Backup: everyone knows they should do it, but so many don’t. Whether it’s your family albums or your business’s accounts, you need to protect what’s on your PC from loss or damage.
You may worry that it’ll take ages, cost a fortune, or that you’ll forget to keep it up. In this guide I’ll show you the different types of backup available, the software to use, and how to get around all these problems and worries.
There are two types of backup you can do right now (as long as you’re reading this on a desktop or laptop!). They’re not the perfect solution, but they’re infinitely better than doing nothing.
Copy and Paste
At its most basic, a backup is just a second, reserve copy of your files so that you can recover from accidentally deleting things, or if your computer breaks down. So, the easiest way to back up is simply to copy and paste all your files to a new, second location. Try copying everything to a dedicated folder on your C:\ drive, or – even better – onto an external disk. That’s it – you now have an infinitely better backup than you did a moment ago!
System Restore, or Recovery
Open the Windows menu and search for ‘restore’. In Windows 10, open ‘Recovery’, from where you click on ‘Configure System Restore’, then ‘Create…’ to save your computer’s current state. With Windows 7 you should look for System Restore.
If Windows suffers a problem, such as being unable to boot, you can roll back to any of the system restore points that have been created, and essentially undo any damage. This tool does not back up your own documents etc., so use it in conjunction with (at the very least!) Copy/Paste to preserve your machine properly.
There are much better ways to backup your computer than the ones mentioned so far. There are a handful of different types, and so the following will give you an idea of your options. Choose the one which suits your needs the most.
1 Synchronising backup
This type creates a copy of all your files, and then whenever you run this backup again it simply updates any files which have changed at the source, deletes files which have gone from the source, and adds new files which have been created since the last run.
This is one of the smallest backup types, and takes up the least space. The second run, and all runs after that, are quick. However, if you accidentally delete something but don’t notice until after the next backup run, the file will be gone entirely. Therefore it’s not very sophisticated.
2 Incremental backup
Incremental backups first make a copy of all your files. Then later runs make a record of all new files, deleted files and changed files, and notes the date.
That means that updates after the first one are quick, and you can roll your computer back to any date on which a backup was taken. It takes more space than the Synchronising type, but it means that every file that’s ever been on your PC is preserved, until the drive is full. At that point, your software should start deleting old backups as it creates new ones.
3 Disk Image
With a disk image backup, your entire hard drive with all its contents – program files, documents, photos, registry – is wrapped up into a single huge file, and put away for safe keeping. If your computer was to be abducted by aliens, or fall into a canyon, then as long as you had the image, and built a computer identical to the one it came from, you could restore the disk image and carry on from there.
It’s a long process to create a disk image, and every new backup takes the same amount of time to make. This type of backup also takes up the most space, as your whole computer is effectively cloned every time. However, it’s also the most comprehensive, taking in everything in one go, and has other uses, such as duplicating systems in offices and the like without having to install Windows on each one.
4 NAS and Cloud backups
NAS stands for ‘network attached storage’, and usually refers to a dedicated box linked to your router or modem at home. It can be used to share storage across all your computers, or maybe to stream digital media around your home. It can also be used to store your backups. ‘Cloud backup’ is a similar idea, except that the data is uploaded to the ‘Cloud’, i.e. the Internet. Both processes might use one of the methods already mentioned in this article, such as incremental or disk image.
The big advantage of these network locations is that your files are secured away from your PC. If possible, you should always keep them in a different location to your computer, so that if something happens to the computer it is less likely to happen to your backup too. Imagine if your files were on a USB disk in your laptop bag, and your laptop was stolen, USB disk and all!
A big disadvantage is that transferring your files over a network connection is always going to be slow compared to backing up to a disk connected to your PC. And if your internet connection is limited, then backing up 200 gigabytes (GB) of photos to the cloud might use all that up in one go (or might take weeks)! You also need to pay a subscription to a company if you want cloud backup, and you need to trust that company not to spy on your stuff.
Back up today!
However you do it, backing up your computer’s files and folders is arguably the most essential maintenance task you can do with your PC or laptop. It’s the first thing I do when a customer trusts me with their machine, and I make sure all my own computers are backed up at all times.
I must admit I got burned once many years ago, and nearly lost some valuable and much loved files. Luckily, even in those prehistoric days a computer repair shop saved things for me, and I learned my lesson. 🙂
Now you know how many options of you have, and how easy a basic backup is, so you’ve no excuse. Of course, if you need any more advice, just give me a call and I’ll be happy to help!