The hard drive in my ancient Apple 17″ Powerbook G4 laptop finally began to die about a week ago. I should have replaced the hard drive years ago (the laptop will be 7 years old this June, bought it in June 2003), but I never got around to it. So it’s been slowly dying, making noises when it gets too hot lately.
Thankfully I paid attention to those noises, and 1) did almost daily backups of my writing-in-progress, 2) did backups of all my writing files every two weeks, and 3) bit the money bullet and ordered a refurbished Apple 17″ MacBook Pro laptop to replace the old laptop. So when my old laptop hard drive crashed in a spectacular way last Wednesday (*almost* got the new laptop in time–it arrived on Friday), I was in a position to recover with over the weekend. So take it from me, backup all your writing files every 2-4 weeks, and backup your work-in-progress nightly.
And make sure you keep some of those backups in a place safe from fire and theft. Buy a firebox specifically designed to protect software backups, and store the disks in there. Also, get a safe deposit box at a bank, and every 1-2 months put a backup in that box.
If you don’t use a computer for your first draft writing (i.e. you write everything by hand), get a firebox big enough to put your work-in-progress in there at night.
Whenever I started to feel like “these backups are too much hassle,” I asked myself “how would you feel if your laptop breaks down, is destroyed, or stolen?” That question always drove me to backup my writing. And as a result, my laptop’s hard drive failure was a (relatively) painless process to recover from.
I’ve known writers who’ve lost years of writing work in a fire because they didn’t have copies of their writing files in a fire-safe location. Anyone who makes their living from their writing, or hopes to do so, needs to have a plan for backing up their work on a regular basis. Make sure the backup plan covers hard drive failure, fire or flood, and theft.
I’m very fond of that old laptop, and plan to keep it. The current plan is to get a replacement hard drive, then give it to my spouse to use as a a test machine for running the Linux operating system.