Backup Software

Category: Backup

Do I really need backup software? Hard drives are so much more reliable now than years ago, so a good drive should last longer than the useful lifespan of a computer. Right?

Why Do You Need BackUp Software?

Modern hard drives are engineered to last an average of at least 50,000 hours in use before a failure occurs; this rating is called the Mean Time Between Failures or MTBF. If your hard spins for an average of 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, it should definitely last over 11 years; right? Well, no. MTBF is the _average_ time between failures. There is a significant possibility that your drive will fail sooner, taking your priceless data with it. Mechanical drive failure is one good reason to make regular backup copies of your data.

It takes very little time for a computer's hard drive to fill up with your entire life: financial records; tax forms; names, addresses, and phone numbers; appointments; irreplaceable photos and videos; rare music; and so on. Not to mention important documents that you don't want to lose.

You can hope and pray that your hard drive won't crash and burn before your computer becomes obsolete, but what you're wrong? Try telling your boss, teacher or spouse "The dog ate my hard drive" and see how quickly they ask where your backup is.
Backup Software

Other Reasons to Have Backup Software

Hardware failure isn't the only thing that can cause data loss. Computer virus infections are another good reason to make backups regularly, especially right before you install new software from any source, even a factory-fresh, licensed copy of a program. A virus can sometimes dig itself so deeply into your system that the only practical way to get rid of it is to reformat the hard drive and re-install operating system, application software, and data. (See my related article about Reformatting a Hard Drive.) You may have the original discs for the operating system and application software, but if you have not backed up your ever-changing data recently you will lose some of it.

Data can be destroyed by flood, fire, and other catastrophes. Many people make regular backup copies of their data and store the copies at a remote site, so if the home or office burns down they still have most of their data.

You may even erase your own data accidentally. If you've made a backup copy recently, you won't need to kick yourself when that drag & drop operation doesn't go the way you planned.

Backup Software and Strategies

So it's a good idea to make backup copies of your data regularly. How often you need to back up data depends on how often you add and modify data. But a backup once a week is a good rule of thumb for most people.

You might choose to back up only data that needs to be backed up, in order to save time. Backup software should allow you to copy all of your data files; only files that have been created or changed since the last backup; files in specified folders only; and files with specified extensions. The software should also let you exclude classes of files from being backed up, i e., no .tmp files.

Personally, I do a full system backup weekly, and incremental backups on a nightly basis. I also do real-time backups as files are changed (for certain folders only) so that if I accidentally modify a file, I can revert back to the copy that existed a few seconds ago. This real-time backup saves my bacon on a regular basis, when I open a file, make some changes and forget to save with a new filename.

All versions of Windows come with a backup utility, though it's not the fastest or most flexible solution available. Some popular commercial backup programs include Acronis True Image, Genie Backup Manager, and Retrospect. But there are also free backup programs, and some excellent online backup services. Check out these related articles for help choosing backup hardware and software:

Share your backup strategy, or other thoughts on this topic. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Backup Software"

Posted by:

20 Jan 2010

I use an external hd to store all of my documents, photos, music, videos. I access these files by shortcuts to My Pictures, My Documents, My Music. This way I keep these files away from the OS should it become corrupt and unrepairable.

So far I haven't had any problem with viruses getting to them. Is it still possible for a virus to penetrate my external hard drive? Can a firewall be used to protect them from unauthorized infiltration?

Posted by:

20 Jan 2010

I use Karen's replicator: Basically, you pick the host dir, and the remote dir, set a time, and it keeps both dirs in sync. I only backup my personal files. I'm not worried about all the system files as I can always insert the original windows disks and start over fresh if I need to.

Posted by:

21 Jan 2010

I use Seagate Free Agent. But since it doesn't copy all file (with odd extensions that are system generated) it always shows a red flag saying the back up failed. When I look at the log, it copied the files I needed it to copy but not these system generated files. I don't like that about this FreeAgent product.

Posted by:

21 Jan 2010

Well...I think M$ finally got it right. Windows 7 has a nifty backup program that images, backsup, and restores fairly quick. Lets you create a start up boot disk also. It sees all partitions and can back up every thing on a schedule or when you want.

Posted by:

21 Jan 2010

Your backup information is very wise. One problem with Seagate and Linksys. You can not use it for a Network Router backup. First for Linksys WRT610N you have to reformat it to FATS and then you can only drag and drop to it. Windows or any other B/U software can not find it. I have had many conversations with Seagate and Linksys about this but no solutions.


Posted by:

21 Jan 2010

Genie has now released TimeLine which backs up on a continuous basis, BUT it really slows down email so I just turn it on when I leave the computer. It backs up what has changed since the last backup. I'm using it with a 500 GB WD BOOK external drive.

Posted by:

21 Jan 2010

A free, one-way back-up program I use is Yadis from It works away in the background in real-time. Any document changes are instantly carried out to the back-up (there is an option to monitor deletions as well) or if a designated destination is temporarily unavailable (on a network for instance) it carries on when it's back up. Can't argue with the price!
Of course, an off-site back-up should also be considered for important files in case of a major disaster such as a fire, or has happened recently of course, earthquake or similar.

Posted by:

Joe M
22 Jan 2010

For the last few years, I've used robocopy to back up multiple machines across the network to an external hdd shared off one of the machines. The batch file that runs it keeps the last 10 log files by rotating them. Here are the parameters I use in case anyone is interested... /NP /E /PURGE /XF c:\pagefile.sys /XD C:\RECYCLER /XD C:\System Volume Information /R:0 /LOG:c:\mirror.log

Posted by:

22 Jan 2010

Online backup works well also. I use Mozy and have had a few occasions to use it to retrieve lost data. A couple of months ago I tried to open a file with Word, which (for no apparent reason) opened the file, crashed, and destroyed the file. Within about 5 minutes I was able to retrieve the previous day's copy from Mozy and get back to work.

Posted by:

22 Jan 2010

You can never be too young, handsome or have too many backups! (heh!). A good strategy is to combine file based, (windows backup) , with image (Ghost or True image) and supplement it with off-site backup in case there is some catastrophe at the computer location

Posted by:

23 Jan 2010

I am currently using Clickfree, and I am informed by its accompanying brochure that I should not rely on it as my sole back up. (Somewhere I heard or read that Clickfree should not be relied upon as my sole copy; If this is true the music, etc. on my computer would count as one copy and the Clickfree would be my second copy. So I would not need to backup my backup---- right? Since I basically like Clickfree, if I need a second backup is it a good idea to buy a second Clickfree to back up the first?
Also, although backup with Clickfree is easy, keeping the Clickfree and my computer in sync is too time consuming. My problem is that every time that I make intentional deletions on my computer, the deletions are, of course, restored by Clickfree when I do a backup, unless, I delete each of the items (photo, song, etc.) from Clickfree. It is too difficult to keep track of things. Is there an easier way to keep my backup(s) and my computer in sync?
Please advise,
Thank You,

Posted by:

24 Jan 2010

You are using Acronis True Image : have read the Acronis blogs?: seems to have lot of problems. One annoying problem is some compatibility problems with continuous defragmenter like Diskeeper, O&Odefrag, ...

Posted by:

29 Jan 2010

For a small business network, take a look at Backup Key,, very reasonable price, very simple to use.

Posted by:

24 May 2010

rsync can be good for backups.

Posted by:

29 May 2010

You need a backup software because sometime some you will be unable to fix your computer and you need a format and if you don't have ur data backuped you will feel bad because you can'r recover anything.
A free software is Dmailer and is good because you can store ur backups online

Posted by:

Glen Conway
03 Dec 2010

For Desktop use, ShadowProtect 4.0 received the PC Mag Editors choice award. Edward Mendelson wrote "And for drive-imaging software, there's simple nothing better than ShadowProtect 4.0, our Editors' Choice.",2817,2365691,00.asp

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