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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components | Key Non-Performance Issues In PC System Design ]

Data Integrity and Reliability

The final issue that I want you to keep in mind when considering the design of your system is data integrity and reliability. By these terms I am referring to the quality, security and safety of the data on your system. For most people, the data they generate with their PCs and store on their hard disks is the most important parts of their PC systems. However, you must take care of it if you want to keep it!

While the importance of data integrity seems obvious, it's not really easy to describe how to design a system that emphasizes it. In some ways, this ends up boiling down to another criterion: quality. Your data is more likely to be safe when stored on a system that is well-designed and well-manufactured, rather than one that is cheaply made. So that, at least is a starting point: buy well.

Another issue is that data integrity is positively correlated with "safe" or "conservative" designs. This means that, all else being equal, a design with an established track record, using proven components from a major manufacturer, is likely to be safer for your data than a brand-new design using the very latest CPU and motherboard, made by a company that's been around less than a year. Emphasizing performance above all else increases the potential for problems; overclocking would be the ultimate example of this.

Finally, there is the matter of data backups. My biggest beef with the way PCs are sold today is that manufacturers outfit them with huge hard disk drives--and no way to back them up. As gargantuan drives continue to get cheaper and cheaper, people fill them with more applications, more settings, more data. But the typical PC comes with absolutely no way to create a backup of this information. I think it's very important when designing a PC system to think about how you are going to back up your critical files at the very least. For most PC users, a floppy disk drive is just not sufficient due to its tiny capacity and glacial performance compared to hard disk drives.

Next: Component Specification Issues

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