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Discussion Starter #1
Passwords and backups are two of the unfortunate necessities of life today if you use a computer and do anything online. I'm curious to see what kinds of solutions people use for managing these.

Here's what I do:

Passwords

Like many people I try to use just a couple of passwords for everything in my life (one easy-to-remember one for low-security things and a more complex one for online banking and other sites where you really want a secure password), but the more online sites and services you use the more conflicting password requirements you run into (site A requires a password of eight characters with a combination of letters and numbers, site B requires a password of 12 characters with a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, etc.), and the more passwords you accumulate. Plus I'm using some systems now that require you to change your password every 90 days, and your new password cannot resemble any of your last three passwords.

The Mac has an excellent built-in keychain that allows you to store and open all your passwords by using one master password. For Windows I use a free similar product called Password Safe. I use Microsoft's free Windows Live Sync to synchronize my Password Safe file between my two Windows computers so the file is always up to date.

Both the Mac keychain and Password Safe also have a password-generating feature, so you can have it create a secure password and memorize it for you. I've been using this and it's great; I don't even have to remember my passwords anymore, just my one master password to unlock the keychain.

Backups

A lot of people don't bother to do backups, but they tend to be people who've never lost anything in a hard disk failure. Once you lose all your files you learn your lesson for life. I used to work in a small nonprofit where our system crashed several times a week and people frequently lost everything they'd done since the last crash, so I got into the habit of saving my files every few minutes and making daily backups.

Again, the Mac has a great built-in program (in the latest OS, Leopard) called Time Machine; you just hook up an external USB hard drive and the computer automatically takes snapshots of your hard drive. If you need to recover anything, it's a cinch to use the Time Machine to go back to how your hard disk looked yesterday, two weeks ago, or a year ago and find the file you need. For a complete hard drive failure, I'm told Time Machine works also for restoring your files to a new hard disk.

For Windows I just copy my documents and other key files (e.g., web browser favorites and cookies) onto a removable drive (I use Iomega's Rev drive, but now that 16 gig and bigger USB flash drives are available I'm thinking of using that instead). I alternate between two of these disks, keeping one at home for a quick daily backup and giving the other to my girlfriend to store at her office so I have an offsite backup in case the house burns down. I've thought about using an online backup service, but the initial backup of many gigabytes takes several days, and it can take a long time to recover your files if you need to download them. So I use physical offsite backups instead; more work but faster in some respects.
 

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Like brad, I use some "base" passwords/phrases/sentences + variations of those base passes when I have to follow certain requirements (like CAPS, numbers, length). What I do is to memorize all the base passes and assign numbers like (password 1, password 2) and then write down some cryptic instructions (that only I can read) as to which base and which variations are applied for a particular site. For security reasons, I never store any of my passwords on my computer or any storage devices.
 

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For backups I use one of the Terabyte external drives. It comes with software that makes syncing with my laptop fairly painless.

I'll reiterate the importance of backups, especially these days when family photos and videos are digitized and not stored in shoe boxes. Not to mention, important documents like tax returns, bank & brokerage statements etc.
 

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For backups I use Mozy (with my own encryption key), an external hard drive stored in my safe deposit box, and a truecrypt-secured file container for key documents on my USB drive (a Lacie iamakey that stays on my keyring).

Basically I've got three backups at any given time. If my computer explodes it wouldn't be too hard to get a new one and get up-and-running with my key data.
 

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Question for the folks with external hard drives: Do you guys buy those dedicated external hard drives or do you buy internal hard drives and put them inside enclosures?

I believe the former is about convenience and look while the latter provides flexibility i.e. you can put them inside your PC should you desire

There is not much difference in terms of pricing and warranty, I don't think.

P.S: Which one is more preferable for storing large amounts of movies and watching them on TV?
 

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@ canabiz - I used to buy internal drives + enclosure kit, but I was never satisfied with any of the enclosure kit (in terms of noise, cooling mechanism, etc.) Now I have one 1TB external that is running all the time.

However, I use an internal drive + enclosure kit for the backup of the backup. I try to do this once or twice a month (but I'm not always good with it). I use SynchBack to save time.
 

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Thanks fellas, I just picked up a 1 TB External drive with USB and eSATA from NewEgg for $99.99 + taxes and shipping.

I was going to wait until Boxing Day for deals but this is probably as good as it gets now. Definitely on the same page with you folks, one can never be complacent when it comes to backups.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The only problem with relying on an external drive is that it doesn't really give you an option for offsite backups. I'm probably more sensitive to this need because I work at home, so if someone stole my computer AND my external drive, or if the house burned down, I need to make sure I don't lose all my work with it. But still, if you value your personal stuff like music files and photos, it's worth keeping an offsite backup. Even just burning files to DVD occasionally and asking a friend to store them for you is a good idea, keeping in mind that DVDs and CDs that you burn yourself have a pretty short storage life and can start to lose data after just a few years.

Now that huge USB flash drives are available (I have a 16 gig one from HP and I see that Kingston now has 128 gigabyte thumb drives) I think that's the easiest solution for offsite/portable backups. You can also encrypt them if you're worried about security.
 

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For passwords, I use a really good memory augmented by firefox.

For backups, I use linksys network drives and the software that comes with them. Pretty seamless.

If the house burns to the ground, I'm out data as I don't bother with off site backups. But if the house burns to the ground, it's likely the least of my concerns!

128 gig thumb drive? I'm blown away by the size of removable storage. Unreal what they pack into such a small space.

/first hard drive was 20 meg!
 
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