back up, decryption, encryption, freedos, hard drive, maintenance, password, repair, rsync, spinrite, syncback, synchronise, Tech, thumb drive, truecrypt, usb
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This is a series showing you how you can load up a basic USB thumb drive with some practical tools which will ensure you can keep your data safe from theft and hard drive failure.
This USB drive has become a powerful tool for me. It holds an encrypted back up all of my irreplaceable data and it can repair my hard drive in the event of failure.
For back up, I just do a simple “synchronisation” of files. I use a Windows program called “Syncback”, but you could just as easily use any other synchronisation/backup program, such as the open-source “rsync”. I simply plug in the USB drive, start up Syncback and run my backup profile. Files that have either been created or updated since the last backup are copied on to the drive and files that have been deleted are also deleted from the USB drive. You could argue this lacks sophistication, although I prefer the lack of complication. If I’m working on something I want chronological versions of, I’ll create chronological versions myself – it’s all in my control. (Although, I will admit that since I first wrote this, I started using an on-line back up service as an added layer of protection, and that does take chronological versions of files as I they are edited.)
Something to consider, this is only a 4GB drive, and all my irreplaceable data only takes up 2.7GB (so far). This doesn’t sound much, but I’m being very minimalist. You know when you’re moving house you start to wonder how you amassed so much stuff that you never use or think about? Be honest, you do don’t you? Well what you accrue on your hard drive is much the same. So if you want to be able to get all your stuff on such a drive then you need to have a ruthless clear out of your personal data. Note that I’m not including music here. If it comes to it, you can buy and/or download replacements of your music, you can’t do that for all those photos of your friends and family.
Now, if you get in to a routine of doing this simple back up, what if you lost the drive? You then have two problems: how could anyone return it to you and what about your privacy?
For identifying yourself as the owner, you can do the following. Create an “autorun.inf” file on the root directory of my drive (yes, this is a Windows thing, sorry). I then used the “label” command to show my e-mail address. To do this, you’d write a line in thie autofun.inf file (it’s a text file so only use notepad or similar): “email@example.com”. In the “My Computer” window, your e-mail address will show in place of the drive letter. You can find even more tips about how your lost drive can identify it’s owner at this post on Daily Cup of Tech.
For your privacy you need to encrypt your data, and the ideal choice is the open source & cross platofm encryption application, “TrueCrypt”. The simplest way of working with TrueCrypt is to create an encrypted “container file”, which TrueCrypt then mounts as a drive on your computer. When it comes to security there’s one constant rule – the more secure it is, the less convenient it is. So if we were to take the step of backing up onto an encrypted virtual drive, we’ve given ourselves some inconvenience. Believe me, if you don’t mind even more inconvenience, TrueCrypt can give you some real James Bond level privacy protection, but we’ll leave that for another day.