Thursday, April 4, 2013

External Hard Drive Storage

I'm a computer repair technician, and one issue I have all the time with my customers is, the famous, 'a virus hijacked my computer and those precious pictures are inside'. Yeah, the prom, the honeymoon, or the newborn pictures are usually held without ransom. Most of the time we are dealing with malware of some sort that affects the Windows operating system files, but leaves the data intact. So, before I repair the computer, I rescue the pictures, and any other file they might value. However, not all repair technicians do this, most allege that the files are corrupted, which might be the case, but usually it really means they are too busy to rescue anything, don't know how to do it, or will not do it unless paid big cash.

For one own's sakes, the best thing to do is backing up the data before the computer gets infected, or the hard drive fails. For pictures I recommend backing up the original files into data discs, but for faster everyday files backups (music, movies, games, software etc.) is better to use an external hard drive.

The Western Digital My Passport 2 TB is an awesome way to carry large amounts of data in a tiny container, that is always available and secure. I love its dimensions, both physically and in bytes.

Also, the truly fast data transfers done with the USB 3.0 interface save time every day. Speaking of the USB connector, another great feature is that only requires a single USB port for power, while many external hard drives and enclosures, with form factor 2.5", require two USB ports.

This drive is great not only to keep multimedia files, but also for storing documents in digital form, because it saves space. Besides, in case of an emergency it's faster to grab it then a folder. I've been doing backups using both hard drives and discs, and it has been of great help throughout the years. For example, the last time I moved, the new school district wanted my daughter first vaccines' records. I knew I have the original card somewhere in a box, but I needed it fast. Then I remembered I scanned the card years ago, and that print-scanned image, which was storage in my daughter's digital folder, inside my external hard drive, saved me hours of search and quickened her registering process at the new school.

About the WD SmartWare software offered by the manufacturer, I hesitated before going for it, because in the past WD back up software didn't work well for me. However, when one is dealing with such a big amount of data, doing it manually is a pain, and the alternative of using the backup and restore features included in Microsoft Windows 7, is something I would only do for a complete system image, not for the everyday backup. So, I installed the WD SmartWare software and so far, it's performing well, it does require time and attention to learn its functionality though. If you decide not to use the WD SmartWare, you can still use the hard drive right out of the box, like any other external hard drive.

Besides reading the user's manual, I strongly suggest that before plugging in the drive into your computer, you go to the Western Digital My Passport's support page, and read how to use it.

Because there are a few details to know before starting backing up your data. Among these topics, How to install WD SmartWare from the external drives, How to create a category backup using WD SmartWare, How to backup specific files and folders using WD SmartWare, How to retrieve a backup using WD SmartWare, Setting up security to lock or unlock a WD external drive with WD SmartWare, (videos are provided in some of these), and How to partition and format a WD drive on Windows (7, Vista, XP) and Mac OSX etc., etc.

I can't post links here, but one can do a search for WD Support / Downloads / My Passport and will find the page where a variety of software that works with the Western Digital My Passport 2 TB, can be downloaded for free.

However, the most important fact of reading Western Digital's support information for this drive, is to learn how to use it 'before' entrusting your valuable data to it. Specially, if you choose to install the WD SmartWare software.

There are very important steps everybody should know while setting up these drives, so it's clearly stated on the Western Digital's support pages.

For example, while installing the software, it will ask if you want to apply any security (password & encryption) to the drive. Before setting up the password you must check an, I understand box, certifying that you understood that if you forget the password, the data is unrecoverable. I repeat, and excuse the capitals, but this is crucial, IF YOU FORGET THE PASSWORD, THE DATA IS UNRECOVERABLE.

Since there is no way to retrieve your password if you forget it, please write that password in a secure available location. If you want, it's possible to change your security settings, remove security or/and change the password, but in order to do either, you still need the original password entered the first time.

If you forget your password, you will not be able to access the data storage in the hard drive, but you can continue to use the drive again if you format it. Of course, the process of reformatting the hard drive will erase all the data inside the unit, and remove the password.

I highly recommend the Western Digital My Passport 2 TB external hard drive.

I do have an warning though, the only proven and trusted way to preserve important files is to burn them into data discs (CD/DVD/Blu-rays). Because hard drives have a limited lifespan, and will fail sooner or later, usually without any warning signs. An external hard drive is very convenient to use, but the stuff that cannot be easily replaced, should always first be backed up on discs. Trust me, it will give you peace of mind. Also you can have two different hard drives with the same information, like I do. If you really don't want to keep discs around anymore.

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