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Back Up Those Critical Computer Files! Here's How

We're sure you've heard it before, but how critical is it to backup your computer files? The short answer: Very. In this blog I go over the best way to go about backing up your PC, Mac.

Hi, Patch Readers!

This week, I want to talk about something that every computer user should be doing – consistently – in one way or another:

Backup your important files (and/or your entire system) daily!

Backing up your PC – entire system or important files, at a minimum, is critical to ensure that in the event of a computer “disaster," you will be able to restore what might have been lost otherwise.  I choose run a daily full system backup automatically to an external hard drive. 

While backing up only important files will suffice for many, I have many, many programs installed on my PC.  By backing up my entire computer to an external hard drive, if need be, I can restore my entire computer – software, Windows, setting, preferences, etc.  This would save a lot of time and effort in the event of, say, a non-recoverable hard drive crash. 

I also back up my critical files daily to an online “storage cloud." This is an extra measure of prevention to ensure that I will at least have those critical files if something happened to my external drive (damaged, stolen, etc.).  Whether you choose to do both – full system back and critical files backup – or either, it’s a matter of personal preference.  Whatever you decide to do, make sure  you have some form of backup running regularly.

Recommended software

For full system (partition) backups, I recommend either Macrium Reflect (http://www.macrium.com) or Acronis True Image 2012 (http://www.acronis.com).  I have used both and they both work very well and don’t hog your computer of resources or much time when the backup is running.  They are both easy to configure and schedule. 

Macrium Reflect does have a free version you can use, but this version does not allow for incremental backups like the paid version of Macrium does (or Acronis True Image 2012, similarly).  I don’t want to run a daily full system backup image, so I use these paid programs which include incremental backups that will check and backup only what has been changed / added since the last backup.  The paid versions also have options like automatic cleanup to allow that every “x” amount of days a full backup “set” can be deleted.  With that, you simply start a fresh set of backups.  This way, you can keep your backups current without using more backups space than you really need to.  You can get a 30-day free trial on both of the paid products.

Now, if you are only interested in backing up your critical files, there are a couple of programs I’d like to suggest that are free, though they do offer “pay-for- extra-storage” options if you need extra space.  They are pretty cheap, but for most people, the free option will give you more than enough space to handle all of your files.  And they are kept in sync between your computer and the storage “cloud," which is basically online storage space on the vendor’s servers.

I would recommend Dropbox or Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Google Drive, which replaces Google Docs, was just released today.  They all pretty much work the same, and I believe that SkyDrive is offering a free upgrade to 25 GB of storage for a limited time to those that have signed up previously with HOTMAIL.COM or LIVE.COM.  Actually, there are other options, and I’d advise you to check out an excellent article published today by MSNBC’s GADGETBOX that will give you insight as to what cloud service will work best for you:

I use Dropbox and SkyDrive.  Google Drive is new, and while everything appears much the same as Dropbox and SkyDrive, I have read something related to intellectual property.  Allegedly, with Dropbox and SkyDrive, you keep all your “stuff”, while with Google Drive, “they” own it.  I’m not an attorney and I’m not sure what this means in a literal sense, but given what I have read thus far, I will opt with the proven, non-invasive providers I listed, as they do a great job of backing up and syncing all my important data and files.

One more thing…I have found one service that actually allows you to run a full system backup to their online cloud.  I would not recommend this as it is much too-resource intensive and time-consuming.  Stick with the options I discussed here and you will be fine!

That's all for this week. I want to make this blog as informative and helpful as possible...so please let me know how you feel about content (beginner, advanced)...if you'd like to see Patch reader computer repair Q&As, or anything else you'd like me to write about in the world of computer repair, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

For now, have a great week!

Andy Cooper - Owner, IFIXPCZ

Andy Cooper is the owner of IFIXPCZ, an independent computer repair services company servicing the entire North Shore area and beyond. Please check out our website at http://www.ifixpcz.com and make sure you “LIKE” us on Facebook for a full-color newsletter, access to our exclusive Computer Repair /Windows Q&A Community, and special discounts on all of our services!

1.866.224.8420     info@ifixpcz.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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