Backup Your Shack PC

We recently passed World Backup Day on March 31st. These days there seems to be a day for everything, important or not. Backing up your computer data is more important than a lot of people think. I don’t know how many times someone has brought me their computer asking for help when they can’t access something on it. My first question is usually “Do you have a backup?”  And the response is more often than not “No! That’s why I need help”. Occasionally I am able to save their data but if their disk drive is too far gone, then it’s lost.

Consider what’s on your computer. I have years and years of digital photos, purchased music files, and a lot of important documents. That doesn’t even begin to cover my ham radio related data. The important things as far as I am concerned that I would rather not lose are my logs, LOTW TQSL certificate files, data files for programming my radios and other data files like antenna plans and such.

Ask yourself this question . . . “Can I get all that stuff back if something terrible happens to my computer and the data is no longer accessible?”

You should be able to answer “Yes, I can!”

I am not going to go into all the possible ways to backup your data. There are USB drives, thumb drives, online services or you can build a home backup server. This article isn’t going to review all those possibilities and I am sure there is some method I left out of this short list.

Consider the 3-2-1 backup rule.  The 3-2-1 strategy means having at least 3 copies of your data, 2 of which are on different mediums (i.e.: devices) and at least 1 copy off site. The key to this, is that all 3 copies need to be reasonably up to date. Having the offsite copy too old doesn’t do much good if that’s the one you need to use for a restore.

For my home computers, I use a network drive and an online service. So I have my original copy, my onsite network drive copy, and the offsite online service as my third copy.  You don’t have to use an online service. I just like the automatic online, offsite backup.

Another important thing to consider, is the restore itself. Your backup is only as good as your ability to restore it. Occasionally restoring a specific file is a nice test. Backing things up in some super-duper format isn’t any good if it’s too difficult to restore.  Also think about how you would restore the operating system and not just your data. You likely don’t need to backup the operating system as most people have restore disks that shipped with their computer or some other install method for the OS.

So, please think about what and how you backup your data. Can you restore it? Do you have an offsite copy? What if I lose my main hard rive and it’s contents?

While those are not nice thoughts, it’s better to be prepared than not . . . . And it seems like a lot of the Ham Radio hobby/service is about being prepared in one form or another.


Wayne Patton, K5UNX, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Arkansas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

2 Responses to “Backup Your Shack PC”

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Great post Wayne, I have had to do many a re-formate due to issues with the OS and then I have had 2 hard drives out right fail and I lost it all! I have to admit I have still not learned my lesson and I have no backup. Your post has caused me to do some thinking and as soon as I am done writing this some hard looking at what I am going to do to get the 3-2-1 back up rule going here.
    73, Mike
    VE3WDM

  • Chich VE8NX:

    Yes… I got out of the habit of backups as I had not had a crash in ages. A few months ago it finally happened. Lost a schwack of stuff including all my logs since 2010.

    I now have a separate back up drive (a 1TB desktop drive is cheap like borscht) and have set reminders and auto back ups of important items.

    Lesson learned.

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