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How to back up all the data on my PC

by jbre / September 18, 2005 1:20 PM PDT

I am very confused and computer inept. I know I need to back up what I have on my PC (a Dell 4500, running Win XP home ed.) My system is old and I am afraid that one day in the near future it is going to crash. Should I back it up to an external hard drive? Should I put it all on CD's? (Whew, what a job that would be)? If I save it all to an external HD do I need a program to transfer the data? I don't know enough to know what files to save so I want to play it safe and save the whole thing - all the programs and data - which as I understand it, live on my "C" drive. Any assistance or advice would be very much appreciated. I'm good at light switches but not to swift with PC's. TIA - John in El Paso

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Not a difficult task
by Stan Chambers / September 18, 2005 2:33 PM PDT

First, decide what files on computer that you want to save. For the average home user, this is typically not a lot of data. Usually some documents. Possibly some music files and photos.
My Documents folder, My Music Folder, My Pictures Folder.
These are the usual locations of the files that we want to save.
A blank cdr disk will hold some 700 MB of data.
If a folder contains more than 700 MB, create new folders to organize and separate the files. You can add files until the disk is full.
If you have a cdrw drive, place a blank disk in the drive, right click the folder/s, select send to, cdrw drive Usually D:\ or E:\.
A window will open saying that you have files ready to burn to cd. On the menu at left, select burn these files to cd. In a few minutes you'll have your backup cd.

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by Papa Echo / September 18, 2005 3:17 PM PDT

Think ''Copy''. No fancy programs required. It is OK to backup, i.e. copy your files to an external drive, but note that external drives can fail too. The best is CD-Rs or DVD-Rs which are write once only. I would stay away from CD-RWs since experience showed that data will be missed - disc will not be reconized, data cannot be read, being asked to format--etc. IMHO

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It depends what you want to do
by metmichallica / September 18, 2005 3:19 PM PDT

I back up everything on my computer and I use Norton Ghost 9.0 to do that. I burn to cds (which takes many cds), but it works good. If you just want to back up individial files, you cannot do that with Ghost.

I am not sure about the other programs, I only have experience using Ghost, but it works good so far and I have used it since April.

There is a backup option in xp (though I am not sure how to really use the backup option in xp) I have never used it. It would suck big time if you can't access windows to restore so I've never used it. Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Backup.

You can ty that though I never used it, I don't know how advanced it is in restoring files or the whole computer if you have to that is why I never used it.

Ghost works fine for me though, but some people have problems with it.

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Best way for backup
by Noizxland / September 18, 2005 5:37 PM PDT

I think the best way for you is use backup software like Acronis True Image and create full hard drive disk image. I always do it in case of crash my system, I keep one copy on separate partition and another copy on DVD. But you could make bootable CD and restore system even when Windows doesn't boot.
It's most reliable software I've ever seen. Also it has very good-looking intuitive windows wizard that makes utilization easier. (And it works aprx 3 times faster than Ghost).

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by phfeenikz / September 19, 2005 7:27 AM PDT
In reply to: Best way for backup

Don't use XP backup as it's unreliable. A complete image of the hard drive is not exactly necessary (but I do it anyway). I use Acronis myself and I've heard that Norton Ghost is good as well, but it costs about twice as much. With Acronis you have the option of creating a restore disk. The downside is that you cannot use the restore disk if your image file resides on an external hard drive. It has to be on an internal hard drive. Of course the restore disk is only in cases where Windows will not boot up, but if you work with a computer long enough, it will happen.

The reason I say that a full backup image is not necessary is because you can always reinstall everything. The most important thing to save is your Documents and Settings folder. If you follow good computing practices and save all important files and documents there, you need only copy one directory to completely backup all the files you actually need. Then if you need to reinstall everything, all you do is copy documents and settings back to the fresh install, and all of your program settings are restored. The caveat is that you must setup your computer with the same users when reinstalling windows.

IMHO, the best strategy is to save a complete image with Acronis. It takes less time to restore an image than to reinstall every program individually when disaster strikes. Additionally, save the entire Documents and Settings directory to your external hard drive, and on CD-ROM, so that if the absolute worst ever happens and you lose everything including the backup image, it's not a total loss.

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There are good suggestions here
by El Alquimista / September 18, 2005 8:13 PM PDT

but they tend to be toward the extremes -- backup everything or backup just the important data. Imaging the entire system every few days when only a few files have significant changes is a waste. But not backing these files rather frequently can require in a lot of effort in reconstructing them in case of loss. IMHO, the best scheme is a combination of a total backup (as with Ghost or True Image) and more frequent backups of folders containing data that change often.

While the current versions of both Ghost and True Image offer incremental backups (only those things that have changed are backed up), I agree with PapaEcho that copying is the better way to go. I do disagree somewhat about using external drives. Yes, they can fail ? but at the same time you need the data? If lightning strikes your system or your house burns down, of course; otherwise, it is not so likely. And remember, CD/DVD disks, especially the cheaper ones, are not perfect and may not be readable when you need them (I have encountered this). And never use CD/DVD rewritables for backup for the reason PapaEcho stated.

My preferred scheme is:

Create a full image of a partition whenever it has been changed significantly. For systems/programs partitions this means whenever an update has been installed or a new program added. For data partitions, this may mean monthly or quarterly, depending on the magnitude of changes and importance of the data.

Copy data folders to another HDD every day or so, and copy them to CD/DVD every week or so. Important data such as tax information, investments, certain legal documents and correspondence, etc. should be copied twice to CD/DVDs whenever there is a change, with one set stored off site as in a bank box.

Hope this helps


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