Backing Up Your Computer

Why Backing Up a PC is Essential

Backing up your PCBacking up files is a very important part of maintaining your PC and can save a lot of hassle if your PC ever experiences hard drive failure.

The idea of a backup is to make copies of your most important files and documents so you can store them on another device of some kind (e.g. a separate internal hard drive, DVD's, Flash Drives, external drives).

It always pays to remember that computers have a tendency to go wrong from time to time and although total hard drive failure is comparatively rare, this can occasionally happen.

One of the more common problems nowadays is the threat from deadly viruses, with some of the more serious ones infecting the master boot record or sector 0 of the hard drive. Both of these infections can require the use of software tools that could overwrite all the data on your drive.

Operating system failure and bad software installation are other things that can cause problems when it comes to recovering files from a damaged drive.

How frequently you back up your files and documents will depend on how often you use your PC and what you use it for. The average home user will probably just have to do a full back-up once a week or once per month (depending on how the PC is used).

However, when PC's are used in a home office environment backing up should be done much more frequently.

One rule of thumb would be if your important files change daily, back-up daily, if they change weekly, back-up weekly, and so on.

Check after the first full cycle to make sure its all working properly and then you can more or less forget about backup. But you'll be glad you did set it up, especially if your PC ever crashes due to hard drive failure.

So what hardware and software should you use to get your regular backup routine established?

Backup Discs and Software

DVD Writers

DVD discs are ideal for backing your documents, music and photographs. These are also ideal if you take an image of your hard drive so that you can quickly reinstall your operating system, programs and files if your computer crashes. (be warned - preparing a drive image will take several DVD's).

Flash Drives

Flash drives might be small but they contain large amounts of data. Again a 16GB Flash Drive is not uncommon and will generally backup all your 'important stuff' much quicker than a DVD writer.

Another Hard Drive

If you have two separate hard drives in your PC you can backup everything to the second drive. The chances of both drives crashing at the same time are fairly remote.

You can also backup everything to an external hard drive and these have tremendous capacity. These days it's easy to get hold of a 2TB external drive, which can hold all your regular backups and any drive images you might create.

Regular Backup Options

You could buy dedicated backup software, like Acronis True Image, to help set up your backup routine.

The latest and best version is Acronis True Image 2016.

This software creates an exact copy of your hard disk and allows you to instantly restore the entire machine including operating system, applications, and all the data in the event of a fatal system crash or virus attack - no reinstallations required!

Alternatively, you may prefer to sign up for an online service like Carbonite. Online backup, like the offer from Carbonite, can be more efficient and can be an easier way to back up your computer files. Your files are securely encrypted, copied, and backed up to servers in an off-site data centre. This helps to keep your data safe from things like theft, floods, fires, or hard drive crashes. However there is an ongoing cost for this service, especially if you backup everything.

Finally you could even use Windows own built in backup and restore program for the basics. To access this go to Control Panel - System and Security - Backup and Restore.

A Full System Backup

Regular backups are all very well but a full image backup can get your computer up and running in no time at all if your hard drive should ever fail.

With Windows 7 Home Premium and above there is a built in image backup program. This will take a snapshot of everything on your PC including the Windows Operating System and all the applications on your pc and their settings.

This image backup can even be set to run once a week in the background. So there’s no excuse not to back up.

For the price of an decently sized external hard drive  you can now recover individual files from a regular backup or even take your whole machine back to the time when you last took a full image backup.

Granted there are third party files such as O&O DiskImage that offer more features and functionality than the built in features in Windows 7 but Windows will perform the core task of imaging and restoring  your computer at no additional cost to you. To access the image backup program in Windows 7 go to Control Panel - System and Security - Backup and Restore and in the left panel click 'create a system image'.

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