Backing up

backing-up-translation-tipsMaking backups is something that one often just rolls their eyes about, assume it’s more the preoccupation of computer geeks, and pushes it to the back of their mind as something they are sure they will get around to doing, one day. Until one day comes and disaster strikes. Then you can count the pennies you lose every second that you spend not being able to translate because you have to go down to the shop to buy another computer, or spend the time recovering lost data, or even the more dreaded RE: retranslating.

But backing up doesn’t need to be such a tedious and intimidating prospect. The following are different ways you can backup your system.

Backup your entire computer


The most obvious. For this I found Acronis is a good and reliable system. It makes an image of your entire computer, which you can then store on an external harddrive. If calamity does ever strike you, you can run out to the shop, buy the same computer model and configuration, copy back the image and you can be up and running within the same day. Preferably keep your backup harddrive in a different location, if the calamity involves a fire burning down your house. You can be paranoid and save it in a safe deposit box in a bank. Otherwise, the time you would have to spend resetting up your entire working environment with the resulting loss in work could well outweigh the costs of storing such a backup. Especially if such a calamity occurs in the middle of a large and major translation project.

Have a backup computer


If you ever feel the urge to upgrade to a new computer, why wait until your existing one is completely dead when you can upgrade earlier and use your existing one as a backup? If anything happens to your new one, you can instantly pull out your old computer and keep working – assuming you have backed up some necessary files.

Backup necessary files


You can backup your entire system or even computer in the above ways, but certain files should be backed up frequently or constantly. For this I like to use Google Drive. It combines with the 15gigs you get with your regular google account, which includes your gmail account. If you are running out of room with that, you can easily set up a new gmail/google account and use that only for backup purposes. When setting up it will create a folder on your computer and always automatically synchronise that with what is on the web in its clouds. So any time you copy a file into that folder, even if it is overwriting an existing file with the same name, the software will recognise that there was a change and immediately upload it to the web.

This way, if you do need to resort to some sort of a backup, such as a digital one of your entire computer which you keep on an external harddrive (but which lacks an update of certain files) or switch to another computer, all you need to do is remember your login info to your gmail account and then download the necessary files to your new system. Or install the Google Drive software to your new system and it will download everything for you (or just download what you need if you do not want to install the software).


This reminds me a poor chap, in the early days of all this digital revolution, who spent half a year working on his thesis, the only copy saved on a floppy disk! And when I say floppy, I mean the older ones which are actually floppy and flexible, which most people these days probably do not even know of. He probably thought he was on top of technology and would carry around this flimsy piece of plastic from place to place, continuing on his work simply by sticking the thing into another computer.

Fast forward to the present, I once chatted with one translator who expressed extreme paranoia about losing any of his ongoing translation work, so I suggested he could put his translation file into the Google Drive folder and work out of that. Each time there would be an autosave every 9 seconds, the software would automatically upload a copy to the web. And if he is like me, he could manually press ctrl+s (save) every time he made an important change and did not feel like waiting for or trusting the autosave. I sometimes joke that I could develop a nervous eye twitch the amount of times I unconsciously press ctrl+s whenever working.


Anyway, whether you choose to save the originals of those files in the GD folder or occasionally copy updates into it, here is a list which might give you ideas what you’d like to store in it (and subsequently a backup in the clouds):

  • you’ve got 15gigs of space, so tons. Put everything important you can imagine, such as installation software for your most important programs.
  • I like to have a file with a random name (not “credit card information.txt”) which has precisely that, including what numbers to call if I need to cancel my credit cards. So I could lose absolutely everything except my shorts but still be able to walk into an internet café, log into my gmail to google drive account, open up the file and cancel everything. Or use the card for online shopping if I did not want to cancel.
  • telephone and contact details to all your friends, family and contacts. If you store all this information in your email software, for example, you can probably export it all into some format that could be read as a regular text file, or imported back into the same software if you ever have to set it up on another computer, or import into your new phone etc.
  • a file stating the username and passwords to everything you have, such as your facebook account, although I like to use cryptic versions of the passwords. There is also software which you can use to encrypt all this, but you would need to install it on another computer to decrypt it. I prefer my own mental cryptic system that only I understand and therefore can quickly access everything I need from a text file I can download anywhere.
  • this special file storing your passwords can also include other important information you want to keep, such as the details of software you paid for. If you ever have to set up again on another computer, you can download the software and then get it registered on your new computer with your existing activation code (assuming they let you do that).
  • if you have your own personal glossary for translation, then that. For example, if you use some digital dictionary software which allows you to add your own items, you can find out the name of the file that your personal glossary terms get added to and copy only that file into your GD folder, instead of the entire software folder.
  • any TM (translation memory) you have, again only the file or files concerned and not the entire software folder. Note that you can obviously compress all these specific files before you copy them into your GD folder – this will make for a faster download if you ever need to set up again.
  • all your browser bookmarks. Most browsers allow you to export that into a simple text file, or other format which can be imported into other or the same browser. Export it to the different format to be certain. The simple text file can probably be used to create a webpage of all your links, so if for example you are at an airport and realise you need to access a webpage you do not remember, simply go to your online GD folder, click on the webpage you created and it should open up in any browser you are using without importing it into its bookmarks.
  • your Word template file, or whatever it’s called. In Word, go to Tools > Options > File Locations and it should show you where such a file is stored. If you ever need to set up on another computer, after you install Word, copy the newly installed template file somewhere just in case, and then overwrite it with your previous template. This should set up your new installation with the toolbar and everything you had on your previous Word installation, including the all-important autotext, and maybe even your spellchecker (the words that you laboriously added to your dictionary over time so that you do not have to stare at those annoying squiggly red underlines when proofreading your own work). The autotext is a feature I like to use often when translating in Word. For example, I have one customer who always asks that acronyms be expanded, such as for some institution. It has to be translated as ACRONYM (source expansion of acronym [target translation of acronym, target ACRONYM]). So whenever I come across the first instance of that acronym in the source, I simply put the cursor at the end of it and press F3, the autotext replacing it with the long string of text that the customer wants to see. This saves a lot of time translating and can be a lot of work building up over the years, and very valuable information. Note that such additions to your autotext and possibly internal spellchecker only get saved to the template when you close the Word software. So if you have made some important entries, once you are done with your translation, simply close your Word and open it again. If you do not, you may be adding entries over a longer period, until your system accidentally crashes and you lose all those recent entries.
  • and lastly, if you use some offline email software, you can save all your messages as well. I often work and manage my life out of my inbox, or save important emails in special folders. You should be able to export all those messages so that you can reimport them if you ever have to install the software on another computer, or you can find the files which concern all the messages and save that instead of the entire software folder.


Note that there exists software which can automatically synchronise files and folders on your computer, using Window’s Task Scheduler. You can program it to automatically copy all of these important files into your GD folder according to some schedule, such as once every day. It will compare all the files and folders you instruct it to, and if it finds an updated version, it will automatically copy it to the GD folder, where it will be instantly and automatically uploaded to the clouds as a backup.

Downtime when you are not able to translate can cost you a lot of money, not to mention it can be rather annoying to have to set up everything from scratch again, or the valuable data that you can lose if you do not have such an automated backup system in place. Free up your time and make more money!

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