In your March 2 tips you were asked, "For how many years might a hard drive retain data if stored in a climate-controlled environment?" The problem was that you never answered this question, but did answer several others. Hard-drive storage is my backup plan and I would love to know your thoughts.
- Howard Deutsch
In some ways the question doesn't have a direct answer. That's because hard drives really weren't designed to be stored unused. The average time between failure for hard drives, last time I looked, was seven years. However, that's for a hard drive that is in use - not stored.
You'd think hard drives in storage would last much longer than those being used. But consider how a hard drive works. They are mechanical beasts that rely on a motor and a turning spindle to rotate the drives. Imagine storing a car in a climate-controlled area and trying to start it after two years.
I'll stick with what I said before. Keep precious information on your hard drive, keep a backup copy on an external disk and also burn DVDs or CDs (that makes three copies). Even then, it would be a good idea - after a year or so - to make a new copy on a new disk.
So while I can't give you a specific answer, I recommend against depending on good luck and a hard drive tucked away in some safety-deposit box for data you can't afford to lose.
The battery on my UPS (uninterruptible power supply) is dying. I know because I followed your tip on testing it in a recent column. I've discovered that a replacement battery costs $50. Would I be smarter just to buy another UPS?
- Adrian McIntyre
It's really a consumer budget problem, not a technical one. Here's how I deal with things like that in general. If keeping a device running costs more than 25 percent of an item's replacement cost, I think long and hard about spending that money. Especially with high-tech devices, improvements are being made constantly and prices tend to fall.
Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.