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Back Up Your Data! - Part 2

External Hard Drive

An external hard drive is an excellent choice for data backup. An external hard drive is no different than an internal hard drive except it is enclosed in its own separate case, attached to the computer by a USB or Firewire cable, and can be disconnected and moved to almost any other computer.

external hard drive

There are several excellent programs that will automatically back up your data to an external hard drive on a regular schedule that you set up. Two of the best programs are:

Second Copy
Rating: 5 stars
This is the only backup software I use and recommend. Second Copy is automatic backup software designed for Windows 10 and also works with previous versions of Windows. It makes a backup of your data files to another directory, internal or external hard disk or to a computer across the network. Second Copy monitors the source files and keeps the backup updated with new or changed files. It runs in the background with no user interaction.

Rating: 4 stars
SyncToy is a free application from Microsoft that synchronizes files and folders between locations. Typical uses include sharing files, such as photos, with other computers and creating backup copies of files and folders.

Drive Imaging Software

A drive or disk image is a computer file containing the complete contents and structure of another data storage device, usually a hard drive. The image usually can be stored on a second hard drive or on a series of CDs or DVDs. This image is not particularly useful as a backup and restore item since it is not useable without the imaging program. However, since an exact duplicate of the entire hard is stored in this image it is extremely useful in the event of a hard drive failure.

Let's say that one day you turn your computer on and your hard drive goes CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK and drops dead. What do we need to do to get your brand new hard drive to duplicate the old one?

  1. Reinstall the Windows operating system on the new hard drive from the original Microsoft CD (of course, you still have it right? Right?)
  3. Go to Settings --> Update & Security --> Windows Update and reload ALL the Windows patches and fixes from Microsoft.
  4. Reinstall whatever programs and utilities that you've come to know and love -- especially the anti-virus software -- (of course, you still have ALL of the original discs right? Right?)
  5. Update your anti-virus software with the latest virus definitions.
  6. if applicable, update your anti-spyware software with the latest spyware definitions.
  7. Find your recent backup of your "Documents" folder (you did do that, right?) and restore it to your new hard drive.

OR -- (BETTER & FASTER METHOD) if you have a recent drive image, you can restore the image using the emergency CD or floppy disc that you made when you first used the imaging software. You can be back in business in around 20-30 minutes. If your "Documents" folder on the drive image is outdated, you can then restore the more recent data from your data backup.

Acronis True Image
Rating: 3 stars
Acronis True Image is a rock-solid system and file backup program but probably overkill for the average user. Proprietary backup format is inconvenient. Demands heavy system resources.

Drive Snapshot
Rating: 4 stars
Drive Snapshot is a program allows users to take a snapshot of all data present on their computer, and save it to a hard drive in one single file. If something unexpected happens to your computer like a hard drive crash, you can quickly restore everything to the way it was. The software will save your files but also your operating system, and all installed programs. You can use any device suitable for file storage like an external hard drive, a network drive or cloud storage.

Windows 10 System Image
Rating: 4 stars
This Windows 10 tool allows you to store a full system image in various locations like an external hard drive. You want to use removable storage so you can disconnect it and store it in a secure physical location.

Online Storage

This is the ultimate in safe and secure data backup although it probably isn't necessary for the average user. Online backup is when you sign up for disc space on an external server and store your data there. Usually, the service includes the ability to run automatic backups on a regular schedule. If you suffer a loss of data, the data can easily be restored from the external server. There is often a monthly fee for this service but there are several free services that offer 1-2 gigabytes of storage.

The most important feature these services should offer is that your data is protected using password authentication and at least 128-bit SSL data encryption.

Rating: 5 stars
Carbonite is what I use and is a great backup solution. It features excellent backup features, low price, and an easy to use interface.

Rating: 4 stars
With IBackup, you can backup/restore interactively or schedule regular online backups for Windows 10. It has a simple, user-friendly interface with with good scheduling and logging features.

What does Jeff use?My personal backup plan includes the following:

  1. I have a 1.5 TB (terabyte) external hard drive connected to my computer with a USB cable. I use the program Second Copy to automatically backup over one TB of data to the external hard drive every evening. I use the setting called "Synchronize" which means the backup files and folders will be an exact duplicate of the originals. The data that I backup includes:
    • The entire "My Documents" folder
    • Email files
    • Calendar files
    • Photos
    • Music files
    • Video files

    Your backup set should be designed to fit your needs.
  2. I use the online storage provider Carbonite. For a reasonable annual fee you get unlimited storage and it runs quietly and smoothly in the background. Your online data shows up as another hard drive on your computer.
  3. I have an image of my primary hard drive, that's the one with the Windows 10 operating system and all my programs on it, created by Drive Snapshot. A good time to create an image of your primary hard drive is after you have installed a fresh copy of the operating system and have installed all of your most frequently used programs. That way if your hard drive fails, you can restore it to the original setup with the least amount of hassle.

Return to top      Back Up Your Data - Part 1

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