial recordings but it is interesting to note that CD-ROM writer manufacturers,
such as Sony and Philips, are also major music software publishers, and include
audio CD copying software with their drives…
Installing an internal CD-ROM writer only takes a few
minutes. The mechanism slots into a spare drive next to the existing CD-ROM
drive and plugs into the same cable (there's usually a spare connector) and a
spare power lead. The set-up software
on CD-ROM is read from the first drive and Windows 95/98 automatically installs
the new hardware. Once the new drive is up and running it becomes a second CD-ROM
with its own drive letter. A simple utility program supplied with the drive prepares
discs and files for recording using familiar Windows file copying methods.
Backing up 650Mb of data on a typical 2 x speed drive takes only a few minutes
but it could save you days or weeks of disruption!
Next week -- finding long lost friends and relatives
A technique to reduce the size of a file, to make it
smaller, more manageable, easier to store and move around
A tape cassette, similar to an audio or video tape. (Some
tape backup systems use DAT and 8mm audio and video cassettes)
Digital Versatile Disc - new high capacity optical disc
system with a capacity of up to 5.2Gb per disc (at the moment), DVD drives can
also read CD-ROMs. DVD recordable or 'RAM' drives have just come onto the market
There is probably at least one or two Internet web sites
that you visit frequently -- search engines or a particular home page etc. Rather
than waste time opening your browser, manually selecting the address from the
favourites list and making the connection, just create a simple keyboard short
cut, it's easy! Pressing the keys will take you straight to your chosen web
site from within any application.
On the Start menu click Favourites, right-click the site you
are interested in then select Properties and the Internet Shortcut tab. In the
Shortcut Key box you will see 'None', click in a cursor and type a single
letter -- choose one that relates to the site and you can easily remember, such
as 'Y' for Yahoo, etc. -- the field will now display the assigned shortcut,
i.e. 'Ctrl + Alt + Y'. Click OK and try it out. Internet Explorer opens
automatically and takes you straight to the web site. (If IE is not your chosen
browser you will have to open it and manually add the web site address to the