How To Protect Your Data During a Computer Clean Up

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Kroll Ontrack offers its top tips on how to avoid data loss when cleaning out digital media

Almost one-third of all data recovery requests are the result of human error, including accidental file and folder deletion, according to data recovery specialist Kroll Ontrack.

Taking a few proactive and logical steps prior to organising your digital media and deleting data will reduce the potential for data loss.

Paul Le Messurier, programmes and operations manager at Kroll Ontrack, said: “While most of today’s operating systems leverage built-in utilities to proactively maintain drive health, it is considered prudent to also routinely organise folders, migrate documents off of the desktop and clean out unnecessary files and emails. That’s all well and good until a user, or a utility, accidentally deletes an important file – a not-so-uncommon reason individuals utilise DIY data recovery tools or seek the help of a data recovery provider.”

To ensure your proactive computer clean up does not result in unnecessary data loss, take these precautions:

saving dataVerify your backup

Before eliminating unneeded files and folders from your drive, verify that your backup is operating properly. In a 2014 Kroll Ontrack survey of customers who had experienced data loss, 65 per cent of survey respondents actually had a backup solution in place at the time of data loss – the backup software either failed, was not on an automated schedule, or an important file was lost prior to a scheduled backup. Therefore, prior to deleting any files:

Regular backup: Ensure your backup is running regularly in accordance with the determined schedule.

Error checks: Check the backup report for error indications or failure.

Testing: Test your backup prior to computer clean-up to ensure data has been accurately captured and files are intact.

Have a clean-up strategy:

Fortunately, today’s larger drive capacity provides more flexibility to keep a larger volume of data without completely compromising performance. Case in point, the drive capacity for Kroll Ontrack data recovery jobs averaged one terabyte in 2014, an increase of 185 percent in the last five years. As such, taking an organisational approach rather than a mass deletion approach to National Clean Out Your Computer Day seems appropriate and still beneficial.

Start with your desktop: Saving files on your desktop is easy and quick, but is an ineffective way to organise files and folders. Take a moment to migrate desktop files into logical document folders to improve performance (and help find what you’re looking for!).

Check your email: For many, the sent and deleted folders have become a security blanket, with valuable proof of communication and files sent and received. Still, there are plenty of emails in each that are unnecessary and likely slowing down your system. Start with sorting by ‘size’ to reduce the largest storage culprits, sorting by “type” to eliminate unnecessary meeting and out of office responses, and then by “to” to delete spam and unimportant messages.

Don’t go folder crazy: With improved search capabilities, it’s no longer necessary to be knee-deep in a folder tree to organise your files. Set up logical information buckets with consistent nomenclature, and utilise search to find the information you need. Simple is best.

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