Can You Find Files From Ten Years Ago?

September 30, 2013

I got an urgent message from a friend the other day. He and I had worked on a project ten years ago and he wondered if I still had a copy of the final PDF file we created. If you got such a request, could you find the file?

With each new version of Windows, Microsoft makes changes that they feel makes it easier for users to manage files. The biggest problem is that users don’t make any effort to organize their files and therefore they can’t be found later.

Was I able to find the file for my friend? You bet and it took me less than five minutes. I knew the name of the project and I keep folder of my projects in a specific folder on a specific hard drive. I’ve written about this strategy in my Setting Up a Windows Computer From Scratch series, specifically Part 4 on The Data and Backup. Don’t fall for the lure of the latest location where Microsoft wants the files to be stored. Pick the drive, create a folder on that drive and then put your data there. And for heaven’s sake, back up that data!

Another benefit of this method is transferring your data to a new computer. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard from someone who bought a new computer and is confused about getting the data from their previous computer. If you take control about where the data is stored, it is as simple as copying all of that data from machine to machine. Since most of us have networked computers, just copy it all across the network. It make take a few hours to complete, but it is really easy to get the process started in less than five minutes. If you fall for Microsoft’s choices of where to store data, good luck getting it all moved or even finding it to move.

Even if you aren’t planning on getting a new computer any time soon, start thinking about ways to better organize the data on your current computer. If you implement a process now, you can get organized in just a few minutes a day. Then it will be much easier to move the data when you get that shiny new computer!

Post Discussion


  1. Persnicketees

    Foster, are you recommending going to a cloud solution for back-ups? Up until about 8 years ago we archived on CD/DVD, then moved to external drives. With so many years of screen printing art and several failed externals, we are considering moving to a cloud solution. We have a balance of Corel Draw and Photoshop t-shirt design files, so use a lot of space. Have you written any articles on the different solutions/companies out there?

  2. Ken Graham

    I agree with your strategy Foster, we’ve been saving to a Network Data volume for as long. That volume for customers is broken down with alphabetical listings then customer file name and depending on the job sometimes a job file folder within.

    I’ve ran into numerous issues with backup programs and have found a file zipping program by the name of WinRAR to be the best as it works on any windows computer. There are numerous pluses to WinRAR – 1st you don’t have to open the windows program, though you will probably want to on a restore, instead you can create a Batch file with all the desired locations and procedures, then either click the link to batch file you have created on your desktop or perhaps use a automated time.

    The issue is if you ever create a regular copy backup saved to Write once systems like DVD’s all files become read only, a real pain if it includes database files that need to write to. However when you unzip (unrar) the file all attributes of a file are restored.

    If you forget to close a file at night a regular copy won’t save the file or database, yes you should always close files but with 2 or more people around on a network you may forget this or forget to log out of a computer program with open data. Their is a switch for WinRAR ‘s batch file to also copy the open file, not a good as remembering to close the file but could be a godsend over loosing a database.

    Damaged DVD or BlueRay – this harkens back to Floppy days when a damaged sector could destroy your backup and did on frequent basis. WinRAR has facility to store extra checksum information, you can save an extra 1, 2 or more percent so that if a file has a small amount of damage then depending on the extra setting you saved up to 1 or 2 or more percent needs to be damaged before file is lost.

    Media Storage Limit – Example CD’s 650 megs, DVD’s 4.5 GIG, BlueRay 25 Gig, Linux EXT3 or DOS/windows FAT32 of less than 4.5 Gig – With WinRAR and its batch files you can set the limit so it creates RAR’ed (zipped) files to match the media limit. If you are using Windows NTFS or Linux EXT4 the limit can be bigger than any hard drive currently available.

    The other issue is over time its possible someone will delete a file or want to delete files just to make housekeeping easier. In addition to our multiple backups we’ve now started doing a yearly backup to bluerays. The idea is that we may one day do housecleaning of the hard drives of customer files over say 10 years old. In that case we will hope to have those yearly backups to on Blueray to restore from – also if someone has inadvertently erased a file and not noticed for a few months we will have previous years blue rays.



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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III built his first Web site in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013. He has used the Divi theme exclusively since 2015. Earlier in his career he was the author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences.

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