To butcher an old saying, people don't plan to lose data, they lose data because they don't plan. In other words, many users don't bother to make regular backups, and often suffer the consequences when their hard drive dies or falls victim to a virus.
How can you avoid such consequences? Step one: buy an external hard drive. (If possible, go back in time a few months and buy one when they're significantly cheaper. Also: place a few strategic sports bets for me. Cool, thanks.)
Step two: get yourself a comprehensive, easy-to-use backup program--preferably one that doesn't cost anything. Like this: today only, Download Crew has Acronis True Image Personal 2010 for free. This Windows backup utility originally sold for $49.99.
The instructions for getting this freebie are fairly clear, but I'll recap, because there's a fair amount of hoop-jumping involved. First, register for a Download Crew account, then activate that account when your activation e-mail arrives.
Next, download Acronis True Image using the big green Download button. Then click Get Serial Code and wait a few seconds for your code to appear. That's your "StubKey," which you'll enter into True Image directly upon running it for the first time and clicking Get Key.
Once you've filled out and submitted the registration form, you'll get an e-mail from Acronis asking you to confirm the creation of an Acronis account. Click that link and you'll get the actual True Image activation key. Whew!
I went through all the steps, and although it did take a good 10 minutes to complete the process, everything worked as expected.
Although Download Crew refers to this as True Image Personal, it appears to be simply an OEM version of True Image Home, which CNET reviewed back in 2010--and awarded five stars.
It's a novice-friendly tool that can back up an entire hard drive or individual files and folders, as well as create bootable rescue media. There's also an online-backup option that affords you 250GB of storage for $49.95 annually (or $4.95 monthly)--and you can try it out free for one month.
Are there freeware backup utilities that can accomplish more or less the same thing? There are--and if you want to suggest one, please do in the comments. Personally, I like using pro-grade (or at least home-grade) software whenever possible, especially when I can get it for free.
Bonus deal: The Super Bowl's a-coming! And that means it's time to start looking at bigger TVs. Here's one of the best deals I've seen: the Sceptre X460BV-FHD 46-inch LCD HDTV for $409.98 (plus sales tax), with free site-to-store shipping. Nearly 100 buyers rated it four or five stars. Crazy-good deal.