At Hard Drive Recovery Associates, we specialize in recovering data from damaged hard drives (HDD), solid state drives (SSD), and RAID and NAS systems. We’ve also provided guides about external drive storage suggestions, the differences between types of hard drives, and how hard drives degrade over time. One question worth asking is “What should someone do with a lifetime’s worth of data?”
Keeping your data manageable and clean isn’t as easy as you might expect. A lot of people let their data run wild, storing it in various places such as external drives, on the cloud and all over the place. This can make tracking where important files are a new, brutal task. But keeping your data in good order can change that game markedly, while ensuring that you won’t experience hard disk failure.
1. Always Label Your Most Critical Drive And Its Contents
Choose a label for your drive that makes sense. So, one could be labeled “Photos, Videos, Family Stuff”, while another could be called “Important Documents And Work”, as a pretty good example.
Once you’ve created a label, inventorying the drive is a great idea. Try making a Spreadsheet that you save on that drive that details all the files or types of files on that drive. While you certainly don’t have to track everything, the most important files should be documented. “Photos, Videos, and Family Stuff” could include a Spreadsheet with information of what all is saved there. Many folks want to chronicle their stuff by date, and if that works for you, go for it. Remember that Windows does give you an idea of when a file was created, so this can help as well.
Some people actually write the drive’s contents in cursive and then attach the paper with scotch tape to the drive. It’s old skool, for sure, but it works!
However you write down the information, it should mirror how it is then labeled inside that hard drive. That way when you look at the contents list, you know how to search for it in the drive itself.
2. Clear Out Junk Files And Duplicates
Sometimes data can be a hard thing to get through, almost becoming like stuff in a junk drawer. What all is in there? You’re not sure, but you’re almost certain that one day you’ll need it, although you’re not sure what for. Remember that like a junk drawer, you probably don’t need half of the stuff.
Clear out duplicate, useless or old files the same way you clean a room; pick one area and start there. Attacking by file type tends to work well, like say photographs, and start clearing them out. Sure, you’ll probably keep a lot of them, but how many completely out of focus photos would you consider “must haves”? Meanwhile, any business or accounting stuff that is over 7 years old can easily be jettisoned. Work it!
3. Name Your Files
Personal desktop or laptop computers are often the first places people experience cluttered data storage. Everything can end up saved across different apps and areas making it hard to find things.
The first thing to do is simple; accurately name and label every new data file. Crafting a simple file name template can allow a person to create a more orderly hard drive without creating a single new file or using an external hard drive. Use a title template that helps, something like, “File-Title-Type-Date.docx”, which might be “How To Recover Data – Article – July22.docx”.
Instead of a series of random titles, now a person only needs to remember the format they used here to label files so they can better relocate them.
4. Identify the Drive
If you absolutely need an external drive for additional files, the first step should be identifying what the drive is needed for. For example, do you need something that’s short-term storage or something you’ll be working with regularly? If yes on the latter, perhaps an SSD drive is necessary that will only store active projects and applications being routinely utilized. Or maybe it needs to be long-term storage for rarely utilized things, so a HDD could be utilized.
Establishing why that external drive is being used is essential to determining what type of drive is best needed. This also makes it easier to sort and keep track of where data is being stored.
5. Rinse and Repeat
The last step is to repeat this process. It doesn’t have to be something that you do weekly or monthly but should probably be considered more than once in a lifetime.
How often you do it depends largely on how much you’re using a computer. As a large data user, like a videographer, perhaps every other month or once a quarter works. Maybe once every six months works better. But the average person should probably look at their data at the absolute minimum of every other year. Simply start at the beginning of the list and follow these steps as needed to reestablish order in your data. This will also help you spot any issues that may be developing in an external drive.
All of this can help you bring some structure to your data, and give your hard drives a break.