This is how I backed my entire digital life

A good spring clean is a timely reminder of what’s important in life right now


It’s been 682 days since I backed up my laptop. I am at risk of catching a virus. Aren’t we all?

I finally managed to find where I put my external hard drive — it was somewhere in a plastic storage box that was either in Spain, in Ireland, in an attic in the north of England, or in a small storage unit in Manchester.

It was in a box at the bottom of the storage unit. That’s been emptied now that I’ve bought another home and have managed to bring my stuff under one roof. But back to the backup. It took 8 hours and 49 minutes.

The first time I wrote the word coronavirus was January 25 of this year. There was no need to be concerned, I opined. Chinese authorities had imposed a lockdown and it all seemed to be contained. And even the virus did spread, public health authorities had it under control. Well, we all know what’s happened since then. Not that I’m making excuses, but there’s now ample evidence the virus was on the loose in Europe previously to that January 25 date. And we all know what happened since then too.

I’ve written more than half a million words on it since then. I wish I didn’t have to write it anymore — but I do. And sadly, there’s a lot more likely to be written on it.

My digital housekeeping

As part of my digital housekeeping, I went through all of the photographs and videos that are stored on my phones, on my laptop, uploaded too up there in the cloud. What struck me is how many 

photographs I seem to have taken of blackness. Somehow, my camera seems to activate when it’s in my pocket. There are pictures of nothing.

Then there are priceless photos of people and places and memories that can never be relived nor forgotten. There are parties and gatherings, dinners and drinks, smiling faces and beautiful landscape scenes, work videos where I try to be serious and have to make three or four takes before I finally get it somewhat right.

My e-Clutter

And then there are shopping missions where I’ve used my phone to take photographs of fridges and vacuum cleaners, taps and all sorts of ingredients that were planned for meals that might or might not have been rustled up in a kitchen.

There are emails telling me how to accept packages and click to see what I’ve won. There are emails telling me my team lost, won or drew, bought or sold.

My phones are filled with WhatsApp messages, memes and videos that make for hilarious reading, others that are simply ignorant and racist, and others that tried to lift spirits during weeks and months of lockdown.

Most have been deleted.

Somehow, I managed to download entire movie box sets and all nine seasons of television programmes that I’d never watch.

There’s an entire collection of forensic crime scene analysis files plus manuals of police procedure — I’m keeping those as they’ll come in hand for a series of murder mysteries I’m planning to write someday soon. I’m in the process of planning the perfect murders  right now. 

If a police detective could get inside my mind or read my notes, he’d probably have enough evidence to lock me away for years. I’m not talking a crude hammer job and botched cover-up here, but page-turning plots that will be written by the time I next clean out my laptop. Real whodunits.

And after doing my digital backup, I now have to figure out how to keep my external hard drive safe. Maybe I’ll pack it away in storage again.


Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent  based in Europe