Not everything that goes bump in the night is a ghost or a ghoul. Sometimes it’s a crucial bit of kit getting damaged. Unfortunately no piece of technology lasts forever, any device can be stolen or damaged and any digital file can be deleted or corrupted. If it contains something that really matters to you – your priceless family photos or home videos, perhaps, or your university dissertation, or the book that’s going to make you a superstar – then any problems could be catastrophic.
The first thing to do is to ensure that you have more than one copy of anything important. For example, if you store all your photos on your phone you should make sure you have copies of all of them on your PC too: if your phone was to be stolen and you didn’t have backups of your photos, they’d be gone forever. You can also use online services such as Apple’s iCloud or Google Photos to store your snaps on Apple or Google’s computers. Other services from the likes of Flickr and DropBox can do the same. That means if you lose your phone or PC, you can still download the photos to a different phone or PC later. Those services aren’t just limited to photos, either. You can use them to store and share documents of any kind.
A really good way to have backups is to get an external hard disk. If you have a recent PC or Mac you have USB 3.0 ports, which are much faster than the USB 2.0 ports in older computers. That means you can take advantage of super-speedy USB 3.0 drives. You don’t need to spend much to get a good one: for example, Toshiba’s Canvio Basics is currently £44.99 for 1TB of space, more than enough for even the biggest photo library. Even a massive drive such as the 4TB WD My Passport is less than £100.
There are other ways to copy files, such as USB sticks and DVD discs (if your computer has a DVD burner), but we wouldn’t recommend them. USB sticks aren’t really made to last and they’re easy to lose, while DVD discs take ages to burn, don’t have much storage capacity and aren’t particularly well-suited to long term storage.
So far we’ve talked about prevention. What about cure? One of the most common computer, tablet or phone disasters is a liquid spill. If that happens to you, turn the device off immediately and if it’s a laptop, turn it upside down so the keyboard is facing down. Whatever you do, don’t turn it back on until you’re sure it’s completely dry inside. If it isn’t, you could cause a short-circuit that’ll ruin the computer.
Have you heard the one about putting a phone in a sealed bag of rice? That works, because the rice draws out the moisture – but it takes at least two days to work. As with laptops, keep the phone off until it’s completely dry.