What to do if your laptop gets stolen… (4 step guide for backing up stuff)

If you get really unlucky, something like this might happen (devs say they lost tons of their progress due stolen laptops).

While this sort of stuff always happens to other than me and you… here’s couple of simple tips for the lazy backup-creators:

#1 – How to set up system
About three years ago, I wrote a blog post on doing world’s simplest backup system in 5 minutes and I have to add that using “robocopy” will do wonders.

In very shortly put, launch your windows console (windows icon > search programs… type “cmd” and hit enter) and type “robocopy”. If you see “robust file copy” text then you are good to go. Basically, Robocopy can help create only changed backups stuff (very good for daily stuff). Quick “robocopy tutorial” googling finds plenty of articles on usage. It’s pretty simple. In theory, you can just replace “xcopy” with “robocopy” (and tweak params a bit) and you are good to go.

Since I covered .bat file creation in that older blog post, I won’t get into more details here.

#2 – Where to store data: online
Then many, many services for backing up data online. Here’s some I’m using/testing currently:

iDrive – I gave this a go and my gut feeling is that this isn’t so good. Feels bit slow. I don’t know if it’s my location or what, but syncing files seem to take quite long… and iDrive seems to hog resources in the back. I haven’t made up my mind about final decision on iDrive but at this point I’d recommend you to check more reviews about iDrive or check some other services.

DropBox – I’ve been using DropBox for some time and I really like it. There’s one folder where you can put stuff, and the stuff gets synced accross all devices. Really simple to use. Free 2 gigs of space (you can get more +250 MB additional space by referred person to join DropBox, just like I’m doing here – ahem). Fast, simple, good to use. Please notice that DropBox had security issues in June 2011, which they blogged about. Always good to know where your store your data.

SugarSync – I recently heard about this and installed it. In simplicity, this feel a lot like dropbox. The biggest difference is that instead of having one folder where you drag other stuff (like in Dropbox) you can choose which folders are going to get synced accross devices. This is really nice and makes me like SugarSync more than dropbox to be honest. 5 gigs of free space and decent speed in syncing stuff. Since I have used this for merely days, I cannot tell if this is good or bad… but perhaps it’s good enough for you to give it a go. My first impression is positive.

#3 – Storing data offline
USB harddrives are getting cheaper and cheaper. You can get 1TB or 2TB with 50…100 euros or so. Investing in some decent backup drive is good, and then doing frequent backups is even better.

Also, if you have secondary harddrive, it doesn’t hurt to do backups also for that drive.

#4 – backup strategy
It’s good to have a backup strategy. Mine is as follows:

  • Emails: in google/other server (currently no other backup, would be nice to backup emails though)
  • Active projects: I do daily backups for secondary harddrive, not so daily to external drive and sync all important projects to SugarSync + DropBox immediately when changes occur.
  • Pictures: Dad needs his pictures, currently I do some backups to external harddrive. Need to set up better with robocopy (so that I can add only modified/new pics…. doing 20+GB pictures full backup takes time)
  • Blog: Occasionally (ahem: should do more)

And then one very important:

  • Store your backup system usernames & passwords for somewhere else than in your computer. Like, what good does it do to have for example SugarSync backups if you lose your computer & passwords in the computer. Store passwords to somewhere safe place, outside your computer

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I put everything I have on svn servers. This way I can also get a history of stuff I put there :)
    Everything on my hard-drive that’s not on the svn is expendable.

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