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Originally published Friday, May 16, 2014 at 4:27 PM

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‘Backup’ plan for laptop isn’t working

Patrick Marshall answers personal-technology questions.

Special to The Seattle Times


Q: I have a Lenovo ThinkPad running Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. I back up weekly to external media, alternating devices in case one fails. I choose what to back up myself and occasionally add a system image. This method has worked successfully for the year I’ve had the laptop.

Last week, the backup to MyPassport stopped, saying the disk was too full. I used “manage disk space” to remove old backups manually, and tried it again. After running all night, the backup window had a red bar and warned me “Check Your Backup” and “The last backup did not complete successfully.”

I have three questions:

How do you “check your backup”?

What is going wrong here?

I was told if backup is set up correctly, it automatically deletes oldest copies each time the external drive fills up. How do I set it correctly?

— Mary Hollen, Greenbank

A: Most backup programs allow you to either replace older backups when a new backup is done, or to do incremental backups.

Incremental backups take up more disk space over time, but they also allow you to restore older versions of files, which can come in handy, especially if you get infected with something nasty like Cryptolocker, which will encrypt not only data on your hard drive but also on attached external drives. If you have older versions of backup, you may be able to recover without paying ransom to Cryptolocker.

As to your specific questions, “checking your backup” generally means making sure you’ve got enough room on the designated backup drive for the data you’re going to back up.

What are you doing wrong? My best guess is that either there isn’t enough room on your external drive for your backup or perhaps you haven’t changed the designated backup location to the new drive.

As for how to set the backup program to replace earlier backups instead of adding to them, I’d have to know what backup program you’re using.

Q: I’ve lost my Favorites folder with 50 or more links. I think it happened when I updated from Google to Google Chrome, which now has bookmarks I didn’t set up. I’ve searched online for how to get my favorites back but can’t find a solution. I use Internet Explorer 9 and Google is my homepage.

— Chris Morrell, La Conner

A: I’m not sure what you mean by updating from Google to Google Chrome. But I’m figuring you just installed or updated the Google Chrome Web browser.

Did you also delete Internet Explorer or is it still on your computer? I’ll assume the latter.

If you did remove Internet Explorer, its Favorites would also be gone unless you first imported them to Chrome during installation.

In Windows 7 and 8, as well as Windows Vista, your Internet Explorer Favorites are stored in: C:\Users\userName\Favorites. (Replace “userName” with your Windows user name.)

In Windows XP, the favorites are in: C:\Documents and Settings\userName\Favorites.

Q: I have a 1-year-old Dell Inspiron that came with Windows 8 preloaded. Starting about three months ago, I began to experience frequent Adobe Flash crashes while using Firefox.

I have tried deleting Adobe Flash and reinstalling it. I have reinstalled without deleting. The problem happens two to three times every day. What can I do to fix the problem once and for all?

— Steve McWilliams, Bellevue

A: If you’re sure you’ve updated to the latest version of Flash, there are two other measures to try.

First, temporarily disable other plug-ins running under Firefox. If the problem goes away, one of those other plug-ins is in conflict with Flash. Enable the plug-ins one by one to see which is the culprit.

Alternatively, you can also try disabling hardware acceleration in the Flash player. You can find detailed instructions for doing this at

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to or, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at


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