Data Backup and Recovery

Frustrated Computer UserWe are all familiar with the nightmare scenario – a Blue Screen of Death or some other indication that your computer irrevocably damaged.  While many people have precious documents, pictures, videos, etc. saved on their home computers, few have committed to a backup plan.

The good news is, backing up doesn’t have to be a huge chore.  This is especially true if you have Windows 7.  There are tools built in to Microsoft’s newest operating system that can allow even a novice user to create reliable backups.  For a fantastic, step-by-step article on how to back up a Windows 7 machine, head to the Windows Secrets article, “Build a complete Windows 7 Safety Net.”

Windows Vista also has some built-in backup capabilities.  Again, someone else has already written a great article, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here.

Backing up data on Windows XP can be trickier, since the native tools aren’t as comprehensive.  One of these tools is System Restore.  When enabled, this tool creates “restore points” by essentially taking note of your settings and installed software at a particular point in time.  If data becomes corrupted, sometimes System Restore can help.  However, System Restore can also create a hideout for viruses to reassert themselves after you think you have uninstalled them.  There is a backup utility included in Windows XP, but automated system recovery is not supported.

When dealing with XP, there are some very good third-party backup tools.  For instance, if you plan to backup your data to an external hard drive, many brands pre-load software precisely for this purpose.  I have use the Seagate software at home, and have enjoyed years of successful backups.

If you are willing to pay for reliable backup software, Acronis True Image is one product about which I often read stellar reviews.  It allows for full backups, incremental backups (shorter sessions that only note changes since the last backup), and disk imaging.  Disk imaging not only saves all of your folders and files, it takes a full snapshot of your computer, including the operating system, programs, and settings.  Restoring from an image can save lots of time and headaches.

No matter how you go about it, backing up your data is a crucial element of smooth computing.  Bizarre, unexpected things could happen to your computer at any time.  Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that your precious photos and videos were residing safely elsewhere, should your computer take a turn for the worse?  In fact, I would suggest keeping backups in multiple locations.  External storage has really come down in price, and it could be worth the investment to keep one external drive for regular backups at home and another in a safe deposit box that gets backed up less often.  This way, your data is protected even if you encounter a situation more catastrophic than computer failure.

That reminds me, I think it’s time to backup my work files…

Happy Computing!