Should I Backup ALL of My files?
Every so often I backup my documents to a CD, but I worry about losing my programs and carefully tweaked system settings, in the event of a hard drive crash. Should I backup my entire hard drive, or is it sufficient to keep copies of just certain important files?
Backup Strategies: Which Files Should I Back Up?
You've heard a million times how important it is to keep current backup copies of your files. But does that mean you have to back up every file on your computer every day, or week, or month? The question of which files need to be included in a backup schedule is answered by a little common sense.
A full system image backup makes an exact copy of everything on your computer: the operating system, boot record, settings, application programs, data, etc. A system image takes up a lot of disk space and takes a lot of time to back up or restore. So one option is to make a full system image backup when your system is running exactly the way you want it to. Then it can be restored that way in case of a total disaster. Along with this, you'll need to make regular backups of files that are important to you.
The My Documents folder of Windows systems is where most people store most of their data. If you've been storing documents, images, videos, spreadsheets, etc., in My Documents exclusively it's generally sufficient to include that folder in your backup routine. But there are exceptions.
The Microsoft Outlook and Thunderbird email programs, for example, do not store data in My Documents. Instead, they use a folder buried deep in your hard drive's folder tree. Both Thunderbird and Outlook have a built-in export/import feature that will let you make backup copies of your email, contacts, calendar, etc., to offline media. You can also use this feature to restore data files if necessary.
Other Files to Consider, And An Alternative Strategy
Application settings are stored in the Windows folder C:\Users\(YourUserName)\AppData. Browsing the subfolders in under AppData, you may find app settings you'd like to include in your backups. Web browser bookmarks are often stored in AppData, for instance.
Application software typically comes on CD, DVD, or in a zip file that was downloaded from the Web. The CD or DVD can be your backup copy; just re-install the software if you have to. Downloaded zip files containing installation files should be backed up once to offline media.
If you're worried that your backup will be missing some important file, go ahead and make a full system image backup once a week. Then supplement that with daily incremental backups to catch any new or changed files. This is my personal preference, and I implement it with the Acronis True Image software and an external hard drive. Everything happens on an automated schedule so I never have to worry about making backups, or which files to save.
Where should you store your backup copies? Many people keep backup discs right next to their computer systems. That's fine if your only problem is a hard drive crash, but if there's a fire or other disaster that strikes the whole house then your backup data is gone, too. I like to store my backups on TWO external drives, which are rotated between active duty and a fireproof safe. Businesses may transport highly critical data backups to an off-site storage location, but for most consumers it's too much trouble to stash backup copies in a fire safe or bank safety deposit box.
Online backup services, such as Mozy.com, automatically transfer your backup data to a remote, secure server over the Internet. The backup process happens in background and pauses if you begin using the Internet for something else, so it hardly slows down your Internet speed. But keep in mind, if you need to restore data from an online backup it can take a long time. Several dozen gigabytes of data may need to be transferred over the Internet. The speed of your Internet connection, and the number of files you've backed up determines how long this will take.
What's your preferred backup strategy? Post a comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 20 Apr 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Should I Backup ALL of My files? (Posted: 20 Apr 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved