6 Ways to Prevent Data Loss in Word Processing Software

Back up your data and other strategies to keep your documents safe

Losing important documents that you've spent so much time creating is frustrating, especially if you're like most users, who create documents directly on the computer and don't have the benefit of a handwritten copy.

Here are six ways to keep your word-processed documents safe.

Lost Data image

Never Store Your Documents on Your OS Drive

While most word processors save your files in the My Documents folder, this is the worst place for them. Whether it's a virus or software failure, most computer problems affect the operating system, and often, the only solution is to reformat the drive and reinstall the operating system. In such an instance, everything on the drive will be lost.

Installing a second hard drive on your computer is a relatively low-cost way to take care of this problem. A second internal hard drive will not be affected if the operating system is corrupted, and it can even be installed on another computer if you need to buy a new one.

If you're skeptical about installing a second internal drive, an external hard drive is an excellent option. An external drive can be attached to any computer at any time by plugging it into a USB or FireWire port. Many external drives also have the added benefit of one-touch or scheduled backups; you specify the folders and schedule, and the software takes care of the rest.

Back Up Your Files Regularly

Storing your files in a different location than your operating system isn't enough; you need to create regular backups of your files. Increase your odds of being able to retrieve a file by having a second backup of it. If the data is important, consider storing a backup in a fireproof vault.

Beware of Email Attachments

Even if you're certain they don't contain viruses, email attachments can cause you to lose data. For example, if you receive a document with the same name as one on your drive, and your email software is set to save attachments in the same location, you run the risk of overwriting the file that's already there. This often happens when you're collaborating on a document and colleagues send updates via email.

Set your email program to save attachments in a unique location, or, barring that, think twice before saving an email attachment on your hard drive.

Beware of User Error

Take advantage of safeguards included in your word processor, such as versioning features and tracked changes. A common way users lose data is when they're editing a document and accidentally delete portions. After the document is saved, the portions that are changed or deleted are lost unless you enabled features that store changes for you.

If you don't want to deal with the advanced features, use the F12 key before you start working to save the file under a different name. It's not as organized as some of the other methods, but it's a useful method.

Go to the Cloud

Storing files and their backups in the cloud is becoming more common. Cloud storage offers many advantages, such as generous space allotments, ease of use, access from wherever you are and whatever device you're using, and reliability.

Cloud storage services back up their servers, so there's a double layer of protection for files stored this way. For these reasons, cloud storage is increasingly the best option for most people.

There are several mainstream free options:

  • Google Drive offers 15 GB with every Google account.
  • Mac users get 5 GB with iCloud, which is built into every Apple device.
  • Microsoft provides 5 GB of space with OneDrive, which comes with Microsoft 365 and Xbox accounts.

If you need more storage room, the services above offer paid options, as do other cloud storage companies.

Keep Hard Copies of Your Documents

It won't prevent you from having to type and format your document again, but keeping a printed copy of an important document will at least ensure you have the contents of the file, and that's better than having nothing at all.

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