How to backup your computer software

Computer backupBacking up your computer is an important step every computer user should take do if they do not want to loose any of their valuable data. This page covers steps on how to backup your computer in case your computer fails, gets stolen, or gets destroyed in a fire.

Do I really need to backup?

Yes. Everyone has some type of information on their computer that they may not realize is important until they loose it. For example, Internet bookmarks, documents, financial data, saved e-mail, music, pictures, saved games, etc. Also, your computer may appear to be working normally, but it or the hard drive in it could fail at any time and without notice.

What should I backup?

For almost all computer users the most important data you should be backing up is anything that cannot be replaced. Typically this will include any of your personal document files, letters, finance information, pictures, saved games, etc. Microsoft Windows users will find most of this data in their My Documents folder.

Backup strategies

Backup to alternate medium - Backing up your data to an alternate medium such as a blank CD-R or DVD-R is one of the easiest methods to backup our personal data. This is the absolute bare minimum method of backing up your data.

Store backups online or at another location - If your home or office were to catch fire or someone were to steal your computer and backups everything would be lost. Making backups that you store at a friends house or storing backups online is the absolute best method of protecting your personal data.

Ongoing backup - Having a computer with RAID or running software that makes backups as data changes can help make sure data is protected as it is updated. This is the best solution for sensitive data that is updated frequently. For example, if you were writing a book having a backup that was a week old could result in hours of lost work.

Backing up data to an alternate medium

Making a backup to an alternate medium such as a CD-R, DVD-R, external hard drive, floppy diskette, tape drive USB thumb drive, and zip drives is one of the easiest methods to backup your data. Before backing up your data this way decide what medium is best for you. In the past floppy diskettes, zip drives, and tape drives were popular, however, today these have all been replaced with CD-Rs, external drives, and USB thumb drives. Below is a chart that rates each of these mediums, with 3 being the best rating and 1 being the worst rating. Overall backing up all your data to a USB thumb drive is the best solution.

  Cost Speed Ease Capacity Compatibility Portability Total
CD-R and DVD-R discs 3 1 1 1 3 2 11
External hard drive 1 3 3 3 2 1 13
USB thumb drive 2 2 2 2 3 3 14

Backing up to a CD-R or DVD-R

Backing up to a blank CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R or other writable disc is easy but will require some type of software or operating system capable of writing to the discs. These type of backups also require the disc be inserted into the computer each time you want to make a backup.

Backing up to an external hard drive

Backing up to an external hard drive if the best solution for anyone who needs to backup large amounts of data and need to backup frequently.

Backing up to a USB thumb drive

To backup to a USB thumb drive copy and paste the files you want backed up to the thumb drive.

Store backups online or at another location

Backing up data to another medium is a great solution for keeping your data safe. However, if these backups were stored in your home or office and it were to get destroyed in a fire, flood, or other natural disaster all of your information including your backups could be lost, which is why its best to always store backups in an alternate location or online in the cloud. Today, there are dozens of places online you can store your files, below are just a few of the more popular places. If you don't feel comfortable storing your personal information online you may also consider storing a disc or thumb drive at a family or friends house or even in your car.

Online backup services

  • BackBlaze - Automatic backup for unlimited data for $50 a year.
  • Carbonite - Automatically backup of all data with unlimited backup space for $59.00 a year.
  • CrashPlan - Automatic backups for unlimited backup space for 59.99 a year.
  • Mozy - Automatic backups for $5.99 a month for 50GB of data or $9.99 for 125GB.

How do I restore backed up data?

Additional information

  • See the backup definition for further information and related links.