I was in the middle of writing my undergraduate thesis, on hour three of a planned all-night sprint to finish the second chapter. My workspace was littered with books, printed articles, pens, pencils, gum wrappers, and empty Vitamin Waters. My back was curved over the keyboard and my fingers were flying. My success with the thesis was hit or miss, depending on my motivation to get the work done. That night had been particularly successful, and I was beginning to think that getting a full eight hours of sleep was not only possible, but probable. I reached the end of a paragraph, hit the return key, and straightened my back. Rather than take a moment to stretch, roll a golf ball under my foot (try this sometime, it’s really quite relaxing!), or play with my Silly Putty, I decided to push forward. Half-way through my next paragraph, my computer stopped working. To be more precise, my computer froze. If I had followed some simple security measures, this might not have been a big deal. I would have lost a few sentences, but that would have been it. Instead, I ended up losing two hours of work, which amounted to nearly eight pages of double-spaced writing. Two hours of hunching over my desk were suddenly meaningless. My motivation was totally gone, and instead of trying to recreate my brilliance I went to bed and dreamed about flunking out of school.
To avoid situations like this in your own life, or your child’s life, please follow some of these security measures. I promise that you’ll thank me later.
Save, Save, Save, and Save Again!
And did I mention save? On a Mac, all you have to do is hit Apple+S. Go up to the File menu and select Save. It isn’t hard, but if it’s overlooked it can lead to devastation. I recommend doing a quick save whenever you have a natural pause in your writing. Even now, as I’m writing this post, I’m going to reach over and hit the “Save Draft” button. There. I feel safer already. By saving your document to your computer, you’ll be doing a world of good.
Back, Back, Back, Back It Up!
Saving to your hard drive is all well and good, but sometimes you want a little extra security. Having an external hard drive that backs up your entire computer is always a good idea, and should be done on a regular basis. That way, you won’t lose old work that could come back to haunt you. For example, as part of my senior comprehensive exam, we had to create a portfolio of previous work. Luckily, I had an external hard drive that I’d been keeping since freshman year, and was able to pull old essays off of it. This can also help ease the pain of switching computers.
Two Is Better Than One
Saving to your computer is one thing, but having a second line of defense is even better. Keep a flash drive inserted in your computer while you type, and whenever you stop to save to your computer, make sure to save to your flash drive as well. This also helps make your work more portable. If you have a big essay due and it ends up getting wrinkled in your backpack, you can pop the flash drive into a computer at school and print out a new, fresh copy. Keep your flash drive attached to your backpack, keyring, or something else you keep near you.
You’ve Got Mail!
Google Docs is an easy and free way to back up your work. Google Docs is also being used by many technology forward teachers, professors, and bosses as a secure way of sharing work over the internet. All you need is internet access, and your work is at your fingertips, easily accessible from any computer with your Google log-in.
Plug It In, Plug It In
Unexpected computer crashes happen every day, but if you work on a laptop make sure you keep it plugged in while your working, or watch your power level carefully. Running out of power is an easily preventable way that many people lose work on laptops.
Hopefully some of these tips will keep you from losing valuable work on your computer! What are some other ways you make sure your work doesn’t get lost in cyberspace?