How to save your files and your sanity

Posted by Dhiya  
Tagged as:
3:58 PM

How to save your files and your sanity

Even before you save a single document on your computer, your hard disk is bristling with files.

Your operating system – Windows – consists of hundreds of files placed in a tree of folders at installation time. Similarly, every application installed on your computer – whether it's a word processor, spreadsheet, Internet browser, game, graphics editor or anything else – consists of one or more files occupying their own folders.

Once you start working, surfing or playing you adds to these hundreds, possibly thousands, of files, until your hard disk is awash with files.

No wonder, then, that a file occasionally goes astray. It's easy to forget what name you've given a document, or which folder you placed it in.

No need to despair. In fact, it's pretty hard to lose a file completely unless you delete it (even then you can often recover it) or copy another file with the same name over the top of it. Windows comes with an effective file snifferdog and, in addition, you can do a lot of things yourself to prevent files going astray in the first place.

Computing Rule #1

Most files go missing because you fail to pay attention when you're saving them, or because you saved them so long ago they've become no more than a faint echo in your memory banks.

For computing newcomers, noticing exactly what you do when you save a file is crucial. And really, it's very simple to do. It comes back to the number one computing rule for beginners: read the screen!

From observing many new users in action, my guess is the first dozen times most people save a file their heart rate accelerates, their eyes glaze over, and they're reduced to a state where they hit buttons and pray.

There's really no need for this level of terror, because sitting in front of you – in the file save dialog box you use to save a file – is all the information you need.

The Save dialog box

When you click the Save icon in a program, a Save As dialog box appears. The dialog box can take on various forms, but most programs use the standard Windows 95/98 dialog box with slight variations.

Take a close look at the dialog box shown here (click the picture to see a full-size version). This is a dialog box from Microsoft Word 2000 and, while it has a couple of new features, most of what you see here is what you'll find in most Save dialog boxes whether in a Microsoft product or a product from any other developer:

  • A File Name box where you type the file name.
  • A Save As Type box where you can choose the format in which to save the file.

For instance, a graphics program will let you save graphics files as bitmaps (BMPs), or GIFs or JPGs (used on the Internet), as well as in many other formats. You choose which format you want from the Save As Type box when you save the file.

Similarly, a Save dialog box for a word processing program will let you save your documents in native or default format, or as plain text, as HTML, or in a variety of other word processing formats. 'Native' or 'default' means the program's own preferred style. Microsoft Word 97, for example, saves files by default in Word 97 format. It also lets you save files in Word 95 format, Word 2 format, Word formats for the Macintosh, WordPerfect format, and so on.

  • A Save In box at the top of the dialog box, where you select the folder and drive in which to save the file.
  • Additional folder management icons. To the right of the Save In box there are several icons which let you quickly move to the folder above the one you're currently in, create a new folder, and switch between list and detail views of your files. Some programs, such as Microsoft Office, add additional icons and buttons for added flexibility and power, but you'll always find these standard components.
  • A Save or OK button (they're equivalent in this context), and a Cancel button which you use to wriggle out of saving a file. Some dialog boxes have additional buttons, such as an Options button.
  • This Save dialog box also features a series of shortcut buttons down the left-hand side. These buttons let you quickly jump to frequently used folders where you save your documents, such as the My Documents folder or the Desktop. These shortcut buttons are new in Microsoft Office 2000.

While there are many variants on the Save and Save As dialog boxes – such as WordPerfect's supercharged dialogs – the features mentioned above are almost universal. Get accustomed to looking for them.

Save it

When it comes to saving a file, take the time to read the dialog box. First, choose where you want to store your document – this is the key to not losing your file in the first place.

To select where to save your file, click the little arrow at the right of the Save In box to move through folders, drives and the desktop. You can also double-click on folders in the folder and file list to open them. Practice moving about so you get to know your way around.

Once you've chosen where you're going to store your file, choose a name for the file and type it into the File Name: box. If you want to select a different file type from the usual one your program uses, select that from the dropdown list provided.

Then, click OK or Save and you're done.

When you go to open a file, the Open dialog box will look pretty familiar. Use the Look In: or Directories: section to locate the folder where the file was saved, make sure you've chosen the correct file type to display, and then select the file from the list displayed and click OK or Open.

If you take enough care in this process, you'll rarely lose a file.

Preventative measures

Apart from taking things slowly and carefully when you're saving files, you can use a variety of preventative measures to ensure you know where your files are lurking.

The first way is to get your folders organised. My esteemed colleague, David Flynn, who is the personification of organisation (I am in awe of this fella, who even has a classification system for his pencils) has a very neat way of doing this.

He has one folder, called Docs, where he stores all his documents. They don't all go in higgledypiggledy, of course. He creates sub-folders within this single Docs folder where he stores different types of documents.

Sound familiar? If you're using Windows 98 or later you'll already have a My Documents folder created for you and conveniently located on the Desktop (in Windows XP it's hidden away, but you can always drag a shortcut to the folder onto your Desktop). Windows 98, Me and XP also make the My Documents folder easy to access from most standard dialogs. Microsoft probably swiped this idea from my friend David.

The advantages to this system are obvious: there's only one folder (and its contents) you need to search to find any document you create and, when it comes to backing up your documents, you can do it by specifying that one folder.

This makes a lot of sense, and if you have any degree of organisation, I urge you to follow in Mr Flynn's steps and take advantage of the My Documents folder (or create your own if you're using Windows 95).

Strategies for file slobs

Not all of us are so organisationally blessed. Despite good intentions, the file slobs among us end up with files all over the place – in our carefully created Docs folder, on our Desktop, in whatever folder a program uses as its default folder, all over the place. Sometimes this is deliberate, at other times we simply go with the flow, and end up with a document maelstrom.

If you belong to the latter group of people and have files stashed all over the place, you can still increase your chances of keeping track of files by using consistent file naming conventions.

Strangely enough, this was probably easier in the days of DOS and Windows 3.1, when we were restricted to files with a maximum of eight characters in the filename and a three-character extension. This rigidity had a payoff in forcing us to work out strict naming conventions that made it possible to identify the file contents.

With the generous long filenames introduced in Windows 95, it's much easier to get into trouble. You might find yourself naming one file 'Letter to Mary about the problems we're facing in inventory control', and then later sending another letter to Mary about the same subject, but calling it 'Stock tracking probs'. When it comes time to find all the correspondence dealing with your inventory control woes, you may well find you've developed a file tracking problem into the bargain.

Try to keep some consistency in your file naming, and you'll drastically reduce the chances of losing track of a file.

Saving and Saving As

What's the difference between the Save option and the Save As option found on most file menus?

The Save As option is used the first time you save a file. It lets you choose a filename and location for the document you're saving.

The Save option saves a document you've previously saved, writing directly over (and obliterating) the earlier version. Basically, it's like updating the saved copy of a document. When you Save a file, you normally won't be presented with a dialog box.

However, there's an exception. The first time you save any file, whether you use the Save or Save As options, you'll be presented with the Save As dialog box, so you can initially give the file a name. In this case, the two commands are identical.

You can also use the Save As option to make a copy of an existing document. Say, for example, you've finished writing a report and saved it on your hard disk. You can use the Save As command to make a copy of this document in a different location, such as on a floppy disk, or with a different name.

When you use Save As in this manner, it's important to keep track of which file you're working on so you don't end up editing the document on floppy and leaving your original out-of-date. One way to ensure you don't edit the wrong version is to change the name of the copy of the document.

For instance, say you create a budget using Microsoft Excel and save it on your hard disk with the name Budget for 2000. You can create a copy on a floppy disk by placing a floppy in the drive, opening the File Menu and choosing Save As. In the Save As dialog, click the down-arrow beside the Save In box and select your floppy drive from the list. In the File Name box, instead of keeping the name Budget for 2000, type something like Budget for 2000 on Floppy. Then click the Save button and close the worksheet. If you want to make more changes to your original, you'll be able to recognise it immediately by its name.


How can Recover the deleted File

Posted by Dhiya  
Tagged as: ,
3:26 PM

Ack! The computer ate my term paper! We've all been there at some point. You delete an important file, somehow it skips your Recycle Bin altogether, and for all practical purposes, it's disappeared into the ether. But before you hit the big red panic button, there's a very good chance that your file is still alive and kicking somewhere on your hard drive—you just need to know how to find it. With the right tools, finding and recovering that deleted file can be as simple as a few clicks of your mouse.

Part I: The Overview

Ok, so you've lost an important file. Don't panic. Take a breath, and let's see if we can find it. Before you go into full-on file recovery mode, make sure you double-check the folder you had saved it in and the Recycle Bin or Trash. Still nothing?

1. Stop What You're Doing

When your operating system deletes a file, all it really does is mark the space on your hard drive that your file occupies as free space. It's still there, but your computer is now perfectly happy to write new data on top of it—at which point the file recovery process becomes a lot more difficult. That means you should do as little computing as possible until you find the file you're looking for, since every time you save a new file—every time your computer writes information to your hard drive—your chances of recovering the file go down.

2. Find the Right File Recovery Program

Windows: You've a lot of really great freeware options for file recovery if you're running Windows. Notable apps include Undelete Plus (original post), PC Inspector File Recoveryoriginal post), and Restoration (original post). Undelete Plus is the most user-friendly option of the bunch, with advanced filtering options that make it easy to find your needle of a file among the haystack of deleted garbage, but in my tests I found both Restoration and PC Inspector File Recovery to be more effective at recovering files. (Of course, your mileage may vary.) As an added bonus, the bare bones Restoration is portable, which makes it an excellent addition to your thumb drive. (

UPDATE: Per several readers advice, you may also want to check out Recuva (original post), another freeware Windows file recovery tool.

Mac: If you're on a Mac and aren't afraid to lay down a few bucks in the name of data recovery, the $99 Data Rescue II is the go-to application for file recovery with a friendly graphical interface.

photorec.pngAll Platforms: If you're not afraid to crack open a terminal window or command prompt, the free, cross-platform command-line tool PhotoRec (original post) is a crack shot at recovering photos (as the name implies) as well as virtually any other file type from your removable media or hard drives.

3. Recover Your Files

jumbled-files.pngOnce you've picked a tool, it's time to scan your hard drive for your lost file or files. This process varies depending on the app you're using, but it's basically the same for all of them: Just point the program at the hard drive or folder that was holding your missing file and start your scan. Once the scan is complete, you're going to see a big list of jumbled file names. Often most of these files are nothing more than system files that your operating system has created in the course of basic operation, and you won't need to worry about them. You're just looking for the file type and name that matches what you've lost.

Once you find what you're looking for, saving it is a matter of right-clicking the file and choosing where to save it.

Went through steps one through three and still aren't having any luck? It might be worth trying again with a different application, since there can be a lot of variation between apps. If you're still not having any luck, part two discusses a few other ways you can try addressing more specific problems when your data goes missing.

Part 2: More Specific Problems

Above you got a basic overview for recovering deleted files from your computer. Now we'll take a closer look at some more specific problems, methods of data recovery, and tools that may be of help in your quest for your elusive lost data.

Recover Files from a Wiped or Unbootable Hard Drive

hard-drive-pic.pngSo you didn't just accidentally delete a file or two and empty your Recycle Bin prematurely—instead you've got a whole hard drive worth of missing data. You can still use many of the applications mentioned above to recover files from these drives as long as you have or can get the hard drive into a bootable computer. For more details, check out how to recover files from a wiped hard drive with PhotoRec (original post) or how to recover data from a crashed hard drive with PC Inspector File Recovery (original post).

If you can't or don't know how to get your unbootable drive into another computer, a Linux live CD can be perfect for rescuing files. If the Linux route scares you off, give the popular BartPE (original post) a try.

Finally, if none of these options can even read your hard drive, you still might be able to get it working for just long enough with a few tricks of the data recovery trade, like putting the busted hard drive in the freezer.

Recover Lost Photos

zero-assumption-pic.pngIf you need to resurrect photos from a damaged flash memory card from your digital camera, you'll be happy to know that most of the applications listed in part one above will do the trick—you just need plug in your camera or insert the card into your computer's card reader before running your data recovery application of choice. That said, you can find other applications, like Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery (original post), that are focused specifically on image recovery that you may want to add to your data recovery toolbox.

Recover Lost Word Documents

If your lost dissertation was saved as a Word document, you've got a few more interesting options for getting to your lost or deleted documents—read more about them here and here.

Recover Data from Scratched or Corrupted CDs and DVDs

scratched-cd.pngIf your munged data is sitting on optical media like a CD or DVD, the recovery process can be slightly different. Freeware application CD Recovery Toolbox (original post) is made specifically to read the portions of a CD that are readable in an effort to rescue as much data as possible from a damaged disc. If that doesn't work, you may want to give a look at the 30-day trial of shareware application CDCheck, as recommended by a reader. Then again, if scratches are the issue, you may be able to get away with simply fixing your scratched CD or DVD yourself.

Part 3: Don't Let This Happen Again

backup.pngWhatever the cause of your lost file, the best method of data recovery is a good preemptive data backup plan. If you're on Windows, we've taken you step-by-step through how to automatically back up your hard drive so that this sort of thing never happens again. If you're running a Mac, do yourself a favor: Get an external hard drive and flip the switch on the easy-to-use Time Machine. Linux users should check out backup options like FlyBack, TimeVault, or the time-honored rsync.



Advantages to Online Data Storage Backup

Posted by Dhiya  
Tagged as:
2:48 PM

More businesses and individuals are making good use of online data storage backup as the means of protecting their most important files of data. There are actually some very good reasons to consider this option, whether you have a small business, a corporation, or just want to protect some of those special personal files.

First, online data storage backup is a remote solution. That is, your data is safe and protected at a location that is far removed from your location. This can be a big plus in situations where some sort of accident or event causes permanent damage to your hard drive and other records that are kept around the office or home. Fire, burglaries, and natural disasters could all render both your computer equipment and any backups such as disks or tape to be useless.

Another advantage is the ease of storage. There are no disks to label and store. There is no having to worry about a server failure in the event of a power problem. It is achieved by establishing an account with a storage service, obtaining security credentials, and then uploading copies of your files. By simply accessing the site, it is easy to determine the last time the data was updated and initiate another update. The process is simple and easy, although it will take much longer on a dial up connection.

Last, there is the convenience of being able to access your data from any computer with an Internet connection. Online data storage backup is a security protected service, so all you need are your log in credentials and you can access your data while on business trips, visiting with friends, or enjoying a vacation. As long as the computer you are using will allow you to read the file formats involved, you are in great shape.

For many people, this is the ideal way to keep important information safe and accessible. There are some free services online with limited space available that may be great for individuals. Corporations can also take advantage of a number of cost effective online data storage backup sites as well.


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