How to Backup Your Computer
Backing up your computer can be very painless if it is setup right.
Things you'll need:
- A plan
- An external hard drive
- Knowledge of formatting a hard drive
- Backup software
- Knowledge of different kinds of backups
First, answer this question: How often do you want to backup? Daily? Weekly? Every other week? Monthly?
An external hard drive is important because it's something that is separate from your laptop, netbook or desktop computer. Thus, if something happens to the computer, your data can be in another location, safe and sound.
Western Digital is a VERY good manufacturer. You can take a look at their external drives here.
Their Passport series of drives is meant to be tiny and portable, which is perfect for laptop users. Be aware that some hard drives work off of AC power, where others will be slower, but only work on USB power, making them ideal for use on a plane, etc.
Search around and find something you like. Be conscious of the amount of GB you get per $1.
One thing that you MUST do is reformat the drive that you get after you buy it. Most of the time, Western Digital (you'll see it abbreviated as WD) formats the drives with a file system known as FAT32. FAT32 is OK and is more compatible with older Operating Systems (you'll see it abbreviated as OS) and Macs, but it is slower and it will only allow you to make files up to 4 GB in size, which means you'll have to split up your images. Acronis True Image (see below) can do this for you, but it's a pain. The easiest way to take care of this is to right click on the drive in My Computer, and just do "Format...". Don't worry about the stuff WD put on there...it's all trial stuff anyway, or stuff you don't need and Acronis True Image is better.
When formatting, make sure it's set to NTFS at the top of the window and leave the cluster size alone. (set to default) The compression you don't need, and you can do a quick format. Set the label to be whatever you want. :-)
A great option is Acronis True Image. The software they offer to home users is here
You can buy the software download they have on their website, but you MUST burn your own Recovery Environment CD. That CD is one you boot from the read the backed-up images off of your external hard drive to restore them onto your hard drive if soemthing goes wrong.
You can also buy a physical copy here.
The installation disc used for installing the software also acts as your Recovery Environment CD, so you don't need to make your own.
Now when Acronis True Image makes an image, the image will be compressed so you can store many, many images of your computer so you can roll it back to many different points in time. The amount of images you can save is dependent of how big of an external drive you get.
You'll need to decide when making a Backup Job in Acronis True Image whether or not you want to do Incremental Backups or Full Backups. Full Backups will make a Full Backup of your computer each and every time. Incremental Backups will make a big image the first time, and then will make smaller images every other time (until a certain amount is reached) as it's only storing the differences/changes between the last backup and now. The trick to this is, you need the original backup it made, as well as the smaller images made. If one is lost, the backup set is ruined.
If you just want piece of mind, just go with a Full Backup.
I hope all of this information was helpul.