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What does it take to get computer users to make backups of their file systems? Computers, in my experience, have crashed ever since about 1956. And with all the progress since then, they can lose a million times more data now than they did then. Depending on the operating systems, the frequencies of crashes can be quite low.

When a disk head decides to gouge a rut in the platter, it doesn't care what OS you are running.


True enough, but most crashes are due to software errors, operator errors, ... And some OSs crashed more than others. For example, I could never keep Windows 95 running a whole day without a crash. At the same time, Red Hat Linux 5 would run for weeks and once in a while the windowing system would lock up, but the OS was still up. I could just login from another terminal and reset it without rebooting. By the time I got Red Hat Linux 7, it never crashed again except for hardware failures. I remember running RHL 7.3 24/7 for about six months, and it did not crash. That machine was about 12 years old, had 64 Megabytes of RAM and could not take any more, and had a single Pentium processor. Not worth upgrading any more. And by then, I had two other computers, one running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 and the other running CentOS 4. Linux file systems are journalling, so even if the system crashes (not from actual hardware disk head crashes), they can usually recover. I do not know how Windows file systems work these days; perhaps they do this too, but when I first had to use them, they were pretty pathetic; I believe you still have to defragment them from time to time.

I remember head crashes though. Where I used to work, our little lab had about six DEC PDP11/45 and 11/70 machines that each had two hard drives on them. Each hard drive had 10 heads. These machines ran 24/7 running UNIX. Well one fine evening a head crashed on a disk and that took out one side of that platter, but the dust caused the rest of the heads to crash. That threw off so much dust that by the next morning all the heads crashed on all the drives. One hell of a mess! We had on-site technicians from DEC so we called them in and they said there was a slight problem. They might have had a dozen spare heads, but not nearly enough. And they had to clean up the drives before they could put in the new heads. They vacuumed everything out, but they then needed to get the rest of the crap out of the big magnets in the head positioning system. This they did by hand with a strong light, infinite patience and a lot of Scotch Tape. It took them several days to do the cleanup, by which time they got some more heads from the factory in Massachusetts. You should have seen those platters! Not only was the oxide scraped off, there were deep grooves cut into the aluminum. And the heads were ground off right down to the supporting arms.

Luckily, we did full backups of those systems every night.

My last serious backup of a home system took 5 boxes of floppy disks-- 50 floppies. Roughly 70 MB.

I never found floppy disks to be reliable enough to use. The last time I bought a box of new floppy disks, I could not even format about 30% of them. And a backup on one of them could rarely be read back. My last few computers have not even had floppy drives on them.

Nobody backs up their computers anymore because it just isn't feasible. How do you back up even a 2TB disk? Approximately 8 hours per TB. So, about 16 hours. Unless you want to verify; then add another 16 hours. Don't get me started on "cloud" backups. That's a joke. I cannot imagine how long it would take to upload 1TB.

And these days, 2TB isn't rare in a home computer. I'm seeing 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB desktops advertised all the time.


You don't think the IRS backs up their computers? You imagine the NSA does not back up theirs? Almost all relational database management systems I know of (e.g., IBM's DB2, Oracle, even postgreSQL do that, pretty much automatically.

And people get sloppy. After you've spent an entire weekend doing a backup once a month for 2 years...and never needed to restore anything...you'll soon stop doing backups.

Sure, and then, when the excrement hits the ventilator, sloppy people lose data.

I make a backup automatically onto a removable external hard drive every night when I am normally asleep, and automatically once a week to magnetic tape overnight. Also a backup to tape on the first of the month that goes into the safe deposit box at the bank.

Come on! Magnetic tape??


Sure. I can get 160 GBytes on a little cassette. I have one of these on my machine and a spare one on the shelf. You cannot get them any more. I can get more onto my external 2 TByte hard drives, but I cannot put many of those in my safe deposit box. I can get many of the cassettes in there.

https://www.tandbergdata.com/default/index.cfm/support/disco...
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