You don’t need to stress over your computer backup. You don’t even need to put in a lot of time or money to make a computer backup that will protect your data. There are two easy ways to make a computer backup and one thing you should always do on a regular basis.
Easy Computer Backup #1—Overnight Copy
Portable computer disk drives are cheaper than ever, so I suggest this technique to more and more people. Acquire a portable disk drive that’s at least twice the size of all the data on your computer and then follow the instructions below for Windows:
1. Plug in your drive and open the Windows Control Panel. Open the Backup and Restore wizard and create a new backup job.
2. Tell the computer to backup your whole internal disk drive and all of you settings to the backup external hard drive.
3. That night, before you go to bed, run the backup profile. It will take several hours on the typical computer, but it should be done by the time you wake up in the morning.
4. Safely disconnect the external disk drive with your computer backup and put it in a safe place. Remember that anyone who steals this disk drive will have access to all of your passwords and confidential files.
I like to remove the hard drive from the external case and then store that hard drive in a safe place. See the screenshot below.
Repeat the overnight backup as often as you can. These subsequent backups will take much less time because Windows will only backup files that have changed.
Because external disk drives are so cheap, this is the most affordable complete backup solution I recommend. For example, a $100 disk drive that lasts 5 years costs you just over $1 a month. See this external hard drive buying guide.
Another Easy Computer Backup
But if the process above is too complicated for you or requires too much work, there’s an even easier way to secure backups—use an online backup service. The easiest I’ve seen is Mozy.
To use Mozy, you create an account on their site and install their software. The first bit of backup is free, but paid accounts cost about $5 a month.
After you install their software and enter your account details, you can select which files, folders, and settings you want to backup. If you paid for a full account, I suggest you backup as much as you can.
Mozy will backup the files over the Internet to their servers.
The initial backup may slow down your Internet connection. If you have a slow Internet connection and a lot of data to backup, it may even take several weeks to make a complete backup.
But once your backup is complete, Mozy will do something quite nifty: it will make fresh backups every time you change a file on your computer. Say you tell Mozy to backup the document Thesis.docx. From then on every time you click Save in Microsoft Word, Mozy will create a fresh backup copy of Thesis.docx on their server. You can even access these old copies for 30 days in case you accidentally deleted an important paragraph or page.
Don’t Forget This Crucial Backup Step
It’s wonderful that Windows and Mozy can automate your backups, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Your computer will still eventually die and you’ll need to use those backups.
But, what if, after your computer dies, you discover that your backups weren’t working or weren’t complete? I think that would be worse than having no backup at all.
The thing to do is to test your backups periodically. Simply connect your external disk drive or open your Mozy account and open a random file. Also make sure that everything is where you expect it to be. With this little safety check, you can ensure that your computer backups are working correctly.