Musical Mortality

I go to a ballroom dance class and the owner of the studio had his lap-top stolen with all his ‘sorted-by-style’ compiled music arrangements, and it made me imagine if my computer’s drives were to ‘konk-out’ permanantly. With all the tweaking, sample arranging, EQ-ing, and perfecting I have done, I would be devastated if my PC was destroyed and I couldn’t recover all the musical work I have put in.

Anyone backing-up regularly in any efficient way? Even little ways, I used to get so mad if N-track crashed before I had hit save. I was thinking of getting a 1TB extenal drive because I have much suff dedicated to my own musical production. I’m also contemplating getting a new PC soon anyway and I’m imagining some big export to the new machine. Any stories or tips with that would be valued as well!

Knock on wood,

Your external hard drive is a good idea. I have a removable drive bay in my DAW machine, and every week or three I make a backup of current work and sit the hard drive on a shelf. For a long time I tried using cds, but they just won’t hold enough data to save even a slightly big song… DVDs might be a good alternative, but there is something so reassuring about a seperate hard drive - once it is out of the machine you no longer have to worry about stray electrical impulses or lightning strikes…

'til next time;
tony w

I’d like to know the best backup method as well. I use both CDRs and a big external hard drive - but it always makes me think of debates in the library community, about paper (a proven technology) vs. digital (not proven).

If we could only write wave files to papyrus - or even better, clay tablets. I hear those things can survive for centuires. :D

I opt for DVD’s. Just so I have the stuff. All of my music files as well as my VST folder’s contents. Its a real pain when you try to load an old project and the VST’s are missing.



Quote (TomS @ Mar. 20 2007,08:33)
I'd like to know the best backup method as well. I use both CDRs and a big external hard drive - but it always makes me think of debates in the library community, about paper (a proven technology) vs. digital (not proven).

If we could only write wave files to papyrus - or even better, clay tablets. I hear those things can survive for centuires. :D


Well, if by proven you mean that you know paper is eventually going to disintegrate, then I guess that is correct ???

NASA seemed happy enough with the old "vinyl technology" to attach an LP to the Voyager spacecraft.

Thinking about it, I suppose you could always copy out the bitstream by hand as a series of 1's and 0's onto a piece of paper, so you could have a "hard" copy of your latest masterpiece :D

Personally, I use Cliff's method.


I guess I used “proven” wihtout really thinking about the term - it’s the way archivists describe paper vs. digital. Perhaps it means “we know how long it will last, and we know what to do to make sure the information is not lost.” How long will a CDR last? Or an external hard drive? What happens when it seizes?

Well, thats why I use DVD’s. Of course, they can get scratched or DVD players will become obsolete. Who knows what will happen to “stuff”? For now I guess you just use what’s available.
Glad I wasn’t doing this back when I would have stored it all on a BetaCassette or a tape drive… I have a bunch of boxes of 10 inch reels filled with a ton of music from the 70’s & 80’s…back then I figured tapes would last a hundred times longer than the 400 vinyl LP’s still sitting in my closet…there’s a notebook sitting on top of those stacks…its filled with hand written lyrics to songs I copied down way back before PC’s and the internet and stuff… go figure…


Yeah, I’m jealous of those that will grow up with all the availble tools on PC. It took me much trial and error to develop a good sound recording back in my 4-track days…

Although I’m grateful I didn’t have to slam binary 1-0-1-1-1-0 on stone tablets, when will I get the time to record each track (for individual editing) to my PC one by one; Any ideas to seperate & record 4 individual tracks simulatenously via one single audio output?..:slight_smile:
Actually who cares, I could re-record my old stuff now much faster and better anayway…But, still just miss the olden days…

Well, at leat we’ll all have something to look forward to - interactive holographic concert halls with a virtual orchestra or metal band to play the midi track composition scores we write…

I used to think that with recordable CD’s and DVD’s it was just a case of write and forget.

Seems it ain’t so.

The optical dye layers are subject to aging, and that aging can be as short as a few weeks in bad conditions.

Heat, strong light (especially UV from direct sunlight), chemical attack (some stick-on labels are very bad), damp, etc., etc.

I’ve been reading a lot about it recently, and there’s lots of info on the web, here’s a couple of links:…01.html

I am now very careful about the media I use (Taiyo Yuden seems to be about the best), I keep my archived disks in the dark and in a cool dry place, and I make multiple copies.

So the point is, recordable CD’s are probably not as good as they told us they were. :(

Here’s a quick primer on backup methods. The dance instructor’s situation is really the key here - what if you lose your whole computer? If you’ve got data on it that is priceless then you must backup to a medium that you can remove and take offsite.

I didn’t use to worry about my office computers getting stolen because they’re old and not worth much. I know a couple of local businesses, however, that have had their computers ripped off because the thieves are looking for employee data for identity theft. You must think in these terms now. You have to protect yourself against more than a hard drive failure.

CD’s and DVD’s: Slow but pretty reliable. You can easily remove them and store them offsite. If you have a lot of data (hundreds of gigs) even DVD’s are impractical. Keep several generations of backups in case one goes bad.

Internal Hard drive or RAID: Protects against hard drive failure but totally useless against theft.

Internet Backup: Several services springing up to automatically backup your data to an offsite server. Good if you have limited data, less practical if you have lots of data. Only works with high speed connection.

External Hard Drive: Fastest of all the options assuming you have USB2 or Firewire. Reasonably cheap now that you can get a 300 gig external for under $200. Easy to take off site. For ultimate protection get two drives and alternate them for backups. You can buy software that will only backup what has changed since the previous backup - greatly speeding up the process.

I’ve got CD-Rs from over a decade ago (back when CD burners were $3000 and blank disks were $25 each!!)
They still play reliably but I’m very careful with disks and store them in hard cases religiously.
I’ve moved on to DVDs (-Rs and Taiyo-Yuden disks are supposed to be the best…)

On my current DAW (a Gateway laptop) I did make a Norton Ghost image (10 DVDs) but on the rest of my computers I only keep data backups and if needed will restore the OS and apps from the original installers manually.

I’ve been doing a lot of video editing this past year and THAT takes a lot of DVDs to backup (uncompressed AVI’s take up 13Gb per HOUR and I not only keep the original unedited video but also the edited mpegs and 4Gb videodisk burn files… that’s a lot to backup!) Will be very happy when they release those 300Gb HD burners!!!

Multiple machines/drives is a great way to go. For my MP3/iTunes collections and digital photos, I keep them duplicated on several PCs on my home network, so any one machine failing will not lose anything and the chances of all of them failing is extremely remote.

And as my old computer prof used to say, “You don’t have a real backup until you have THREE duplicates of your data in separate places and one of those sets mailed to somewhere out of state!”

(Backup strategies are a MUST down here in Florida… over the last 2 years we were hit with 4 hurricanes!!!)

I have 4-sata drives in my computer. I backup to a USB drive that goes home with me from the studio.

One of my band projects is 42gb right now… so CDR is out of the question.

Drive A: 80g dual-boot 2-40g partition (two installs of Windows) One tweaked for recording no internet, The other is a ‘normal’ install.

Drive B: 80g with my VST’s, recording software, Word docs with all my config info, cd keys, etc.

Drive C: 250g DAW File Storage

Drive D: 250g BACKUP

USB 250g another backup after each session.

Sounds like overkill? I have lost too much… and aren’t taking chances. Drives are cheap these days

I would not trust internal drives for backups, at least not solely.

There has been cases of the disk controller ciquits failing and toasting the hard drives. I’m pretty sure this has happened with SCSI and ATA drives. I’m not so sure if this is something that can happen with modern Ultra-ATA and SATA drives, but I prefer external and removable backup devices nevertheless. I use CDs and an USB-harddisk. I’ll add an DVD-burner one of these days.

At the office we use DAT-tapes. Ten tapes are used on an two-week cycle and an archive copy is made every month. I dont think we use incremental backups.

Bye now.