How And What Must I Back Up On My Computer


Backups are copies that are made of the important stuff that you’ve saved on your hard drive. Backups are normally made on some form of media that can be removed from the computer, like USB Flash Drives, (in the old days, stiffy disks!), or writable CDROMs and DVDs, or on another computer over a network, or a removable hard drive, tape drive, etc. This is so that the data can be kept in a safe place, so that if a fire destroys your computer, you can buy another computer with your insurance money, copy your saved/backed up data back onto the new computer, and be up and running again in a short time. Some data, like important letters, digital photos of the family, and so on, are irreplaceable if they get destroyed.

Data loss can also be caused by a hard drive crash (which happens fairly often once the hard disks get to 8 or 9 years old), or by overheating after a fan failure, viruses, theft, and so on. It’s a dangerous world for data!

It’s a good idea to make backups often, and to keep the backups in another building if possible. Some secretaries make backups every day, and this has often saved their jobs.


The easiest and best way to make backups is to get a CD writer (or DVD writer) and to copy all your data onto a rewritable CD or DVD disk at least once a week. Most CD rewriting software will allow you to configure your CDRW disk like a big stiffy disk, so that you can just drag and drop files or whole directories onto the CDROM. If possible, use a DVD and a DVD writer to put your files on, as they have 6 to 20 times the data capacity of a CD disk; up to 27GB. Another method is to back up to a USB Flash Drive. You will need a big one though; 8GB or bigger. Flash drives can retain their data for about 10 years.

There is a program in Windows that will do the work of backing up for you. (START PROGRAMS ACCESSORIES BACKUP) which will allow you to choose what to backup and do all the work for you. You can also buy programs that do all this backing up for you if you like. If you want to do it yourself, manually, then read on.


Copy your entire Documents and settings folder to backup. (It’s quite big, normally) This folder contains all your email messages and contacts, your recent documents, your music,photos and videos, your favorites, etc.

Save any .pdf files (Adobe Acrobat document files) that you may have.

Copy any other files that you have authored, from wherever you may have stored them.

Save any downloads that you may have made, like complete installation programs for example.

If you have any saved program installers, usually with an .msi file extension, save those as well.

If you have your music files (mp3, wma, etc) stored in their own folders, save those as well.

There’s not much point in saving any of the Program files, as they normally have to be reinstalled from the original installation disks to work properly anyway. An exception may be sections of the Office suite of programmes, such as Microsoft Word, as there may be some documents or templates stored there, depending on how you set the software up. Also, some digital camera software stores all your downloaded photos in a subdirectory in the programs folder.

So look around for your important files. (Thus it’s important to know your way around Explorer, and how to search for files.) You can do a search for all your document files by right clicking your main drive in Explorer, then clicking Search…, and then typing in *.doc* in the search box. Click on “Search Now,” and then all the document files will appear in the search results. You can then just Drag and Drop the files you want to your backup location. You can do the same with *.jpg and *.txt to get all your photo and text files. If you are using OpenOffice, search for *.odt files.

Once you’ve made a backup, it is best to store it as far away from your computer as you can, in another building if possible. This is so that you can recover from a catostophic event like a fire or flood damage.

Backing up all your precious data is a bit of a job, but it is well worth it. It can save you weeks of work, a lot of heartache and prevents grey hairs from multiplying overnight!

Like Nike says, “Just Do It!”

Duncan Kelly

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