Nowadays I advocate the following solution.
1. Use a systematic way of storing data in folders.
2. Buy an external hard disk ($150 for 250 Gb or thereabout). Be sure to format it NTFS.
3. Download free Synctoy from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=E0FC1154-C975-4814-9649-CCE41AF06EB7&displaylang=en (works for XP also).
4. Set it up so that it syncs all relevant folders (#1) on your hard disk with the backup copy on the external disk (#2).
5. Run it regularly. Disconnect the external drive when you don't need it.
Remember that files on an external hard disk are even more unsafe than on an internal disk. So it makes sense to burn them to a DVD-R or DVD-RW once in a while for extra security.
You have to know what files and folders to backup. Program files and windows folder don't make sense. Keep all setups for applications you download from the net in a separate folder (mine is called program files\installed_programs) and DO backup that for easy reinstallation. If you've got non-standard fonts, you might like to backup windows\fonts folder also. But most 'normal' fonts come with Windows and MS Office and will be reinstalled when you reinstall those.
Easily overlooked: favorites folder and desktop. They are in Documents and Settings.
Hope this helps.
The computer I have at home (HP Pavillion a287x) is getting bogged down with lots of digital photos and video (over 6GB - mostly photos though). I use the computer mostly for internet (using Outlook) and Word/Excel files and organizing the photos. In the past year I had gone through the experience of the Blue Screen of Death and needed to have the hard drive replaced. I really don't want to go through that again. I'm basically looking for a way to:
-have a place to store my photos & video
-backup my entire hard drive (in case my computer dies again
-backup all the data (so that it's easily accessible - including Outlook's calendar, addresses, etc)
-back data up on a regular, automatic basis
I have heard of Maxtor backup harddrives but don't know if there are other ones that are good/better/less expensive.
Also is there separate software that you suggest I purchase or do these backup drives come with adequate software?
I'd love to hear your suggestions!!