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Test and Organize Optical Media Backups

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/4/2010

No matter what type of backup (or what combination of backups) you create you must test them regularly and keep them organized. Start by organizing CD and DVD backups.

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    There’s only one thing worse than having a hard drive crash with no backups, and that’s having a hard drive crash and finding out your backups are corrupt, aren’t up-to-date, are missing some important files, or are so unorganized that they aren’t useful. It happens, and when it does, it’s a nightmare. It’s important to know that testing the backups and organizing the backups you’ve recently created is just as important as remembering to back up in the first place. In this article you’ll learn to test and organize your current and future CD and DVD backups.

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    Testing CD and DVD Collections

    It’s easy to test a CD or DVD. Just pop the disk in the disk drive, open it in My Computer in XP or Computer in Vista, and verify that you can view and use the information on it. If the data’s there, using it is easy. Simply drag and drop the backed-up data from the CD or DVD to the new or repaired PC’s hard drive. Because the data on a CD or DVD is so versatile, you can copy the data to another Windows operating system or even copy some of your personal data to a Mac or Linux machine if you want to.

    Note that this applies to manual backups where you have copied actual files. You can't drag and drop a backup created using a backup utility like Vista's Backup and Restore Center.

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    Organizing CD and DVD Collections

    It’s not quite as easy to keep the data organized. There are a hundred ways to go wrong. You can burn CDs haphazardly and have data spread across several disks. You can have disks everywhere--in desk drawers, in a closet--or maybe you don’t keep them stored in the proper cases. Perhaps the disks aren’t dated, or you have a lot of duplicate data. These backups are going to drive you crazy if you ever have to use them.

    In order to avoid these problems you have to start at the source. You have to take the initiative to avoid gunk before, during, and after making your backups. The following list will help you start anew:

    * Each time you burn a CD or DVD, write the date on it. Organize backups by date on a shelf, in an organizer, or in a drawer.

    * Place burned CDs and DVDs in protective cases. Inside the case, include a note of what is on the CD or DVD--documents, pictures, music, movies, or other data.

    * Create subfolders when creating new data on your hard drive. Doing so will allow you to back up only the new data and avoid the duplication that exists when entire folders are repeatedly backed up.

    * Test all CDs and DVDs before storing them.

    * Always have one backup created by Microsoft Backup with the system state in case of emergencies. It’s even better if you can burn a copy of your entire root drive to a DVD.

    * Don’t forget to back up fonts, drivers, downloaded programs, registration codes, service packs, and other data a few times a year. Store these in a safe place, in dated order.

    * Applications you’ve purchased, operating system disks, driver disks, and office application disks must be kept safe too. I use a CD notebook.

    Warning! If you decide to use a CD notebook, make sure you keep all registration codes with the software. Some of the codes are written on the box the software came in or on a separate paper. If you throw these out, you won’t be able to reinstall your software should you need to.