Tag Archives: Backup Drive

Long term data storage

optical drive

I’ve had a few people ask me just recently what method I would recommend when planning a long term backup strategy. One elderly gentleman in particular was creating a family time capsule that he wanted his children and grandchildren to be able to view many decades from now.

The question isn’t as easy as you may think. You may imagine that the data could be burnt to CD, locked in a cupboard and that it would last forever however unfortunately this isn’t the case. There are literally hundreds of suitably stored but physically decayed CD’s from my teenage years which I could use as testament to that.

Therefore I’ve made a list of common formats one would usually consider for archiving a large amount of data so you can pick the most suitable one for your needs:

Hard Disk - When used on a regular basis a hard disk will typically last for around 5 years before it starts to decay and if it is being used as an infrequently accessed backup drive then we can assume that this can be at least doubled. Unfortunately degradation of the discs metallic surface, along with the inevitable seizing of parts would still occur over an extended period of disuse.

Optical - Standard optical media includes CD, DVD and BluRay. If choosing this media type ensure that you go for the highest grade money can buy you; a premium brand such as Taiyo Yuden may well last a decade but a more budget brand such as Memorex may only last half that time before the aluminium starts separating from the plastic.

Flash Media - Clearly you would expect that since Flash Media has no moving parts it would be ideal for a long term backup strategy. To an extent you would be right but the published data retention of a unused flash drive is only around 10 years and unfortunately once the device has reached the end of its life it is likely that it will go out in style, taking with it all of the information stored within.

Paper - Rather obvious this one - if left in a dark, dry place then paper will last for many decades; we recently recovered a number of newspapers from 1964 from below the flooring of a building we’re doing up and aside from being a little yellowed they’re in perfect condition. Primary problems do of course include having to find a safe place to store them along with the physical limitations relating to the amount and type of information that can be stored on sheets of paper.

Tape - This may come as a surprise, but Tape backup actually holds one of the best data retention rates hence its continued use in banking and government sectors. Typically a manufacturer will warranty a tape for 30 years with an expected life expectancy beyond that. Although the tapes themselves are affordable and the capacities typically high (between 72GB and 1TB compressed), the actual drives themselves are relatively expensive, starting at £250 for a basic model.


About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges including the Canon CLI-521C at incredibly low prices.

Hard Drive Enclosures


I was speaking to a young chap last week who had been saving up for an external hard drive. He’d filled up his Dads laptop with an entire library of music and desperately didn’t want to delete it but at the same time the machine was unusable due to a lack of space. Rather than pushing him down the route of a £70 external hard drive we suggested opting for a hard drive enclosure for £6.50 then reusing the drive from his old computer which was about to be consigned to the scrap heap.

External hard drives are a big market but in many situations they are redundant; most users will have purchased more than one computer and chances are that when it has come to the end of its useful life it would be considered close to worthless. Most charity shops won’t even take old machines anymore as health and safety regulations mean it’s often impossible to sell them on without the appropriate paperwork. Although it is possible to thoroughly and securely wipe the data off an old hard drive, the number of horror stories that you hear means that such a large number of drives reach the end of their life by having a 10mm drill bit put through them.

Rather than destroying your old drive, why not put it to good use by popping it in to an enclosure. Not only will you have instantly given yourself a new external hard drive but it will already be filled with your old files which you can sort and keep if they’re still needed. If not simply wipe them off and start again using the drive instead as either auxiliary storage (especially useful in the case of a laptop computer), a data transfer device or a backup drive.

There are a few points that you need to consider when purchasing an enclosure:

Size – Old laptop hard drives tend to measure 2.5” whereas their desktop equivalents tend to be 3.5” in size and it is of course important that you get the correct enclosure for your particular drive. Not only will you not physically fit a 3.5” drive in a 2.5” enclosure, but a 3.5” drive requires a separate power supply whereas the smaller 2.5” models can usually draw sufficient power from the USB port.

Hard Drive Interface – Your hard drive would have previously connected to the computer via an IDE or a SATA interface - this is primarily determined by the age of the device. Newer drives tend to be of a SATA design but if you are recuing a drive from an older machine it is more likely to have an IDE connection. The two are quite distinctly different and as such identification shouldn’t be a problem; IDE connectors are fairly long with 39 pins (one pin in the middle of the connector is absent to ensure the cable is connected correctly) whereas SATA connections constitute a small 7 pin port with a right angle at one end.

Interface with the Computer – Most enclosures tend to utilise a USB 2.0 interface and in the majority of circumstances this would be the most appropriate method of connecting it to your PC. Try to avoid older USB 1.1 devices which look identical but will perform significantly slower. Also, check to see if your computer supports either Firewire or eSATA as, if appropriate, these may offer faster data transfer speeds between your machine and external drive.


About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who are a company that supply a wide range of cartridges to the UK market at incredibly low prices including the Epson T0551 cartridge.

EASUS Partition Master - Home Edition 3.5


Modern day hard drives are continuing to leap forwards in terms of their storage capacity and, as a result, the prospect of dividing a large drive in to several partitions becomes increasingly tempting.

Partitioning a drive up in to several smaller segments allows you to easily create completely separate drive letters that can be used for specific purposes.For example, rather than just having your ‘C:’ drive which is used to hold your Windows installation and program files you could also create alterative drive letters such as a ‘D:’ drive to store all your documents and an ‘E:’ drive that is used solely for media such as pictures, music and video files.

In particular, one thing that frustrates me is that whenever you purchase a new computer, the system manufacturers often decide that you should use sizable chunk of the drive to hold your Windows backup files in case you need to do a repair installation.In some instances, I’ve seen this ‘backup’ drive practically empty but irrespective it has been allocated a large amount of the overall size of the drive resulting in a severe amount of wastage.Many users, especially those with backup discs would benefit from reclaiming this space for their own use.

Suffice to say, whichever way your hard drive is segmented at the moment probably isn’t how you would like to have it in an ideal world.Unfortunately deleting partitions, creating new ones and altering the space allocated to existing partitions using the tools build in to Windows isn’t particularly easy, if not impossible and as such we have to rely on a specialist piece of software.

EASUS Partition Master (www.partition-tool.com) is a completely free application that has a tiny 8.9mb footprint that allows you to achieve all the above without having to worry about potentially formatting the drive to create the partition or reformatting whenever you wish to change a partition size.The interface is easy to use and well organised so even those that have never played around with the structure of their drive will feel confident enough to give it a go.This having been said there is of course documentation to guide you through the process if needed.

Partition Maser supports up to thirty two simultaneous hard drives, each between 2GB and 1.5TB in size so despite being the free ‘Home Edition’ version it is unlikely to cause problems on even the highest specification machines.The only absence is the lack of support for 64-bit versions of Windows and unfortunately these users will have to purchase the professional edition at a cost of just over £20.

Along with the basic operations such as create, resize/move, delete, change label and format there are the more advanced wizards ‘Copy Disk’ and ‘Copy Partition’.These allow you to copy an entire disk or partition to another drive – this is perfect if you have two drives in your system and want to quickly and easily back up one to another.

I will stress that if using the application on a one disk machine then dividing the one drive in to two sections with the intention of backing up from your ‘C:’ drive to your ‘D:’ drive isn’t a sufficient backup strategy; if the hard drive goes down you would lose both partitions.Always backup from one physical drive to another and ideally store the backup in a separate location.

If you want a little more control over how your hard disk is divided rather than just taking what was given to you when you first purchased your machine then Partition Master represents a fantastic free tool.


About the Author – Chris Holgate works at the UK based supplier of cartridges, Refresh Cartridges. They supply a range of remanufactured and original Dell M4640 Cartridges at a low price.