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Be Afraid

My name is Helen Ginger and I’m addicted to my computer. I had never thought of myself this way until a month ago when my computer crashed, black-screened, nada, nothing, dead as a doornail. My worst fear. If you’ve ever experienced that, it probably became your nightmare as well.

Fast forward a month and I’m still without my computer. I’m waiting. Patiently. Okay, not so patiently. My iPhone is not suited to checking and writing email. I can get some things done on my iPad and, when my husband’s out of town, I can use his computer. There are things even his computer can’t do. Only my computer has Dreamweaver on it, the software I use to update my site weekly. Or…used to update weekly.

Not only am I an editor, I’m a writer. Part of that “worst fear” of losing my computer is that the tech guy may not be able to retrieve all my data, including the manuscript I was working on. The good news is that I immediately emailed my friend and fellow editor to see if she still had the copy I had sent her to edit. (Yes, editors have editors.) She did and promised to save it. Having to rewrite from that point is better than trying to rewrite from the document as it stood back in early Spring – the last time I’d backed up.

There lies my real problem. I’m good at backing up after a computer crash – for about six months, then I slack off. I forget. Not anymore. After this crash, I will sign on with an automated online backup. I can reload Dreamweaver and Word and PhotoShop and all the other software. I can’t reload months or years of not-backed-up data.

So, I’m here today to tell you, with Halloween only a couple of weeks away, be afraid. Most importantly, though, be aware. Backup. Or, like me, get a service to backup for you.

If you don’t, you’re likely to hear what I hear – the dying screams of data and manuscripts adrift in the endless blackness of cyberspace.

The late Helen Ginger (1952-2021) was an author, blogger, and the Coordinator of Story Circle Network's Editorial Services and writing coach. She was also a former mermaid. She taught public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. Helen was the author of Angel SometimesDismembering the Past, and three books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series.


  1. I finally learned that lesson as well, after a bad crash in which the hard drive itself died and I lost everything. I had back ups - over a year old, and had to rebuild my "life" again. I now use an automated online backup, Backblaze. It's $50 a year and works great.

    I also use Dropbox for my writing and other stuff of "immediate" need, so that it syncs to my work computer (also a great way to easily transfer files between the two comps).

    Every six months or so, I do a hard back up to an external drive, and archive older stuff. Backups are thine friend...I preached it for a decade before finally practicing it :-P

  2. Thanks for the reminder, Helen. I started using a service, Carbonite, that my son recommended. I have not heard of Dropbox that the other commented mentioned. I will have to check that out.

  3. I read your first paragraph, and immediately started a Norton backup.

  4. I don't know how you can stand it, Helen. How do you handle the editing - on iPad, too? Would love to hear more about that.

  5. Dropbox recently came up in a meeting for another use, so I'm going to check into it, too.

  6. I just watched the video at and it looks pretty useful.

  7. Collectonian, you are my idol. I hope I can copy you!

    Maryann, I hadn't heard of dropbox either, but I'm going to check it out. I asked my newsletter subscribers what backup service they use and the majority of them said Carbonite.

    Way to go, Mac!

    Elspeth, now if I can only remember my own reminder.

    Thanks Dani.

  8. I've had crashes. Had most of my data recovered, but I'm another Dropbox user. I've been tempted to check out Carbonite, but as long as I remember to work on manuscripts via my Dropbox folder, I'm OK. I also email them to my daughter in Ireland. Figure we won't both suffer crashes at the same time.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  9. I'm terrible at backing up, so thank you, Helen. I really needed this reminder.

    I edit an author/publisher newsletter, and we use Dropbox to make the latest files available to all those who need instant access. It works well for that.

    My son-in-law recommended Carbonite. I haven't done anything with it yet, but it's past time — as your post points out.

  10. So many recommendations for Dropbox - and I'd never heard of them! Thank you all.

  11. After once losing work, and not to a crash, but to it only being on one floppy disk (that's going back some, ain't it), I now save my work on both an external hard-drive and a usb stick. In fact, my computer has less stored on it than my external.
    I figure all three sources can't die at the same time. Though I haven't suffered a computer crash for around eighteen years. So fingers crossed there.

    Hope you get most, if not all, of your data back, Helen.

  12. Omigod, Helen! That sounds awful! My external backup drive broke down a while back and I finally bought a new one yesterday. I'll have to back up all my important files again - sooner rather than later, after reading your post!

    And I will definitely check out everyone's recommendations for those two online backup services. I can't imagine losing everything suddenly - what a nightmare that would be! So yes, thanks from me, too, for the excellent reminder to all of us, and thanks to the rest of you for your recommendations.

  13. Aldrea, my main problem is my brain has no memory back up. I forget to do the backups so I've got to have something that doesn't depend on me remembering!

    Jodie, for me, it was one of those, oh, no, this cannot be happening moments. I stood and stared at the black screen for a long time.

  14. I email my WIP to myself every time I work on it. I've been lax about backing up other stuff, like pictures, but I don't get rid of any of the cards and I still have my iPhone with all the pics on it.

    I do have subscriptions for backups which can be done automatically, but for some reason my server seems to time out at inopportune moments, which makes the software stop and not restart where it left off.

    So, I really need to do the manual backup. If by chance I do get a crash, I would not be happy.

    Morgan Mandel

  15. Can you change the time of your backups, Morgan?

  16. I use to live in that same kind of fear. Then Apple came out with Time Machine, which backs up hourly onto a little LaCie external hard drive I bought for $80. No bigger than a deck of cards, I can easily bring it along in its drawstring bag. With so much else in life to worry about, I sure was glad to off-load this one!

  17. OH NO! Helen! That is a nightmare of epic proportions. I usually back up to an external drive about once a quarter. I used to think it was ok, but after reading this it's not nearly enough!

    Hope you're up & running soon!

    Judy, South Africa

  18. Hello my friend! I want to say that this article is awesome, nice written and include almost all vital infos. I would like to see more posts like this

  19. I back up weekly. My biggest fear is losing everything I've ever written. Reading posts like this makes me want to have a back up of my back up. Hope you're able to salvage everything.

  20. I lost a whole manuscript in progress a few years ago when my machine went down, so now I always keep a flashdrive pugged into a USB port. It's so easy and quick to make backups this way. If it wasn't easy and quick, I would probably procrastinate doing it.


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