Nowadays, most people keep only digital versions of their files on their computer. Whether it be a laptop or a desktop, it doesn’t matter – having only one copy of important data on only one drive is just asking for disaster.
As hard drives get larger, and you store more data, the risk inherent in loss increases greatly. Do you really want to lose all your photos and music? Do you want to lose all those financial worksheets, tax return documents, resumes?
There is no excuse these days not to back up. Every computer you buy in the store comes with some sort of CD burning program. Many thumb drives and external hard drives come with backup software. Windows Vista Home Edition and beyond come with Windows Backup And Restore Center.
To Access Windows Backup and Restore Center, simply press the Start key and type Backup. The first option will be Windows Backup and Restore Center. How easy was that?
Just tell it what to back up and you’re done. Presto.
Create a Backup Schedule
Backing up is like working out – you need to make it part of your routine and stick to it.
For important documents, such as basically everything inside your Documents folder in Vista, or the non-media folders inside My Documents in Windows XP, back those up at least once per month, and ideally once per week or even more often. I’ll cover backing up music, photos, and video later in this article.
One aspect of Windows Live One Care I really liked was it glowed yellow for "caution" when you hadn’t backed up your files in a specified amount of time.
If You Have Many Computers
Now, that’s for one computer. What do you do if you have many computers across your home? Microsoft has the answer here – Windows Home Server. Just plug a $475 Windows Home Server into your network and "join’ your computers to the server. Every night between 1 and 3 am your computers will back themselves up, automatically. If one fails, simply stick a CD in the drive and the computer will be restored over the network. No fuss. Wow, how cool is that?
(Personally, I have more than the 10 computers Windows Home Server allows, so I bought another one… <grin>)
What About My Music, Photos, and Video?
These three media types tend to take up the most space on your hard drive. True, it’s hard to back up hundreds of gigabytes of media. If it’s to CD, DVD, or even BluRay discs, it takes a LOT of discs, and it’s time consuming. Fortunately, for most of us, each item in our collections doesn’t change all that often – the collection just grows.
Understandably, there’s no reason to back up the media collection every day or week, as you should be for your regular documents. I suggest you archive your music collection to an external hard drive once per month. Oftentimes it’s easy to get that music back if it’s from CD.
There is a gotcha here… the media that you purchase from online services may require you to re-purchase the items if you lose them. It’s important that purchased media be backed up on a regular basis. Just make it part of your routine.
There’s more to share…
I’d like to continue this article a bit more… if you have suggestions on topics I should cover, please let me know.