Play It Safe: Back It Up

18 May

You probably play it safe in many areas of your life. You drive carefully (hopefully), you secure your valuables, you don’t take unnecessary risks and you have insurance protection. But what about all the data on your computer? I always like to ask people in my Digital Workshop sessions: “What would happen if you lost all the information on your computer right now? Would you go straight for the razor blades or would you be able to restore it from a backup?”

Much of the data on your computer is irreplaceable. I keep decades of my life on my computer and I would be most vexed if something happened to it, so I back it up on a regular basis. The risks could be from things like malicious software, but could also be from a catastrophic hardware failure or even “user failure.” In any case, you probably don’t want to lose those files.

Think of backing up as insurance for your data. Hopefully, you would never have to use it, but it’s good to have the peace of mind from knowing that it’s there. Backing up is simply a matter of making a copy of your information—your documents, photos, archival data and any other personal information—onto some destination outside your computer such as an external hard drive. That way, if something unfortunate happens to what is on your computer, you will be able to restore it once the problem is corrected. An external drive is an excellent option because there would be no intervention necessary. You can easily find large-capacity USB drives available for cheap.

Windows 7 has a nice backup utility built right in. It’s simply a matter of specifying when you would like the backup to occur, what should be backed up and where it should go. The first time you run a backup, all your data is included. Then, typically, on subsequent runs, only the information that has changed since the previous backup will be included, so it will be much faster. This activity can be scheduled to happen automatically whenever you want, such as at night if you leave your computer on, or you can initiate it manually.

If you have a high-speed broadband Internet connection, there are many on-line backup services available. This provides the added benefit of off-site storage. These web sites are in the business of keeping your data safe and secure and the procedure is the same: just specify when to back up and what to backup. These sites are surprisingly inexpensive. Go to for evaluations of the many on-line backup services that are available.

However you do it, just do it. You may be very glad you did.

– John Busey, Techspert, ms Maasdam


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