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Originally published Friday, July 25, 2014 at 3:46 PM

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When backup hard drive needs a housecleaning

First check on what kind of backups — full or incremental — are being made and whether images of the entire hard drive are being saved, writes Patrick Marshall. He also advises a user struggling with display problems on a new high-def laptop.

Special to The Seattle Times


Q: I have a 1-terabyte Seagate hard drive on my PC, and I have been backing up to a 1-terabyte Free Agent (Seagate) external hard drive. My main drive has roughly 110-gibabytes of data, but my external drive is now virtually full.

Clearly, I would like to continue backing up data, and I don’t see that I need a new external drive to do so. I thought I could just delete the data on the external drive and keep running the backups as I have done in the past.

After looking over the contents of the external drive, however, I realize that deleting all of the drive contents could be fraught with peril. As I explored the drive contents, I realized there are Windows mirror image and program files that could be lost if I am heavy-handed in deleting files.

Is there a basic rule of thumb to use as I free up space on the external drive? I got into the habit of backing up every file in sight, but deleting files makes me nervous.

— Joe Downs, Vashon

A: It sounds as if you’re using your external drive only for backups. If that’s the case, I suspect your backup program is doing full backups of your data instead of incremental backups. Check your backup program to see if it has multiple full backups. If so, you can safely delete old backups.

With incremental backups, too, the data set will grow larger than the data on your system drive. But that growth in size will be much slower.

It’s also possible that your backup program is actually making images of your entire hard drive, including the operating system and installed programs. That’s very handy for reinstalling in the event of a disaster, but it eats up lots of storage.

For my part, I just back up data. If my computer has a meltdown, I’ll simply reinstall Windows and my applications, then restore my data files from the backup.

In any case, if you’re running out of space on your backup drive and you don’t want to add storage, you either need to eliminate old full backups or, if you’re already doing incremental backup, you need to start over.

As for files on the external drive you’re worried about deleting, I suspect they were installed — but not necessarily used — by your backup software.

And if you are really concerned about securing your data, my suggestion is to first make a fresh backup to an external drive that you will store off-site. Then clear your current external drive and start with a fresh backup.

You’ll also want to periodically bring your off-site external drive back to make a fresh backup. After all, backing up to a connected external drive isn’t going to do you much good if there’s a fire and it burns up along with your computer.

Q: I recently purchased a Samsung ATIV laptop with a touchscreen. Its resolution is 3200 x 1800. Of course, the screen is amazingly “hi def,” but I have been having issues with some, but not all, applications.

MS Office 365 works fine. Word, Excel, PowerPoint are a joy to use on this little laptop. But some programs, even those made for Window 8.1, are unusable because of the tiny fonts in the menus, dialogs, etc.

I just purchased and installed Corel Draw X6 and can’t use it on my laptop unless I change the laptop’s screen resolution to something much lower. I should not have to do this!

There are other programs that have similar issues with my Samsung; Quicken just won’t adjust.

I can’t find any setups or options in Corel Draw or Quicken to make these behave, and I sure don’t want to downsize my Samsung resolution to something available five years ago. Changing the windows font size doesn’t help either. I’m stuck. Any suggestions?

— Fred Singer

A: A lot of applications, especially older ones, haven’t been designed for high-definition displays. But you can try changing the scaling for individual applications.

The first thing to do is check with the software maker for an update designed for Windows 8.1.

Next, run the compatibility troubleshooter. You’ll find this by right-clicking on the application’s icon and then selecting Properties. When the Properties window opens, select the Compatibility tab.

Finally, try checking the box next to “Disable display scaling on high DPI settings.”

If that doesn’t solve your problem, contact the software maker and ask it to support Windows 8.1 scaling.

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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