Preparing your computer for an emergency

Preparing your computer for an emergency

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — If you had 15 minutes to get out of your house, what would you take?

With wildfires causing evacuations across the state, this question has been at the forefront of many people's minds, and unfortunately, part of other's realities.

Maybe you have your 72-hour kits put together and your important documents stored in a fire-proof safe or safety deposit box, but what about your computer data?

Here are a few tips (compiled with the beginner in mind) to preparing your digital world for an emergency:

Back up your system.

It's been said a million times, but it's still relevant. Hard drives can be purchased at any tech store or online, and both Windows and Mac computers come with backup applications built-in. For those using Linux, open-source options are available.

If possible, keep another external hard drive in a location outside of your home. A relative's home or safe deposit box are both practical options. In the event that you are gone when disaster strikes, and your computer and external hard drive are both destroyed, you will have that second backup.


An alternative to a second hard drive is the cloud, or networked online data storage, typically hosted by a third party like Dropbox or iCloud, which both allow you to share your data with other users. If you are comfortable with storing and accessing your data on cloud storage, find a service that meets the needs of your system and the amount of storage you'll need.

Store software in a safe place

Along with your photos, documents or music and other libraries, creating digital copies of your software can save you the cost of purchasing software again and get you up-and-running again quicker in the event that you lose your computer. Do not, however, share your copies for others' use.

Keep original copies of your software in a safe, fire- proof box or a safe-deposit box at your bank, if you are not going to use them anytime soon.

Backup browser bookmarks

Most browsers have plugins that will save your browser bookmarks, and Google Chrome has a built-in sync for all your bookmarks that works across any device on which you are logged in.

If you don't want to install a plugin to your browser, creating a Google document or a document with those bookmarks you store on a hard drive or cloud, is another option, though more tedious.

Safely store passwords

If your computer is destroyed, you might have a hard time recalling those important characters. Having a secure password manager, like LastPass or 1Password, will securely store your passwords. The good news? You'll only have to remember the password to that one account to access those others.

Pack it up

If you have the box and packaging your computer came in, that's ideal, but if not, find a sturdy box, pack it with soft things (do double duty and throw clothes without buttons, zippers or other hardware or bedding in there) and your computer. Be sure any disks are removed from the drive before packing, and keep all cables together.

If, for some reason, you're unable to take your computer along with you, give it a slightly better chance of surviving a disaster and unplug it, move it away from windows and doors, wrap it up in plastic wrap or a large plastic bag, keep it off the floor, and say a little prayer that it survives.

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Celeste Tholen Rosenlof


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