How to back-up your data on a PC

Weíve all heard the horror stories: One day you are happily working away on your computer Ė and then crash! Whether itís a file-destroying virus, a misguided attempt to free-up some disk space, or a hard drive thatís just given up and died, you can no longer access your data.

Dozens of files, hundreds of photos, and years of hard work Ė all replaced by a blue screen and a rising feeling of panic!

Despite the problems that lost data can cause, surveys indicate that less than 5 percent of home computer users actually take the time to save and back-up their files. Donít be one of the unlucky ones. Hereís how you can get it done.

1. First of all, decide where you want to back-up your files.
Here are the various choices:

  • External hard drive. An external hard drive can be attached to your computer using one of the USB ports. If you donít have one, they are sold at Best Buy and all other major electronics retailers. Choose one that has at least 200GB of space. External hard drives can be disconnected and stored in a safe place and only need only be connected to the computer when prompted.
  • Writeable CDs or DVDs. Many computers have built-in CD or DVD burners, or you can purchase a separate disk drive which connects through a USB port. Depending on how much data you intend to back-up, you may need several CDs or DVDs to complete the task.
  • USB flash drives. Flash drives are relatively inexpensive and can hold huge amounts of data. The only downside with a flash drive is that it is small an easy to misplace.
  • Network location. If your computer is on a network, then you may be able to save your data to another network drive or a shared folder. This is very convenient, as it doesnít require any peripherals. But you need to make sure that you will continue to have access to the chosen network.

2. Choose which files to back-up. Next, decide which files you need to back-up. You probably donít need to back-up system files, games, and other applications, as these can usually be reinstalled from the original source. (For example, you can re-install iTunes and recover your music library from your iPod.) The most important files will be the ones you work on every day, like Word, Excel, and Outlook. Donít forget media files such as photos and videos.

3. Back-up using Windows. You are now ready to create your custom back-up schedule.

  • Open the Start menu and click Control Panel.
  • From System and Security, choose Back-up your computer.
  • Click on Set up back-up.
  • Make sure your back-up location is connected and select it from the listed options. Click Next.
  • Select which types of files to back-up. Click Next.
  • Assign a schedule to your back-up so that Windows will know how often to create new back-up files. We recommend you schedule a back-up at least once a week. Click Save settings and start back-up.

And thatís it Ė you no longer have to worry! Your files will be automatically backed-up on the precise schedule you have selected. Your computer will even prompt you to connect your back-up device at the appropriate time if you havenít already done so.

Make backing-up your data a top priority this weekend Ė 20 minutes of effort will provide years of peace of mind!

Comment by geekbabe, posted 10/31/2010, 8:14 AM:

Backup's are so vital! the most expensive part of a home office isn't the PC,it's all the stuff you've got saved on it. Data recovery services can cost you more than the entire office setup did! Btw, WIN7 Professional comes with options that'll let you back up your entire home Lan easily & quickly
Comment by Ellen Lebowitz, posted 10/29/2010, 3:10 PM:

Backing up is really really important. I backup at least weekly on a DVD. If I'm working on something especially critical, I also back that up on its own DVD. USB flash drives are great, too. I remember a "Sex In the City" episode devoted to a laptop that crashed with NO backup. NOTHING. Scary. Thank you, Ellen Lebowitz
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