Making Sure Your Computer Files Are Safe

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Keep Your Computer Data Secure

The Case of the Missing Essay

I was working with a Grade 11 student the other day who wanted help with an English essay he was writing on his laptop. When he turned his computer on he couldn’t find the essay. I asked him where he had saved it – he said he couldn’t remember – he just saved it where the computer suggested.

Then I asked him what he called it – he wasn’t sure about that either – he couldn’t remember if he used the name suggested – something like Document1.doc – or if he had called it ‘essay.doc’ – or even ‘Englishessay.doc’.

We spent a few minutes trying to find where he put it but it wasn’t in any of the likely places. He was about to give up and start writing it again.

I then used advance search skills to find all the files that were altered on the day he wrote the first draft and was able to find it – under the name ‘assignment2.doc’.

The moral of the story is: Always name your computer files in a way that makes them easy to find. Find out how below:


Strategy 1: Naming Documents and Other Computer Files So You Can Find Them Easily

The golden rule for filing is to store the file so you can find it in 30 seconds.

Get everyone in your family to use these techniques:

  • FOLDERS: Set up a folder system so that there is a folder for every area of your life, for every subject at school, for every person who uses the computer, for every year, and so on. Before you save any new document make sure you save it in the most appropriate folder.

  • ADD THE DATE: Many documents benefit from having the date in their file name. Dates are best put at the start of the file name in reverse order YYMMDD – the reverse order means that they will appear in the folder in date order. That means that a document created on 11/3/2012 might be called ‘120311 Study Notes on Cells Chapter 5.doc’ and will appear after ‘120129 Study Notes on Plants Chapter 5.doc’ in your Science folder.

  • KEEP UPDATED VERSIONS OF FILES THAT REQUIRE REVISION: When working on a major piece of work like a power point presentation, an essay, or a major project it is a good idea to keep different versions of the document as you progress, and delete the working versions when you finish the task. The easiest way to do this is to date the filename, changing the date every time you start working on the document like this: ‘120313 PLP Project.doc’, ‘120315 PLP Project.doc’, ‘120404 PLP Project.doc’, and so on.

  • FILE CLEAN-UP: At the end of each year delete documents you don’t need anymore, and put documents you want to keep into sensibly named folders. For example, School and uni students should keep all their study notes from previous years for future reference. In this case, just make a new folder with the year the work was done and transfer your files into that. For example, in your ‘Science’ folder make a new folder called ‘2011 Science Study’ and move the old files into that.

Strategy 2: Back Up Your Computer Files – It Is Worth the Trouble


  • For external examinations in Australia such as those at the end of Year 12, loss of data for any reason (such as theft, computer malfunction, and even acts of god) is not an acceptable excuse for not handing up assignments on time. This can result in failure in the subject and lower aggregate marks for university entrance.

  • A few years ago, a Year 12 student I was helping had his bag snatched while waiting for the school bus – a car drove up to the bus stop, a man jumped out and through 5 bags into the back seat and drove off. Every bag had a laptop in it. The students managed to get their bags back – they had been thrown out the window in nearby streets – AFTER THE LAPTOPS HAD BEEN REMOVED.

  • Another one of my students brought an essay to work on. It was stored on a USB drive that he had been working on at school on a school computer. The disk had a new virus on it which destroyed a lot of files on my computer before my virus checker had found it. Luckily I have a good back-up system with my computers so I was able to restore the computer’s file system and data. School computers are notorious for containing viruses! Always do a virus check on any disk you put into your computer before working on any files.

  • A student arrived with her computer with a USB drive sticking out of it with all her schoolwork for the year on it – and no copies of it on any of her computers. Luckily she didn’t bump it and wreck the USB drive and or the computer connection – but how she hadn’t had an accident over the previous month while she carted it around school and home I will never know.

Strategy 3: Protect Your Data from Outside Attack

Contemplate how you would feel and what you would do if you lost all your family pictures, your child lost a major assignment and so failed a subject, you lost the address list for all your friends.

PROTECT YOUR DATA! Make sure you arrange this for every member of your family and set up a timetable to make sure it happens regularly.

  • Have an up-to-date reputable virus checker on every computer.

  • Back up your operating system and programs at least once a month so you can restore your system after a virus attack or any other malfunction.

  • Back up your personal data at least once a week and store the backup somewhere safe – I store my really important backups in a safety deposit box in the bank.

Getting Help with Backup and Security

If you don’t have the expertise to set up a backup and security system for all your computers then get someone to help you. We can at High Performance Learning advise you on how to proceed if you would like to use our services. We can also help you and/or your children set up good filing systems for paper and computer data so life becomes less stressful and more efficient for the whole family.


Other Ways to Improve Your Filing

Chris Brooks
High Performance Learning

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