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How Safe is Your Data If Your Computer Gets Stolen? By  Leo Otenboom

When working with computers for any length of time, it's inevitable that you will experience a disaster of some sort. There's the crash that happens just before a document is saved. The failure that renders a disk unreadable. You get the idea.

Are you prepared?

Being prepared, of course, means being backed up. What would you lose if your hard disk self-destructed? What if it failed so badly that it was totally lost forever? Would your important documents and information be recoverable from other sources?

It should be.

Backing up is extremely easy to do. You can even do it without thinking- you can set it up to happen automatically every night. Yes, there are computer geeks who have complicated scripts and programs in place to backup their army of computers, but you don't need all that. There are many simple, automated solutions, and once you've experienced a failure, you'll admit they're worth every penny you invested.

You may be thinking hard disks don't fail that often. That may or may not be true, but it does happen.

But there's something perhaps even worse and that's having your computer stolen. Not only do you not have your data, but some thief might.

That is where encryption becomes critical. If you have sensitive personal or business data on your hard drive, and especially if your hard drive is on a portable computer, you should seriously consider using an encryption tool such as the free open source tool TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt creates virtual encrypted drives that are nearly impossible to crack without the proper passphrase, and works with any file and any application.

Don't rely on applications, such as Word or Excel, or tools such as WinZip, for password protection. Most of those are fine for keeping honest people honest, but they can be easily cracked with information found on the internet.

There's data loss, and there's data loss - it's important not only to backup your data for yourself, but also protect yourself from data loss in the form of theft by making sure that your sensitive data is encrypted and inaccessible to prying eyes.

Get more free tech help and advice from Leo Notenboom by visiting With over 30 years of industry experience, including an 18 year career as a software engineer with Microsoft, Leo gives real answers to real questions from ordinary computer users at Ask Leo! Subscribe to Leo's weekly newsletter now and receive a free ebook: "Internet Safety - Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet", a collection of steps, tools and concepts you need to know to keep your computer and your information safe.

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