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How To Make Your Computer Crash Proof And Cloud Friendly

The other day the good folks at my local Apple store unloaded the bad news that my ailing hard drive needed to be replaced and advised me to backup first. Aside from a few images and non-essential documents, I was good to go. Here’s how I manage my hard drive to be crash proof and how you can too.
I’m using a Mac as my example in this post but the same principles apply to PCs. I’m also eliminating the hassle of backing up to an external hard drive, including Mac’s Time Machine option. This is all about effortless cloud based backup and sync.

Cloud storage accounts

Here’s all you’ll need to get started: Dropbox and Evernote accounts. If you don’t want to spring for a paid Dropbox account, you’ll need more than the 2 GB so get a Box.com account where you’ll get 10 GB free with promotions that could net you upwards of 40 GB. (I have a free 50 GB Box account.)
After creating accounts and installing the applications it’s time to set up your folders. On my larger cloud drive, Box.com, I setup the usual array of folders and subfolder found on a hard drive: Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, and so on. This folder structure and the files housed there are now available on your hard drive and synced to Box or Dropbox.
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Applications

You don’t need to backup your installed apps. In fact, you probably have more than a few unused apps clogging up your hard drive. Getting a new hard drive or moving to a new computer is a great opportunity to start with clean slate and install only the apps that you use.
Applications ordered through the Mac store are available to install on any hard drive, but for a full list, go to Finder and click on Applications. Copy and paste into a “Mac Backup” notebook in Evernote. Remember to perform an “unformatted” paste (command+shift+v) or else Evernote will attempt to paste zip files of all the applications. You don’t want that.

Serial Numbers

The second note in your Evernote “Mac Backup” notebook should contain a list of all serial numbers so you can reinstall the applications that you purchased online. After my hard drive was replaced, I was able to go online and quickly download my MS Office for Mac suite of programs, Adobe Acrobat Pro and other applications.
Even if you choose other backup processes, this is a list you should maintain in Evernote.

Passwords

I’m not a fan of saving passwords to multiple browsers. It allows anyone using my computer to access my login credentials. Use a password manager instead. I use 1Password. It’s not inexpensive, but neither is your security, convenience and peace of mind. Configure 1Password to automatically backup your passwords to a Dropbox or iCloud account – all encrypted, of course.

Music

I don’t like iTunes. Neve have. My 5000+ tracks are housed in Google Music for safekeeping. I also use my old iPod as a music hard drive backup. Treasured tracks, I backup to my Box.com account. Like many, the way I listen to music has changed over the years – to Spotify, Pandora, last.fm and other online music streaming services, so backing up music has become less critical for me.

Hard Drive

I set up three folders that reside only on my hard drive:

  1. To Be Filed – when I’m in a hurry and want to quickly save a file. These files are reviewed and sorted monthly.
  2. To Be Deleted – temp files like screenshots to be used in blog posts. These files are reviewed and moved to the trash bin monthly.
  3. Meh – files that are nice to have but not concerned about losing.

I also use Google Docs for many of my docs and spreadsheets and Evernote to store all of my notes and much, much more. After I upload a photo to Facebook or Flickr, it’s deleted from my hard drive. To be safe, I occasionally backup Facebook to Dropbox or Box.
That’s it! Once you set up your cloud accounts and hard drive, it’s easy to maintain a crash-proof computer.
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