Lessons from Old Backups

I’m replacing an old Windows laptop with a new one.   The old one had about 1GB of memory.  The new one has 8GB.  I suppose in a few years that will seem way too little.

So now I’m having to move files from the old machine to the new one which is part of my adventure of the day.   The old ones had directories on it that had older files from even older computers.   You know how you copy things to a directory called something like ‘old stuff’ or ‘save’ and then you repeat that through several generations of computers.   I’ve got files from the 90s on this computer.    Once again I’m just copying them over to the larger disk drive in similar directories on the new laptop.

Long ago I wrote this beautiful Simplex program in C.   It used dynamic memory calls and it was just a thing of beauty.   I wish I could look at that program once again, but I’ve lost that source code and can’t seem to find it.   I look through these old directories, but it doesn’t seem to be anywhere.

So now I’m turning to old backups and that is the reason for this post.   I’ve got some small 3 1/2″ diskettes with ‘important’ files on them somewhere in the house but I can’t remember where I’ve put them.   My old laptop is the last machine that can read these diskettes so I’ve got to find them before I surrender the old laptop.  I wish I had just left those files on the C drive of one of the old machines.   I have found a few diskettes around here that say ‘backup’ on them but when I open those diskettes, the data is compressed in some unknown backup file format which I’ve long since forgotten or lost.  So I have backups of something that are useless.

I’ve also got a stack of zip 100 and zip 250 diskettes and I’ve got a zip 250 drive here.   The drivers are way out of date on this XP computer so I’ve got to download and reinstall the drivers and thankfully they are available online.   However, the zip 250 can’t seem to recognize that a disk is in the compartment.   No matter what I do, it says to insert a disk even when one is already in.  In short, that old zip drive isn’t working properly or can’t recognize a diskette inserted.  So I have another set of backups that I can’t use.

The moral of this lesson is to keep the files on your main drive and backup them up in an uncompressed format to multiple locations.   Get an external drive and use something like Time Machine on the Mac to automatically backup the files.   But also store the good stuff in a cloud somewhere.  Use Apple Mobile Me or Dropbox or Google Docs and save your files in a cloud somewhere.   If you’ve got important files on zip drives or old diskettes or tape or 8″ floppies or X or Y or Z you better get them out and start reading them now, i.e. the sooner the better if you are to have any chance at restoring the content.

I wonder what would happen if we had to restore old COBOL programs from tape at work?

3 thoughts on “Lessons from Old Backups”

  1. Thanks, Mark. Nice walk down memory lane, and I’m not even a true blood techie. Brings back recollections of compiling my COBOL programs 25 years ago when my colleague/boss was one of my profs. I threw away the “important” 5 1/4 floppies containing my Apple IIe and IBM PC/AT research papers a year or two ago.

    Gotta go…I think the iPad is about to suffer from a parity error…

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