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Backup for Years

Q:

What do you advise as the best way to assure that all of one’s digital documents (and photos, etc.) will be safe for many years? For example, is it advisable to replace one’s hard drive every five years or so to assure that the information stored thereon remains viable?

A:

The best advice I have is to back up your key files, like documents and photos, on a frequent basis. And I would do this in two ways—locally, on an external hard disk, and remotely, to a cloud-based backup service. Software to do this locally is built into both Windows PCs and Macs, and there are third- party programs available. For remote backup, which usually costs money after an introductory amount, there are services like Carbonite and CrashPlan (which can also handle local backups.) My colleague Katie Boehret recently reviewed CrashPlan here: http://bit.ly/zIxStH.

Q:

All the USB ports on my Mac laptop are ruined thanks to water damage. Could I use an AirStash wireless USB drive to transfer photos from my camera to my computer?

A:

Assuming your camera uses a standard SD memory card, you can pop it into the AirStash, and connect your laptop to the AirStash Wi-Fi network. Using your Web browser, you can view the photos and download them. However, this Web interface is rudimentary and allows only one photo to download at a time, which can be maddeningly slow. The company says you can download multiple photos at a time if you install a free program called Cyberduck, but setting this up is geeky.

Q:

I did not know when I bought my Samsung phone that I would not be able to update its operating system because I have an Apple Mac computer.

According to the customer service representative I talked to, because the Samsung is an Android phone, which uses an operating system by Google, and Google and Apple “are competitors,” Samsung will only update the phone by providing a downloadable program that runs on Windows computers, but not Macs. Have you heard of this?

A:

I raised your question with a senior mobile-phone official at Samsung who quickly responded that “this is absolutely not true” and added that the company is “actually in the process of getting some content up on samsung.com to help consumers with this very issue.”

Email Walt at mossberg@wsj.com.


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