Backing Up Your Data

If you do not back up your data frequently, and keep the backups in another building, everything you have ever done on your computer can be irretrievably lost. Backing up data is one of the most important and yet neglected thing you should do.

In the old days, before Windows, it was important to back up everything on your computer. With Windows, it is usually sufficient to back up only your data. If you back up your entire hard drive and then attempt to restore it after a mishap, you may also restore any viruses and spyware that were on the drive. Also, Windows tends to slow down in time due to what is sometimes referred to as "Windows clutter". We tend to install programs and then forget about them, but the programs may be performing background tasks that slow down your computer.

Tape drives can certainly back up your entire hard drive, but they are expensive, not always reliable, and often are not compatible with newer tape drives. If you want to back up your entire hard drive, I would recommend removeable or external hard drives (including high-capacity ZIP drives).

My preferred backup method is to use an imaging backup software such as Acronis. With an imaging backup, your hard drive is backed up as an exact image of the drive. This advantage of an imaging backup is that if your hard drive dies, you can replace the hard drive, boot from a special disc, and restore the image to the new hard drive - and within an hour or two you will be looking at your computer exactly as it was when the last imaging backup was made - typically less than 24 hours earlier.

If you don't want to spend the money on a removeable or external hard drive, then back up only your data. You will need a CD or DVD burner to do data backups. Most newer software that is packaged with CD & DVD burners have an icon or wizard specifically designed to walk you through the backup process. At about $0.25 each, CD's are cheap and you can afford to waste a few in the learning process. Experiment with the program until you are comfortable using it. With only data backed up, you can always reinstall your applications (programs) and then restore your data. It is important, however, to know where your data files are so that none are forgotten. The following are some suggestions regarding data backup.

  • Keep all of your data in folders that are within the My Documents folder. This way, you can select the My Documents folder and know that almost all of your data will be backed up. Whenever you install a new program, find out where the default location for saving files is and if necessary, change it to a folder within the My Documents folder.
  • Locate your My Favorites folder and make sure it is included in the backup. This way, all of the internet favorites will not be lost.
  • Locate your email and calendar files. If you use Outlook or Outlook Express as your email application, the files are usually in a file with the extension .PST at the end of the name. Use the search feature in Windows to find these files. For more information, you can click on the following link - http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;287070.

I encourage you to experiment with your computer. Of course, I am always available for personal tutoring.