Computer Help forum

General discussion

10/13/06 Getting serious about backing up your data

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 12, 2006 7:15 AM PDT

Hi, CNET, I need to get serious about doing backups. I don't currently back up any of my data, mostly because I don't know where to start. My system has a 160GB HD, so I'm storing a lot of files. It would be awful to lose them, and I'd be pretty embarrassed as well. So where do I start? What's the best method and best practices? Which files need to be backed up, and which can be ignored? Are there some common pitfalls to avoid? I'm running Windows XP (SP2), and I have a DVD burner and USB ports. Thanks!

Submitted by: Natalie L. of Madison, Wisconsin



Hi, Natalie, I feel for you. I named my hard disk the Garage because it's chock-full of files I'll never use again, mainly because I've forgotten they're there.

When contemplating backup, there are two things to consider. First is the system files. Over time, some of these files will become corrupted, so it's good to have a pure backup to replace the bad file. (I not only include the operating system files here, but program files as well.) Second, there's your personal data.

Many programs will back up system files. I personally use Powerquest's data keeper. It's primarily designed to back up specified files automatically as I use them. This is particularly important to me as I'm a writer, and when I lost an entire book a few years ago, that was almost a year's worth of work down the drain. Better programs are out there that will automatically back up your system files, identifying
what's important and what's not. Most major players, such as Symantec and McAfee, offer them.

The problem with these programs is they often make a mirror image when they back up your files. Consequently, if you're forced to hit Restore, you've taken a giant step backward, and programs you've loaded in the interim may be lost. I personally just reload Windows or other programs that have developed a problem. I don't back up system files.

Your first step is preparation. Allow yourself a day or two and an adequate supply of coffee and tranquilizers. You need to go through your drive and determine what's needed and what's not. (I think you'll be surprised at the large amount of garbage.) Your first step is to delete programs you never use.

You can use Windows to remove programs. But I've found it leaves many extraneous files lying about. I delete programs using Tweak Now Powerpack, though there are many programs out there that are designed to remove programs and clean up the registry as they do it.

After you're done with this, empty your recycle bin and clean your registry. Again, I use Tweak Now to clean the registry, but there are many programs that will do this for you.

Now go through the files and determine priorities. I recommend three: 1) Must keep, 2) should keep, and 3) can be deleted. Go through your drive and delete all those that you determined can be deleted.

Now it's not a question of what to back up, it's a question of where. You really have four choices: 1) a hard drive, 2) a CD-R/DVD-R, 3) an online storage site, or 4) an external device, either a RAM stick, an external hard drive, or a floppy disk? if your computer comes with a floppy disk drive.

The hard drive can be local--resident in your computer--or a network hard drive, if you're on a LAN. I personally partitioned my hard drive and have one of the partitioned drives strictly for backup. This, however, is risky as I'd lose the data if the hard drive failed.

For the "must save" files, I back up on my hard drive, a network drive and a CD-R/DVD-R. I do this because backing up on a CD-R/DVD-R, though ideal, is something that I should do more often. Businesses do it daily. I'm lucky if I do it weekly. This, of course, causes a different organizational problem in that my "office" is cluttered with backup CD-R/DVD-Rs.

The "nice to keep files" go directly to CD-R/DVD-R. I generally try to arrange them with one CD-R/DVD-R for pictures, another for music, A CD-R/DVD-R for data files and text files, and another to copy program installation files. I don't generally leave them on my computer as they're just clutter. The exception is files I access frequently, such as music.

That's where an external hard drive comes into play. The advantage is you can store files on the external hard drive and not locally. The less files you have cluttering your main computer hard drive, the better it works. (If nothing more, spyware and virus checks don't take nearly as long.) You have the additional advantage of being able to move your external hard drive between computers, such as the one at work and the one at home. External hard drive used to be quite pricey, but those times are past. Now, you can pick up a 160GB external for under $100.

There are several online storage sites. I use Xdrive. I rarely use them to back up data, however, preferring to use a CD-R/DVD-R or network drive. I do use them for files I want to share with others. My books run around 2GB and larger, depending on the number of comments and editing involved. That's a huge chunk to attach to an email. By putting them in online storage, my editor can access the file, make her corrections, and then post the file online for me to pick up. Online storage is also great for pictures you want to share.

Many sites offer online storage free, as long as you don't have much to store. Even Yahoo! offers free storage. If you want to back up larger chunks of your data, however, there is a small monthly charge.

The real key to backups is forcing yourself to do it on a regular basis. I'm very good about backing up important files frequently, relying on Datakeeper to do it daily, while I burn a CD-R/DVD-R weekly. For the rest, I'm too lax and on January 1, when I usually clean out my drive, I find a staggering number of files for which I have no need.

One final note. After you have waded through your drive and deleted files, or backed them up, it's time to defragment your disk. If you do, I think you'll find that after the coffee and tranquilizers run out, your computer will run much faster, almost as fast as the day you bought it.

Good luck!

Submitted by: Wayne A.
Post a reply
Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: 10/13/06 Getting serious about backing up your data
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: 10/13/06 Getting serious about backing up your data
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Honorable mentions
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 12, 2006 7:15 AM PDT

I have tried various methods of backup, with different degrees of success.

Tape can be slow and somewhat expensive. It is also sequential, which makes retrieval slow as well.

Backup to CD or DVD is risky, mainly because there is a limited life span for these disks.. ie, over time, the disks will become unreadable.

I am currently using an external hard disk for my backups. Maxtor makes a line of OneTouch external drives, that includes a lite version of Retrospect Backup software. This is great if you want to make a complete backup of your entire hard drive, including the operating system as well as your personal files. However, there is a caveat.. read on!

External hard drives are available at a very reasonable price. I recently bought a 320 GB external hard drive with both USB 2.0 and Firewire interfaces for $204 Cdn. Granted it did not have the software package that the Maxtor OneTouch has, but then again, I just use it to save personal files via the drag and drop interface. (You must, however, use backup software if you want to backup locked or in-use system files).

The important thing is to keep your files organized on your system. Try to keep all your data (documents, photos, music, etc.) in one central folder (like My Documents) - that way, it is much easier to just select this folder to backup all your data.

Another option is to use several drives in your system configured in a RAID system.. essentially, this is like a redundancy system - when you write to one hard drive, it makes a mirror copy on the other drive. It is not something you would typically find in a home system, but if you data is mission critical, it is definitely something you may wish to consider.

There are also sites offering online backup. I am not sure how much I trust this. The big disadvantage, other than cost, is the fact that if you have a lot of data, it may take a long time to store or retrieve your data unless you have an extremely fast internet connection.

Now for the caveat on doing complete system backups. Most backup software can do differential backups. That is, you do your first backup, and every time you run your backups after that, the software will only backup any new or changed files, so the backups are relatively quick. In theory, it is great. However, if you ever run into a serious virus or worm and you need to reformat your drive and restore your system from the backup set, there is a good chance the backup set will also be corrupt. I recently ran into this exact situation. When I discussed this with my dealer, he advised against doing full system backups for precisely that reason. Also, over time, Windows based systems tend to get sluggish, and the only real solution is to reformat and reinstall everything. (I have heard that Microsoft recommends this be done anyway after about 2 years). Reinstalling from a backup set will not fix the problem, because the backup is a mirror copy of the hard drive.

So, my suggestion is to only backup your data files. Ensure you have the original copies of all your programs and applications. If you buy software online, make sure you have a copy so that it can be reinstalled should the need arise. Any software I download I always put into a folder called Source Files. Also, make sure you keep all registration keys safe so that they can be re-entered should you need to reinstall these programs.

Don't forget your email.. if you use MS Outlook or Express, it saves all your mail in a cryptic location that may be hard to find. I prefer to use web based mail, like Gmail, so that all my email correspondence is not lost should my system crash. It is also very useful if you need to access your email from another system or location.

Submitted by: Paul L. of Toronto, Ontario



Dear Natalie,

Your concern about the importance of backing-up OS, program, and personal data files cannot be overemphasized. If the information provided below seems a bit lengthy, it's because I can't say enough about the importance of "backing-up". As with many experienced PC users out there, I've had to travel the road of hard Knox before arriving at a solution that seems to work best for me.

Much the same as yourself, I started out with Windows 95 and a PC that had a single 20GB hard drive. After enduring the disastrous experience of numerous "F Disk" operations, as suggested by the support department of my PC manufacturer, each time I had a "blue screen" or other related boot-up problems, I finally had to inquire of myself if there couldn't be a better way than to lose (erase) all of my irreplaceable data and OS files each time my PC experienced a hiccup.

Since those times, I have gone the gauntlet of numerous types of backup and imaging programs, combined with numerous hardware approaches and configurations, in my attempt at "protecting" hours, weeks, or even years of my personal time involved in file creation. How much is your time and the value of irreplaceable files worth?

Here is a solution that I currently have in-place, and which works best for myself:

? I recommend having two (2) internal hard drives on your PC, and partitioning each hard drive with two (2) each partitions for a total of four (4) partitions. The OS (WinXP, etc) will present these as individual drives (drives "C:\", "D:\", "E:\", "F:\", etc). As an example, in my present hard drive partition configuration I have:

First Hard Drive (two partitions):

? Partition (Drive) "C", labeled as "WinXP", and dedicated solely to the OS and installed third-party program files.
? Partition (Drive) "D", labeled as "DATA", and dedicated solely to storage of personal data files (pictures, music, etc.).

Second Hard Drive (two partitions):
? Partition (Drive) "E", labeled as "BACKUP", and dedicated solely to storage of backup image files.
? Partition (Drive) "F", labeled as "BACKUP", and dedicated solely to storage of backup image files.

DVD Burner
? Storage to DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW, or DVD-RAM media of backup image files.

The above hard drive configuration allows for the failure of one of the two hard drives, while still retaining a complete image on the good hard drive of everything that was on the failed hard drive. If the hard drive fails that contained the backup images files, than nothing is lost except the hard drive, since all the OS, program, and data files are still intact on the good hard drive.

Additionally, since the advent of USB 2.0 external hard drives, and especially the class of "shirt pocket" sized USB 2.0 mini hard drives, backup to such devices provides a "stand-alone" means of backup storage that is hard to beat.

Since you already have a DVD burner, and the purchase of a second hard drive (internal or external) might be out of the question, image files can be successfully backed-up to and restored from DVD media. Since I backup everything on my PC at least once a week, and hard drives present a much faster means of backup than do DVD burners (15 minutes vs. 2-hours for each 30GB of backed-up data), I personally prefer both the hard drive and DVD burner solutions. Also, and because the PC itself can fail (CPU failure, motherboard failure, etc), I backup to DVD media about once a month, keeping a complete backup of everything on my PC to a place of "off-site" storage (safety deposit box at my bank). "Off-site" storage protects backed-up data against unforeseen on-site problems such as fire and theft. The above mentioned external USB 2.0 mini hard drives are excellent for this type of "off-site" storage. (They fit nicely into a safety deposit box).

As a quick mention, there are other hard drive "data protection" or backup schemes available, albeit a bit more technical and complex. This involves the use of two (2) SATA hard drives as opposed to EIDE (still most popular) type hard drives. SATA hard drives can be setup in several types of "RAID" configurations, one of which continually creates a mirror image of everything on the first hard drive to a second hard drive. I have tried this approach, but found that the amount of system resources required to perform such "behind-the-scenes" mirror imaging compromised my PC's performance a bit more than I liked. If you have a rather new PC with a powerful processor, and know someone that can configure a RAID hard drive setup, than this RAID configuration is the easiest for an end-user, since it doesn't require the use of an imaging or backup program to perform regular backups. If the main hard drive in such a "mirrored RAID" configuration fails, all functions are instantly transferred to the second or "mirrored" hard drive. It's seamless, and there is no loss of OS or personal data files. You are advised that your main hard drive has failed, and that all functions are now off the second or "mirrored" hard drive.

In all of the above solutions, with the exception of the "RAID" solution, a backup or imaging software program will be necessary. In fact, the only way to backup your OS and program files (other than a RAID hard drive configuration) is with an imaging program. You cannot "drag and drop copy" installed OS and program files to another hard drive or DVD media, and than expect to boot from that copy once copied back to a newly installed hard drive. Therefore, if you want to make a backup or image of your "C:\" drive (drive that normally contains the OS and program files), you will need to purchase one of the many backup or imaging software programs. There are so many backup and imaging programs on the market today, that it's enough to confuse even the most experienced of PC users or IT professionals. I've been using backup or imaging programs since the days of Windows 95, and have used just about all that have come on the market. I now use the "Acronis True Image Home" imaging program for several reasons. It is the only backup solution that I have used, that absolutely provides a simple and foolproof method of backup to DVD media, including DVD-RAM media. It is the only imaging program that allows you to additionally install a copy of the Acronis Backup program itself, along with your data or OS image file, to DVD media. This is of extreme value if for some reason your PC refuses to boot from the installed OS, and you can't get passed the POST during boot-up. Your PC can boot directly from the Acronis True Image Home program on the DVD inserted media, and then install the OS from the image file that is on the inserted DVD media. And lastly, it is from my point of view and experience, the most user friendly and effective backup program out there. It has a host of wizards for the less technically advanced user, who prefers not to use the manual features of backing up that are contained within the program.

Remember. Backup, backup, backup!!!

Submitted by: Bob L.




Backups come in a variety of flavors, entire hard drive backup including data, applications, and operating system, or simple data backups. The most common is data backups only. The reasoning behind this is applications are required to be installed onto Windows, making changes to the registry, registering various .dll(dynamic link library) files, copying files, etc. Therefore, if you don't backup the entire hard drive, including the operating system, the applications will not work. Therefore, you should always keep your operating system disk/s as well as all of your application and driver disks in one place in the event you have to reinstall them due to a crashed hard drive. Data files are usually the only files that change day to day and really need to be backed up.

If you want to perform a complete hard drive backup with the operating system, I would recommend Norton Ghost from Symantec. The best method is to place it on a floppy disk, boot to floppy, and run the program from there. After making the copy of the hard drive, place is somewhere safe. In the event that your hard drive ever dies, you would replace it with the ghost copy that you made.

Data backups require a little prior planning. I recommend that you use the My Documents folder for all your data. Some programs like to store their data in other directories outside of My Documents, but almost all of them let you select your default folder to save your data. Placing all of your data files in folders in the My Documents folder makes the job very simple because all your data resides in one place that you can backup and know for certain that you have everything. Also, if you're using Outlook as your email client, don't forget to export/backup all of your email folders to a file located in My Documents. Outlook, as a default, stores this data in the Windows directory. This means that even if you do a repair to Windows, you will lose all your emails. Also, backup your Favorites/Bookmarks from your browser into a file in My Documents. This can be done from the File menu in the browser. Again, the browser stores this data outside of My Documents and it would then be lost in the event of a reinstall. I usually make a separate folder, called Alldown, in the My Documents folder. I use this folder to store all of my file downloads from the internet including programs, driver updates, application updates, etc. I've found when restoring that I often don't remember the program or have to search through various sites to find this information again.

After you have your backup plan in place, there is a free program called VuBrief available at,, and various other places. Use this program in conjunction with a USB hard drive. If you do not have a USB hard drive, you can make one very simply by purchasing a USB Hard Drive case for around $30 - $50 and placing a new/used hard drive into the case and plugging in the data and power cables. Once installed in the case, you plug this into the computer using a USB cable, very simple. Then, using VuBrief, you create Direct backups of certain folders on your computer (My Documents at a minimum). Initially, I would suggest simply copying the folders to the USB hard drive using Windows Explorer. When you create the Direct backups, you simply identify a folder on your computer and link it to the folder on the USB drive to synchronize with. You then select how you want the program to refresh the files on the USB drive. There are various options from a simple complete backup to a mirror (exact copy, if you delete a file on your hard drive, it's also deleted on the USB drive), one way (from the hard drive to the USB drive, does not delete files on the USB drive that are deleted on the hard drive, good archive), etc.

Backups can usually take a long time, moving all the data from one place to another. However, when you run VuBrief, it compares the files in the related folders and only moves changed/new files rather than everything all over again. This significantly reduces the time to perform the backup.

There are other programs that work very similar to VuBrief, however, VuBrief is the only one I've used. It is very simply, installs very quickly, contains no spyware, adware, etc., and works very well.

The best and most complete method would be to use a combination of the above methods. First, using Ghost, make a complete backup of your hard drive and store it somewhere. Keep in mind that if you install any new applications you will need to do a new Ghost. Then, with a separate hard drive, use VuBrief or a similar program to keep a backup of your ever changing data preferably on a daily basis. Then, should you suffer a hard drive crash, you would simply install the Ghost hard drive into your computer, plug in the USB hard drive and transfer your data files to your new hard drive and you'll be up and running, should take an hour or less.

I hope you find this helpful, it works very well for me. Have a great day.

Submitted by: Marvin L.



Hi Natalie,

Absolutely, you need to back up your files and you've taken the first step by asking how to do it! There are lots of options, which can be a bit confusing, so briefly, here are some of them.

Back up within the PC. This will not protect you against fire, theft or other loss or destruction of your PC but it can be very easy.
Possibly the easiest is to invest in a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) mirror. Some PCs have this capability built in to the motherboard, others would need an add-in card. The principle is simple, add another disk to the system the same as the one already there (try to put it on the second IDE controller if using Parallel ATA disks), link it to the first as a RAID mirror, then everything you write to the first disk is automatically copied to the mirror. If either drive fails, you can replace it and rebuild the mirror from the surviving drive. Note, though, that this protects against hardware failure, NOT such things as erroneously deleted data or data that is corrupted when you write it - the corruption will be mirrored also!

A more flexible option is to use disk cloning software periodically to back your data up. Again, you need another disk at least big enough to hold the data you are backing up. You can use a bigger disk and keep multiple copies. Probably the best known backup program is Norton Ghost, which just makes a complete image of your disk. Others are DriveImage or Partition Magic partition copy. With any of these programs, you have the option to keep the second disk internal to your computer but see the cautions above, or better, keep it as an external drive in a USB case.

You can either buy these fully assembled, or buy a bare case, into which you can install the disk of your choice. An advantage of buying a ready built one is that many of them come with software that makes copying a disk a simple one touch option. I use Partition Magic to an external USB drive for my back ups. A word of caution, 3.5" drives are not intended to be moved around while powered on, so set your drive up beside your PC before you turn the external drive on and turn it off again before you move it to your fireproof safe or grannie's house or wherever! The external drive will have a USB 2.0 connection, in all probability but do check - USB 1.1 is too slow for this purpose.

These methods all provide easy ways to backup your whole disk but that isn't really necessary and you can save a lot of space by using a partitioned approach. I partition my hard disks into a logical drive primarily for my software, operating systems and applications and a second logical drive for my application data. I say primarily, because there are some software packages that insist on the data being on the install drive, you need to identify this and copy it more frequently than the rest of the "system drive" which you should do when you install new hardware or software and perhaps weekly or monthly in between times.

There is an argument that says you never need to back up your software because you can just install clean when you need to. Well, yes, but on a system with lots of applications, this can take upwards of a day, compared with a few minutes if you have a backup of the installed system. Horses for courses. You can also use the Windows migration tools to back up your system settings etc., on a regular basis, these are small files but take ages to set up if starting from cold. Back these up to a CD frequently.

Your "data drive" should be backed up much more frequently. The choice is to dump the whole file set or do a periodic (say monthly) full dump and incremental dumps in between. Because I have enough archive capacity, I do the full dumps to my external hard drive but your mileage may vary. It's easy to set up the incremental method using the archive flag set by Windows when the file is changed. you could use the incremental method dumping the increments to CD or DVD, with the full dumps going to external hard drive (150 GB to DVD isn't exactly practical!).

I've not considered tape backup - I don't use it, so I don't have practical experience but some people believe it's the only reliable long term backup medium. Doubtless more knowledgeable contributors will explain the pros and cons.

Good luck!

Submitted by: Sav. M. of the United Kingdom



Backing up to a DVD burner is not, in my opinion, a very viable option. First of all, the best type of backup is a full backup of everything on your system. You never know when you will have a catastrophic failure. I've seen an unusually large number of hard drive failures recently. Most of these drives have been only a few years old.

You need a backup program that will enable you to be back up and running as quickly as possible, in a matter of hours rather than days. Most good backup programs have a disaster recovery feature that uses a proprietary file format to back up everything on your system while compressing the data to save space. BackUp MyPC, which may also be called PCBackup, is my favorite for this purpose. Recent versions of Roxio Easy Media Creator have included it.

However, the best backup system in the world will do you no good unless you use it. If you back up to DVDs, you will need to change discs every 20 minutes or so until the job is complete. To determine approximately how many discs you will need, figure out the total amount of used space on Drive C and assume a compression ration of 1.5 to 1 at best. Divide the used space by 4.77 GB (assuming that you are using single-layer discs), take about 70 percent of that figure, and you'll have an idea of about how many discs you'll need.

Most people are not going to sit in front of their computer for hours just to change discs every 20 minutes or so. If you use the backup software's Compare feature to double-check the quality of the backup, the time needed will double and you might be looking at an all-day project.

Fortunately, there is a better alternative. I would recommend buying an external USB 2.0 hard drive. You can get good buys on drives in the 250-300 GB capacity range. Most come with backup software. If your computer has the earlier USB 1.1 ports, you can buy a PCI-slot USB 2.0 controller card that will enable USB 2.0 devices to work properly with your computer.

After you have installed the drive according to the manufacturer's instructions, open Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management and select Disk Management. Your drive should show up there.

I recommend that you remove the existing partition and create two new partitions. The first partition should be sufficiently large to contain all of the files on your current 160 GB hard drive as well as leaving room for additional files in the future. The second partition can be whatever is left. If the drive is in the 250-300 GB range, you can probably just divide the capacity in half. Format the partitions for the NTFS file system and create drive labels, such as USB_Drive_1 and USB_Drive_2, that will make them easy to recognize in My Computer or Windows Explorer.

If the drive comes with Dantz Retrospect Express backup software--and many of them do--look for a Duplicate feature. Other backup software may have a similar feature.

Select Drive C as your source volume and the first partition on the external drive as the destination volume, then select the option to replace all contents. On the next screen, click the Selecting button and select All Files Except Cached Files. This will prevent Retrospect from copying unnecessary items such as Temporary Internet Files.

Next, select the Options button, select the Verification button, but do not select the option to duplicate workstation security settings. Selecting this option may make it difficult to use the files on another computer, should this become necessary.

Finally, click the Files Chosen button. Retrospect will scan your system to determine the files that need to be copied.

Eventually, Retrospect will display a list of the selected files. Be sure to uncheck (i.e., deselect) the Recycler and System Volume Information folders, then allow Retrospect to proceed.

The first time around, it will need to copy almost all of the files, of course, so the entire process will take a while. The second time around, it will only need to copy new and changed files (and optionally delete files on the USB drive that are no longer on Drive C).

The beauty of the Duplicate feature is that it simply copies the files, just as you might. It's a great way of backing up your working files, e-mail, and the like at the end of the day. If you accidentally delete a file on Drive C, you can easily copy it back from the external drive.

I would use the second partition for creating conventional backups using BackUp MyPC, Retrospect, or any other software of your choice. Most backup programs will allow you to back up to a file, which is what you will need to do. Because external USB drives are relatively fast, a full backup and compare takes only a few hours.

Having said that, it would not be a bad idea to do a full system backup to DVDs once in a while and store the discs off your premises, perhaps in a safe deposit box.

Submitted by: Robert S.




Backups are definitely a GOOD thing. I've learned (as probably most people I know) the hard way what happens when you don't have a complete backup.

On to the task at hand... There are a number of options for backups. Each of them has it's share of pros and cons.

1.) Tape backups - these are the old standby of business' for many, many moons. On the Pro side, hmm.. Can't really think of any offhand. Tapes are essentially dinosaurs in many ways. In days gone by, tapes came in sizes big enough to backup most hard drives or you'd need no more than two to get a full backup. But in the day of 100+ GB hard drives, tapes have seriously lagged behind. Not that making a tape longer would have made the situation any better. The longer the tape, the slower the backup/recovery process. Tapes back up everything sequentially, ergo, the file you might need to restore may be 2 miles from the start of the tape.

2.) external hard drives - on the pro side, you can plug in a USB connected external HD that's the same size as your hard drive and make a mirror image of your disk. Or for that matter, you can use typical backup software and just back up your data at least a few times on it before overwriting previous backups. The downside to an external hard drive is that it's usually left plugged into the computer or at least, left in proximity of the computer it's backing up. While this IS convenient, it also has the potential for doubling the disaster. Let's say there's a fire in your computer area, and your computer goes up in smoke. If you leave the backup drive near it, it too will go up in smoke. So much for the exercise of backing things up. You'd want a fireproof safe at the VERY least if you go this route. The best solution would be to store the backup drive somewhere safe - like a bank vault.

3.) DVDs - Once again, this is one of those looks good on paper but is even more ludicrous than a tape backup scenario. Tape drives at least come in sizes larger than 4 or 8 GB. How many blank 4 GB DVDs would it take to back up 160 GB?? Answer: WAAAAY too many!

4.) Online backup - This backup scenario has the greatest safety margin - your files are backed up almost immediately, in real time with many of the services available. And it's off-site so should your house burn down or your computer gets stolen, the data's still safe. On the downside, you need broadband of some flavor. DSL or cable service at the very least. There may also be a performance hit on your computer depending on how you have it backing up your files. There's also the matter of paying for storage on a server. It's not exactly cheap. A professional plan for backing up a server that's large enough for your hard drive is well over $1200 per month. Backing up a PC, with up to only 4 GB of online storage is also a bit expensive - $169 per year. NOT exactly cheap.

So.. What to do? The best way to go about a backup would be to use multiple options. Most definitely use the 160 GB hard drive to back up the entire hard drive - preferably by making an image of the drive. Secondly, use the DVD burner to back files up. DVDs are getting to the point where they're cheap - but only back up your data files... No point in backing up your programs on DVDs when you've got the installation backed up on the hard drive and hopefully the original discs the software came on. Better still - it would be also a good thing to back up smaller files or file sets on CDs. No sense in blowing a full 4 GB disc to back up a few hundred MB.

Submitted by: Pete Z.



I like my method of backup because it is simple and does not require a "restore" in case of a hard drive failure. I have two identical, removable, hard drives. You can purchase a combination "vest" and "case" for your hard drives. Each hard drive is installed in a vest. The cases are installed in two empty 5 1/4 drive bays and each is wired to a motherboard IDE slot. (The hard drive in a vest then plugs into a case.) I plug my active drive in slot one and the backup drive in slot two. Then I use an old version of Norton Ghost (which runs from a floppy) to copy my active drive to the backup. This way I have a bootable, complete copy of my active drive. Then, I swap drives and store the previous active drive and use the backup as my new active drive. I do this once a regularly week and ALWAYS before I install a new piece of software. In the last six or seven years I have had two hard drives go bad and it was a simple matter to purchase a replacement and ghost my good drive to it. In the same period I have had at lease six instances where a new piece of software so completely fowled up my system that I didn't trust a simple un-install but ghosted my good drive back to my active drive and was back in business just like I was before the mess up. (My terminology in this article may not be the best but I think you get the idea.)

The only problem with this method is that it requires two available 5
1/4 drive bays on your case. Of my last three computers, I built two of them myself and had a local firm build the third so that I could have a case with four 5 1/4 bays and two 3 1/2 bays. I have all six occupied.

This method of having removable hard drives is also great for testing new operating systems. Just buy another drive and vest. You can have as many hard drives as you wish and use two at a time, if you wish. I have a third drive that I keep just music on and use it with my active system drive when I am not doing a backup. I also have a partition on this third drive that I use for backing up critical data between regular backups.

Submitted by: Mel M.



There are many options when it comes to backing up data and there are several factors to consider when choosing a backup solution. First ask yourself a few questions. 1.How much data will be backed up? 2. What would I use this backup for (system recovery, only important documents, or both), and 3. How often will I potentially use this backup.

If you're going for a full system backup for recovery purposes an external hard drive is a great solution thanks to it's speed and flexibility. Most external hard drives come with software to help you backup your data and exclude files you don't need. Additionally an external hard drive can be turned on and off as needed. You can also start the backup and walk away as opposed to DVDs were you will have to continually change discs. I find that most customers I service are quite happy using an external hard drive and third party backup software. Word of caution if you have Windows XP Pro, the built in backup utility creates a single compressed file that can NOT be accessed in Windows Vista as of RC1. However, if you are not planning on upgrading in the near future the Windows backup utility could be the way to go. It has an automated system recovery option and does allow for restoring files individually. It also can be scheduled and files can be backed up incrementally, something that could not be done with DVDs.

Now if your only looking to have a duplicate of important files like documents, pictures, and music, DVDs can be a good idea. Your burner should have come with software that has a backup feature like Nero's Backitup or Sonic's Simple Backup. These programs can organize data so that it is spread across discs in the most efficient manner.

Good Luck and don't wait until it's to late!

Submitted by: Tony F.



Hi Natalie,

The general rule I follow with backups is the more you back up, and the more you backups you make, the better. That being said, you don't *have* to go overboard to be safe (backups of the backups of my 4th backups I made last week will most like just get you confused).

I think a good idea is to have at least 2 backups. Large External Hard Drives are good, as well as DVD Burning. You only HAVE to back up files that you crated yourself, or anything else you actually want to keep. If you are comfortable reinstalling an operating system and software, then you don't need to back those things up because you can just restore them in a crash. If it's mostly "small" amounts of data (<8 GB), or can be broken into 8 GB Chucks, burn it onto Dual Layer (or 4GB for Single, which are cheaper) DVD's. It's a good idea to back up personal data on discs, but it's also good to back them up on another hard drive.

How often to back up data is another problem. Ideally, you would back up a file every time it's altered. But this can get troublesome, so back up when you are worried about losing really important data, or adding important data to your hard drive that is absolutely unretrievable (pics from a digital camera perhaps). Also, you don't need to back up the same thing again and again. If you back up a pictures folder, then add more pictures and want to back up again, you only need to back up the new files, not the entire photo directory again.

The other thing that is an option is imaging software. This programs will create a snap shot of your hard drive that you can usually store on another medium, like dics are hard drives. Then, in the event of a crash, can be restored onto another hard drive like nothing ever happened. Other backup software will backup certain files on a regular basis, and Tape Drivers are often useful for this purpose. There are a lot of good programs that allow you to do this like and you can read about more on

Generally, use you judgment. If you are worried about data being lost, BACK IT UP. Burn it to disc, make sure the disc is okay, then burn another one and lock in a fireproof, water resistant, insulted, vacuum chamber. Okay, maybe not, but just remember that you can never be too careful.

Submitted by: Jason D.



Everyone knows they should have a good backup of anything important that is on their computer in
case the hard drive crashes or the computer is otherwise destroyed by something like a fire or flood....
can you say Katrina? The problem is many people don't even know where to start to try and create a
back up of the files and folders that are important to them.

Here's some things to consider:

1. How much data do you have to copy?

Less than 256mb - Flash Drives
Less than 700mb - CD's
Less than 4GB - DVD's
Over 4 GB - An external Hard Drive

2. How often do you want to copy it?

If it's a one time deal then you can probably use an endless supply of CD's or DVD's and just store them somewhere safe. If you want to copy the same data repeatedly then I'd recommend an external Hard Drive.

3. How do you want to copy it?

You can simply drag and drop folders from one media to another or you can use automated programs to backup or synchronize your files. Here's two Free programs worth checking out:

WinBackup 1.86 - Backup Made Easy
GoodSync - File Synchronization, Backup, Data Replication, PC Sync Software, File Sync, Data Synchronization re

4. Where are you going to store your backup?

It doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to figure out if you store your backup right nest to your computer and your house burns down or is destroyed some other way (Hurricane, Flood, Tornado) then your backup is also most likely going to be destroyed with the computer.

So, if you're going to go to the trouble to backup your data then store it somewhere else like your office at work, a safe deposit box, a fire proof safe, a friend or relative's house....anywhere but where the original hard drive is.

If you have personal or private material that you are going to backup then consider making sure wherever you store it is under lock and key and only you and someone you trust have access to it.

Submitted by: Big Geek Daddy



Dear Natalie,

First let me say that back in the 80's I hard drive failure twice. In both cases I lost important data simply because I did not back it up.
Since then I run two hard drives in master/slave configuration, keeping my program files on "C" drive, and my data files on "D" drive. I still do back-ups now as there isn't any guarantee that the "D" drive will not crash.

There is a back-up utility within Windows XP as well as other back-up software programs. Personally I like Acronis. With this utility you can back up your complete hard drive including the operating system, back up individual partitions, back up files and folders, and make incremental back-ups clone drives and or partitions. In the event your operating system starts giving you problems, use the recovery feature of Acronis to restore your operating system from a back up file. This eliminates the need to debug to find the problem. If you decide to get a new computer with a larger capacity hard drive, or you want to change the hard drive in your current computer, you can use the "Clone" feature of Acronis to copy your operating system to the new hard drive without having to re-install the OS.

To use Acronis, you need a storage device other then the one you are trying to back up. This could be a second internal hard drive, an external hard drive, and depending on the size of the files you are trying to back up, there are also flash drives available. All of your back up and restore operations can be performed from the desk top of your computer, with the exception of the recovery of your operating system. If your computer is running, you can start the process to recover the operating system from your computer's desk top but it will need to reboot to start the actual process. If your computer will not boot you will need to have the device containing the backed-up file connected to your computer, usually this will be through a USB port. The BIOS must be able to recognize this port. You will also need to have the Acronis install disk in your CD drive. one last thing is that you must set the boot option of the mother board's BIOS set to boot up on the CD drive instead of the hard drive so the system will load Acronis instead of trying to boot your operating system. Once Acronis loads simply tell Acronis that you want to recover your "C" drive files and partitions.

After the recovery process make sure you reset the main boot device of your BIOS back to the "C" drive.

I know there are other means and methods for keeping your data backed up, this is just the method I prefer to use.

Hope this helps.

Submitted by: James S.



Hi Natalie,

Well, you say you don?t use backups, I say hog wash! 99% of all computers have at least a supplied system restore/recover disk set. This is a partial backup. Word processors, usually by default perform an auto save. This is a partial backup. Media files are by default backed up by the source. XP has a ?System Restore? that will restore the computer?s operation system files and your preferences. Okay, I?m just trying to make you see it from a different point of view. What you want is a second copy of everything or at least a way to do it.

You have a USB port open and a DVD burner so from this I say you want a way to make copies of your computer?s files. The software that came with your DVD burner will most likely have a ?Backup of My Computer ? option/feature. So buy some blank DVDs and use the feature. Take the backup DVDs you made and store them in a safe place. Good plan, maybe not? You spend hours sitting around putting new blank DVDs in and now there is a pile of the things that have to be stored. There must be a better way?

Do some research and find an external USB hard drive backup system. No more piles of DVD backups to store. The software that comes with the backup system can be set to perform backups automatically. Hook it up and forget it. Well that gets the show on the road. So let?s talk pitfalls.

Were to begin? The biggest pitfall of any backup system is, does it work? You never know until you have a crash and then use the backup files during a restore. So for the most part any backup system is just an insurance policy you hope you never have to use. More pitfalls include, saving a virus/infection, operator error, using the backup drive as a regular hard drive, saving files that are already corrupted, the backup software has a bug, both the computer and backup drive are hit by lighting, anti-virus programs get corrupted when backed up.

There are workarounds for each of the pitfalls but you need to get started and see for yourself. So much more will become clear an understandable to you once you have been exposed to the terminology in away that is real to you. So continue but press on in a proactive way, buy the thing and use it.

Submitted by: Don R. of Seaford, Delaware



First get a backup program. If you have Nero for burning CDs & DVDs it usually includes Nero Backitup. Do a full backup minus the ?Windows? folder and the ?Program Files? folder to DVD-Rs.
Make sure to de-select the swap file (pagefile.sys), a very large file in the root directory of drive C. This may take more than one DVD but you only need to do it once. After that do a ?Differential? backup on a regular basis to a re-writeable DVD. When the DVDRW starts to get full, do an ?Inceremental? backup to a DVD-R and add it to the full backup set of DVDs. Then continue on a regular basis with the differential backups.

Any time a file is changed or created by an application, the archive bit is set.

A full backup copies all of the files and then clears the archive bit of each file.

An Integral backup copies only the files that have the archive bit set and then clears the archive bit.

A differential backup copies only the files that have the archive bit set and does NOT clear the archive bit.

Nero Backitup allows you to select full, incremental or differential.

Store the DVD?s in a different part of the house than the computer, or off site if you want to improve the chances of your data surviving a fire.

The other way I sometimes use is to plug in an external USB hard drive and do a complete copy on a regular basis. A nice freeware program to do that automatically is SyncBack from: .

Submitted by: Philip M.
Collapse -
My Back-Ups
by XMrules / October 13, 2006 1:48 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mentions

I use a Mac. I have an external harddrive that backs-up three folders each morning: Documents, Music and Photos. Each of those folders have various sub folders. However, the risk with using an external back up is that if something happens at the home, I lose the original harddrive and the back-up drive. To reduce this risk, I have a portable "wallet" drive from Seagate (100GB). I keep it at my office. Once a week, I bring it home and backup to that drive, then bring it to the office. If something happens to the house, I will have the peace of mind knowing that my photos, dox and music (less a week) are safe off site. Once Blu-ray is an everyday occurence, I'll probably back-up photos to disk by year, just in case, and keep them off-site.

The small cost of the portable drive kept outside of the house is worth it.

Collapse -
Keep your backup in a safe place.
by mwooge / October 13, 2006 1:59 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mentions

I reccomend keeping a backup in a secure place away from your computer, as a precaution against fire and burglary. Consider a safe or keeping it at the bank in a safety deposit box.

Walmart sells fire safes for 100$. If you get one, do two things: bolt it to the floor so a burglar can't take it with him, and do not keep the combination written down anywhere near the safe.

Collapse -
Cheap "fireproof" Safes are only fire resistant.
by sallenmd / October 13, 2006 3:44 AM PDT

Be careful about buying "fireproof" safes--many less expensive ones are not adequate. They are designed to preven the ignition of paper (at 451 degrees F), not to keep hard drive platters from cooking. In most of these cheaper safes, you backup medium (HD, CD/DVD, or tape) could be toast after a house fire.

It is far better and much cheaper to keep the backup off site if it contains irreplaceable treasured files such as family photos.

Collapse -
File Backup
by AppaloosaRyder / October 13, 2006 3:18 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mentions

I have been reading through this discussion and would like a little advice of my own. First of all, let me say that I know a little bit about computers, but am not very technical. If it can be put into plan English for me, I can understand it and will figure it out eventually. Secondly, I created a set of recovery CDs through the Compaq Restore CD-DVD Creator program when I first purchased the computer. I know that I have added several programs to the computer since then, but I try to always save downloaded installation files to a folder in My Documents.
My question is, should I make a different type of backup for the OS files? Or will the CDs that I already created be enough as long as I back up the installation files that I have and any other personal data that I want to backup?

Collapse -
Restoring system files usually does not work
by mggordon / October 13, 2006 5:20 AM PDT
In reply to: File Backup

Seldom can you restore system files or applications. It almost never worked in Windows NT / Windows 2000 because the registry stores paths in 8.3 notation, and when restoring files may pick up a different 8.3 notation than when originally created.

You can "image" a disk; in which case you restore *everything* back to its exact spot, including proper 8.3 named aliases. Norton Ghost in an example of such a thing, but it takes a long time to make a backup set since you are backing up a great many files that, in my opinion, do not need to be backed up.

Collapse -
by AppaloosaRyder / October 14, 2006 2:29 AM PDT

So what do you suggest that I do? And are you telling me that the recovery discs that I made for the computer are not any good? And how do I go about restoring my computer if it does crash?

Collapse -
Don't backup - SYNC instead
by roadrunner2525 / October 15, 2006 2:42 AM PDT
In reply to: File Backup

I store ALL my records digitally on my computer. And when I say all, I mean EVERYTHING, from my credit card receipts, bank statements & insurance policies in addition to all my work documents & photos. Aside from photos, all are in pdf format which is the most common format.

If my system crashes, I don?t care about Windows OS or any of the programs. I have all the installation discs and money can always buy new ones. But no amount of money can retrieve lost data, documents, or photos. So for me, the My Documents folder is my most important folder on my computer.

The problem with backing up a hard drive is that most software compress the data to save space. So even if you?ve backed up everything to an external drive, you can?t access the data without restoring it onto a new system. I found this out when I needed a copy of an insurance policy the same day my computer crashed. I had a backed up copy but couldn?t access it without restoring.

My solution: I use a program called Allway Sync which makes an exact duplicate of My Documents folder onto an external hard drive. 120GB USB flash drive cost me less that $90. You can download a trial version of Allway Sync for free, purchase cost is like $30 if you like it. If you have a 100GB of data, the first copy will take sometime but thereafter, you can set the program to only copy over changes: it?ll mirror your external drive to your computer, by simply adding new files, deleting ones you?ve trashed and replacing modified files. If you do it every day before leaving your desk, it takes less than 5 minutes.

The beauty of this approach is that in the event of computer failure or natural disaster, I can grab my USB flash drive & run. I have all my files in a package in the size of a pocket book. And I can plug it into any computer at any Kinko?s no matter where I am and access any file or photo as if I was on my own computer without waiting to fully restore all the data on a new computer system.

Software works so well and quickly, I?ve actually gone a few steps further: I also sync My Documents folder on my desktop to a Maxtor 300 GB hard drive as well as to my notebook computer. So at the end of every day, I have 4 copies of all my digital files, and that still takes less than 5 minutes to sync them all.

Overkill? Maybe, but better safe than sorry, esp in California where disasters can strike without warning.

Collapse -
question about progressive bit loss
by psychoxl99 / October 13, 2006 6:56 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mentions

One issue that hasn't been fully addressed in these answers is the issue of progressive bit loss in both magnetic and optical storage. I.e., over time, magnetism will decrease and the bits in optical storage will also become progressively more difficult to read. Eventually, this will make the files unusable.

My question for those who are reading is - is there any way of going through a hard drive and "refreshing" the bits? Since the loss of magnetism is progressive, it seems to me that one way of extending the life of data on a hard drive would be to re-write all of the data every few years, to ensure that the bits remain "strong." However, I know of no utility that actually does this.

Obviously this is not a panacea since hard drives can (and do, in my experience) still fail, but it might help on the margin, especially with system files that seem to get corrupted very easily.

Any suggestions?


Collapse -
RE: question about progressive bit loss
by Aardasp / October 14, 2006 4:20 AM PDT

...the Hard Drives sold today will not have any problems with "progressive bit loss" in your lifetime, so I humbly suggest you not concern yourself with this "problem". Happy

PS: using a defrag program that includes a a surface diskscan will ID any problem segment(s) and prevent any data from being written to any bad sectors.

Collapse -
NOTE - Gmail backups are NOT allowed
by psychoxl99 / October 13, 2006 8:10 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mentions

At least one of the honored suggestions, I think it was the winner, mentioned backups in Gmail as a free alternative to for-pay online backups. I would caution readers AGAINST this approach. This is contrary to the Gmail terms of use, and Gmail in the past has been known to cancel accounts (and delete the data in the accounts) of people who use such programs. And, they can determine it fairly easily. So if you want to do an online backup, my suggestion would be to go with XDrive's free 5GB online drive (you only have to pay if you want more). Gmail is not a secure option and you could easily lose all of your files because of this problem.

Collapse -
Other advice from our members
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 12, 2006 7:16 AM PDT

Hard drives seem fairly bullet-proof these days, but an extra ounce of protection...worth the time.

I use two methods to back up my data I think are worth sharing. One is my external 80 GB USB hard drive. I'm not scientific about what I backup. I had a computer with only 4GB of storage, so I'd just try to copy the whole drive. I found many files were left out, mostly in the Windows folders. I have a bigger hard drive in a newer computer now, and I just back up the Desktop with SyncBack, and uncheck the Network Neighborhood and My Computer folders. I don't bother with the personal settings found in many of the folders in the root, but I know I should.

The other way I backup my data is with online storage I pay for at I bought the account before many of the free storage websites came out, but I still get a sense of security and privacy knowing they are a company that's been around a while, and definitely will be around for the long term. I back up my passwords (in a .csv file), webpage designs, graphic arts, and correspondence, etc. It's important to have your treasured files safe in a second location, and the alternative to burn disks and store them somewhere is far less convenient. You'd almost need to rent a safety deposit box in a bank to get the kind of protection most of the online services provide. The option to have a family member or friend hold your disks makes it an extra step to get your files back when you need them.

Good luck!

Submitted by: Michael A.



I'm currently looking at a wireless solution. I am looking at Buffalo and Lacie Wireless LAN devices.

The reason is I am lazy and previously on backed up my machine every 6 months. When I did have a fatal problem with my PC I lost a hell of a lot of data which was not backed up.

With a wireless solution I can just drag and drop important files and away they go. It's done. However, my main reason for this method is that I can put the wireless backup deice in my loft/attic. This way it does not clutter the house, is not heard, and most importantly of all is safe from burglars who never go into the loft/attic. What's the point of a backup device which goes out the back door with the PC and VCR!

If you look hard enough you can get a 160Gb solution for
Collapse -
Online backup makes real sense for important files
by misterbear / October 13, 2006 2:22 AM PDT

I second the comment by the member that recommended the use of an offsite online service like Carbonite (or something similar). I burn DVD's regularly but knowing that I have a near realtime offsite backup of all my important files makes me feel MUCH comfortable.

My last PC crashed on me and that approach would have saved me days worth of effort if I was using it then.

$50 is a very small price to pay for this insurance in my view and it is even free for 1 year now at Staples.

Collapse -
Mozy remote back up
by psteen / October 13, 2006 2:42 AM PDT

I have been concerned for a long time about how to back up my data, especially after my computer crashed after it was overloaded with adware & spyware. Well, I have found the perfect solution for me. After I bought a new system and use Firefox exclusively as my browser I found out about Mozy remote back up. It backs up all your files & folders over the Internet (it is encrypted & secure). After your initial back up which could take up to 24 hours to complete, the subsequent back ups usually only take under 30 minutes. It has a "set it and forget it" feature which makes daily back ups painless and automatic. When i signed up Mozy was offering the first 2 GB of data backed up for free. Since I had more than 2 gigs to back up I bought the 5 GB package for $2 per month for the first year. I am not sure if the pricing is the same or has changed. You can find out more at

Collapse -
I use Mozy too
by Maxweel / October 13, 2006 9:40 AM PDT
In reply to: Mozy remote back up

I use Mozy too and it's very good.

With it you can back up all your system files automatically and also choose which type or specific files you want to back up periodically and which not.

Collapse -
Simple back up strategy
by terrawarra / August 24, 2007 8:54 PM PDT
In reply to: Mozy remote back up

I'm 63 years old and my old PC isn't too far behind me,.. I don't pretend to know everything but for what it's worth, this is my proven back up strategy.
I have an 80 gig hard drive partitioned with "C" as the operating system & program files,.. partition "D" contains all of my files such as My Documents which holds a lifetime of photographs.
I bought a cheap second hand hard drive and installed it as a slave drive. I then installed a free version of XXClone and made a mirror image of my O/S system & files on "C" drive onto my slave hard drive "G".
My precious photos and files on partition "D" are easily backed up via burning multiple copies onto DVD's,.. you can never have too many copies !
Last week, through sheer negligence on my part, I stuffed up my O/S on partition "C", lots of errors and non recoverable from system restore.
In desperation, I started up my PC with a bootable floppy onto the "XXClone" back up on the slave hard drive "G" and copied it across to the master hard drive partition "C" (after formatting it). 60 minutes later, the copy was completed and my operating system & files were restored and running again perfectly on the master hard drive "C".
I'm almost a dummy but if I can do it, then anyone can. Not bad for a freebie "XXClone"

Collapse -
Backups and backups to backups. You can't be too safe.
by pradike / October 13, 2006 4:10 AM PDT

I take backups seriously. Once you lose your valuable data just once - it's gone forever.

I do a monthly backup from my main PC hard drive to another external drive - an image copy that reatins everything on the drive.

In addition, about every 6 weeks, I do an image backup to DVDs. Once finsihed, I rotate the previous DVD backup copies into my safety deposit box for storage. I then purge the oldest copy in there (destroy them).

This means in the worst case (oldest timeframe) sceanrio, I have an external 1-month old hard drive image copy, a 6 week old DVD image copy, and an offsite 12 week old DVD image copy available. If the premises burn to the ground, I will have minimal losses of photos, files, tax records, etc.

Collapse -
Online or Offsite backups are a must
by scfore / October 13, 2006 4:15 AM PDT

Ok, I was robbed this week. They stole four computers. I had partial backups but they stole my flash drive as well and most likely would have taken an external hard drive if they had seen it. And, the really tossed the whole house for electronics.

So, please backup regularly and store it either offsite or using an online service. I had been hesitant about online services due to security reasons and hackers, but am looking into it again.


Collapse -
Keating Technologies has the answer to back ups!
by Andrew Bruckner / October 13, 2006 6:40 AM PDT

OK, great stuff all , but Keating have just launched "No-Panic Computing" wherby we provide users with hardware, software, 24/7 customer care, and most of all... unlimited, online, encrypted, automatic, and bullet-proof backup with "DataGuard". This is an Iron-Mountain powered backup service for small-medium business that provides the security of an enterprise-level solution at a small-business price. Lose your data? So What. Laptop is stolen? So what. C-drive crashed or corrupted? So what! DataGuard completes a full-image backup so no matter what happens to your hard drive or laptop you will always have access to it through this program. NEVER WORRY ABOUT LOSING YOUR DATA EVER AGAIN! This is just too exciting because there is no more need for tape (ever try loading tape and finding your data???) that can melt, get lost, has to be rigorously managed, and can be stolen. No need for an external hard drive for the same reasons.
C'mon folks, this is the way it should be done and will be done, so contact me at and we'll have a chat. Check out as well for more info.

We can help!

Andrew B
Keating Technologies Inc.

Collapse -
Backing Up Your PC
by Webwizzkid2007 / October 13, 2006 2:39 PM PDT

Back-up's are needed not only when the PC fails. My wife and I had to re-format two machines when the system became so corrupt through viruses, key-loggers and malware etc. Things just stopped working. I would have lost five web sites in design stage plus 1000's or pics and clipart. My wife would have lost over 8,000 photos taken over the years. To both of us a grave loss. BUT WE WERE SAVED BECAUSE A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WE BOUGHT AN 160 gig OMEGA DRIVE and every month or when needed we copy programmes, data, my docs and system files etc onto it. It's and insurance and invaluable for keen computer addicts as we are. DON'T GET CAUGHT OUT, DO SOMETHING TODAY!! OR FACE THE MISSERY OF LOOSING EVERYTHING.

Lori and Mike

Collapse -
A little organization up front helps with backups later on
by ZenZhu / October 13, 2006 2:53 PM PDT

I generally keep things a bit organized up front so that backups are easier later on. Basically, everything that goes onto the computer gets categorized from the start. Photos go onto a "photos" folder, which is generally then organized by event, trip, date, or something.

Internet downloads go into a "Downloads" folder. From there, things will go into sub-folders such as images, install programs, support files (like DLLs), and so forth. Usually images will be further broken down by some category such as desktop wallpapers, clip art, anime, nature, etc. Then these might even have more sub-folders based on other categories, like the anime folder might be further divided into categories like mecha, catgirls, miko, etc.

I generally also backup my music. And yes, we're talking about legit music.. either burned from CDs I own or purchased online from sites like Napster. In the case of purchased music, I generally make an audio CD once I have enough purchased downloads to fill about 80 minutes. So there's a ready-made backup for those songs. In the case of music I've burned from CDs, I go ahead and include those in my backups because it would be a pain to have to copy them ALL again from the music CDs as opposed to just being able to transfer the files directly from the backup CD. That also lets me move them to my other computers where I may want the music available.

As for work files, those naturally get organized based on categories like lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, and so forth.

Personally, I prefer to keep the stuff on CD. For starters, I don't really have so much that it can't be done on just a few CDs. Second, it seems kind of silly to worry about the reliability of a hard drive and back up solely to another drive. I know wear and tear is an issue, but no backup medium is foolproof. I think of CDs as more of a "hard copy" version. Plus I can burn several cheaply and have a backup set at home and leave another set in my storage unit a few miles away.

I generally segregate things to CDs like I would in folders. I have image CDs, music CDs, work file CDs, and program CDs. I generally also create a text file on the CD that has any information I might need to reinstall programs, like registration info and clues about passwords, but not often passwords themselves. Then if I need to take something from backup, or just copy it to another computer to have the files there, I know which CD to grab. It may be somewhat "old school," but "new school" isn't always better. Besides,

I generally keep my computer pretty clean. It's hard to fathom these folks that need 160GB for backup. My HD isn't even that big and I still have tons of space on it that hasn't been touched. Still, I guess if you're talking about files for something like CAD, GIS, .pdf files, or the like, you can get pretty large pretty quickly. Larger and more efficient storage would probably make sense if you're in engineering, IT, or something like that. But for home computing purposes... wow... Although, I do know folks that rack up 20 or 30GB solely on downloaded girlie pictures alone. O.O

Collapse -
by sproduct / October 14, 2006 11:51 PM PDT

Dear members,
Most of members are concerned how to back their data files.We are Remote back service provider based in kenya.If you would like more information on the above topic and the software iw ould suggest you visit this
You will get all the information regarding this topic.
Peter Wamburi.

Collapse -
Backing up data
by famedsnake6 / October 15, 2006 11:15 AM PDT

I cringed when I read the line that said the guy was near tears because his HD crashed and he lost all the photos of his 6 month old child. If he'd taken black & white roll film and taken prints right along, posting them in the kid's baby book, he wouldn't have lost anything. There's a limit to technology and the guy's story is a good example.

Collapse -
file backup
by latangari2000 / October 13, 2006 1:27 AM PDT

I recently reinstalled my Windows & MS Office 2003. I can't remember how to delete temporary files,a nd I know there's a difference between the ''temp'' and ''temporary'' but what that difference is is beyond me.

I have Windows XP Pro and MS Office 2003. Where do I find the temproary files that can be deleted? I know I have tons of unnecessary files but I don't even know how to check for them. I have no problem uninstalling programs that I don't use but I hate deleting files since I'm worried they might contain programs shared with other applications that I might damage if I delete from one file. Does that make sense?


Collapse -
Backing up and how so many do not.
by cqjbcq / October 13, 2006 1:39 AM PDT

Backup should be an essential part of your computing experience if you spend large amounts of time on your computer or use your machine for important personal or business. There are many stories of people losing all of their files due to system crashes or computer viruses.

If your computer crashes or is infected with a virus that results in a loss of files, you will still have access to your files on backup disks or whatever other backup system or program you choose to use. You can restore your files to your computer from backup sources.

Why Do I Need to Backup My Files?

Don't fall for the ''it wont happen to me.'' There is certainly a chance that you will never have a need for the backups you make, if something does happen to your laptop or puter you will be glad that you have them. You do not have to backup your entire computer, only the files that are of the most importance to you.

Irreplaceable documents or files that are yours and yours alone should be saved/backed up in a place where they cannot be damaged. That way, no matter what happens to your computer, you can have security in the fact that all of your files are available in backup.

We have so many people telling us ''I was dumb and did not back up the files''. Do not let this happen to you. Many times the USB devices out there break unexpectedly, they call us and then need advanced chip replacement on these devices. Avoid having to have internal surgery on your storage medium to recover files... back them up before they go away. - staff writer

Collapse -
by khaostech / October 13, 2006 1:54 AM PDT

Realizing this is a serious subject that is continually coming up from time to time, I finally got into it myself so I will pass on my method...
I use Norton Ghost. ( approx. $100.00 ) but it's money well spent. Add to that a USB external Harddrive, and your all set.
I do a manual back-up once a week or so, on both my Computers with the one Hard drive, and that's it, couldn't be more simple unless I'm doing something wrong... D

Collapse -
Some Quick Ideas
by markdoiron / October 13, 2006 2:08 AM PDT

If you've read all the prior ideas, let me add a few quick thoughts:

1. Never store data files on the same partition as your os/applications. "My Documents" folder is fine, if you don't mind MS engineer's telling you what to name your folders (I do!), but move the folder so that you don't inadvertenly end up with two "My Documents" folder, the one you moved to another partition and the one that Windows keeps recreating (which is why MS shouldn't automatically create and name user data folders). Do this and you can format the os/applications drive when it inevitably screws up and reinstall everything, leaving you data completely safe.

2. Restores from back-ups of Windows are notoriously unreliable. It's best just to grit your teeth and reinstall from scratch, including all app's. Fortunately, WinXP is much, much better than previous OS's at keeping itself in good shape. If you don't have it, move to it (Vista will be an unknown quantity for a little while even once it's released).

3. Install a second hard drive and create a parition on it for backing up you data partition. Use only software that runs automatically without anything beyond initial set up. I use BackupMyPC, which is basically an enhanced version of the simple utility that comes with Windows. Make a choice here, depending on your needs: Back up all data files, or back up just the files that have changed since the last back up. I prefer the latter since anything that hasn't changed recently is something I won't need too soon (presumably). It will be on yet another backup, just in case, though.

4. If you have a network in your home (if you have two computers, you should) set it with two drives also. Then have your backup software automatically back-up your data to that computer, as well. This is your "my computer completely died and I HAVE to have that file today!" backup. This is why putting two back-ups into one machine is false security.

5. By smart mapping of drives, you can probably have one copy of your back-up software run back-ups on that other machine as well.

6. Finally, buy a removal hard drive (better yet: two). Periodically do a complete back up to the removable hard drive. Then take it and immediately store it in a separate physical location--preferably a safe deposit box. This is you "a tornado hit my house" copy of everything. It's also you back-up in case a file you weren't currently working with got lost. If you have two removable hard drives, swap them occasionally as you make back-ups. Keep the oldest copy in the house, where it might save you a trip to the safe deposit box.

BOTTOM LINE: Back-up needs to be daily/nightly and automatic. You need several copies to cover loss of data, loss of machine, loss of home. The 0's and 1's that form your life's work/personal memories are what's important. You can always reinstall OS/app's from the original CDs.

mark d.

Collapse -
Backing Up
by Futoro / October 13, 2006 1:51 AM PDT

I use an inexpensive program called Second Copy to back up all the files I've worked on to a second hard drive in my machine every time I turn my computer off. Very simple. Very easy. It works for me.

There are only three kinds of computer users: those whose hard drives have failed; those whose hard drives are going to fail; and those whose hard drives are going to fail again. I'm in the third category but with Second Copy, I'm ready.

Collapse -
Backing Up
by SteveP55419 / October 13, 2006 2:00 AM PDT
In reply to: Backing Up

I too use Norton Ghost. Instead of using a USB drive, I bought an Addonics Combo Hard Drive II cradle which allows you to install a regular HD in an open CD or DVD bay. The SATA HD is connected to the computer through a PCI adapter. The thing that I really like about this is that the Addonics hardware has an on/off switch controled by a key. I turn it on only when creating a backup image. When it is off, it is invulnerable to virus infection, electrical surges, etc.

Collapse -
backup requires multipronged approach
by vorlonken / October 13, 2006 1:54 AM PDT

No one product will do it for you. I use Syncback (free version) to automatically run scheduled backups of my important data every day, and some of it twice. It is nice in that I configured the jobs to delete files from the bacukp location when they vanish from the source. This may or may not be a good idea depending on your taste or circumstances. These backups are to a separate internal hard drive. This does not protect me from fire or other disaster, however. I am considering a removable hard drive (as opposed to an external hard drive).

I duplicated most of the syncback jobs so they perform the same backup operation to my DVD-RAM drive. DVD-RAM is superior in usability to CD-R and DVD-r/+r. I can store these in my fireproof box or offsite (but naturally I have been too lazy to do that). LG makes excellent, inexpensive, high quality drives that support dvd-ram. The disks are a little spendy but are rewritable and the read/write performance is excellent. DVD-RAM just looks like another disk drive and requires no special contortions to use. I keep two generations so I can recover an older version if necessary.

I manually use the built-in XP backup program once per week to do a complete backup of almost all of my data, including all system files, system state, programs and data files. If I have a major failure the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time reinstalling stuff. It would take me DAYS! Again, I backup to that same second internal hard drive which is very large and has lots of space.

My next chore is to use Norton Ghost, which I've had for over a year, to make image backups for even faster restores. Again, my second internal hard drive has plenty of space available. 250 GB and higher drives are so cheap these days that everybody should have one. Try; they often run rebates that reduce the cost of a huge drive to between $50 and $100.

Popular Forums
Computer Help 49,613 discussions
Computer Newbies 10,349 discussions
Laptops 19,436 discussions
Security 30,426 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 20,308 discussions
Windows 10 360 discussions
Phones 15,802 discussions
Windows 7 7,351 discussions
Networking & Wireless 14,641 discussions

CNET Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for great gifts under $100?

Trendy tech gifts don't require a hefty price tag. Choose from these CNET-recommended useful and high-quality gadgets.