Do I Need Backup Software

[ad]Dear Computer Lady,

I have a 6 month old Dell Windows 8 laptop and I’ve been reading your helpful emails for a very long time. I purchased your e-book about buying a computer and am very happy with the computer I bought.

Now I want to protect my data and just purchased a portable hard drive.

Do I need to get the Acronis True Image software? The sales person at the store said I don’t need extra software.

Is it better to only copy pictures & data, or better to copy everything on the computer? Is that what the Acronis software does?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Thanks oodles, Karen

Dear Karen,

I’m glad you find my articles helpful, and I am very glad that you are being proactive in protecting your data! Many people don’t do anything about backing up their files until their hard drive crashes, and they have lost their precious data.

Most external hard drives do come with some sort of software that will help you backup your files, but it is different for each product, and not all of them have all the features you might need. Here are some of the things that I look for.

Is it easy to use? Some programs are easier than others.

Will it run automatically? Acronis will run on a regular schedule, so that you don’t have to remember to backup. I don’t know about you, but if I have to rely on my memory, not as many things will get done.

Are the backed up files easily accessible? Some backup programs package your files in their proprietary format, and you need the backup program in order to retrieve the files. That works fine until your computer crashes and you want to access the files on your external hard drive from another computer that doesn’t have the software installed on it.

I hope this helps with your backup.



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Elizabeth Boston is a Web designer, Social Media Consultant and managing editor of, “Ask The Computer Lady”.
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    • ron007
    • June 23, 2014

    You are asking about doing backups. GOOD FOR YOU. As Elizabeth said, most people ask about them too late. After they are in trouble. And at that time they are S.O.L.

    Do you need a separate backup program …

    In truth, maybe not. In the past the backup program that came with Windows was pretty “carpy”. But in the last few versions it has been upgraded to the point where it provides most of the minimum features you need. So if cash is tight, you could probably do just fine without buying a separate program.

    One of the required features you want to look for is being able to create a “bootable recovery disk”. This creates a CD/DVD/USB that the computer can boot (aka run a stripped down copy of Windows or linux) from, access the backed up files and HD and then restore the backed up files to HD. Acrontis does offer this.

    There are 3 fundamental types of backup you want to be concerned about: Image, Incremental and File.

    For your “Windows” drive, ie the “C:\” drive you run windows from you want to do an “Image Copy” backup. This is effectively a “photocopy” of your disk. This way, if there is a Windows problem, you can restore your copy of Windows from a known good working copy in backup. Because an image copy is a digital photo copy it takes a long time.

    Since image copy takes a long time, and Windows changes relatively little, you can do an “incremental” backup. This identifies files that have changed or been added since the last backup. It works much faster than a full backup. But, you need a full backup to start from, to which you can “add” the incremental backups.

    Finally there is a “file” backup. You can identify specific files and/or folders that are important to you that you want backed up more frequently. “Cloud” services, like Skydrive, also provide this sort of service.

    If you are serious about doing thorough backups you may want to setup a backup schedule something like this.

    #1 Daily/nightly incremental File backups of your important data files

    #2 Weekly incremental backups of your whole C: drive

    #3 Monthly Image Copy backups of your C: drive taken BEFORE doing monthly Windows Update. That way, if there is problem with Windows update (funny, but sad, thing MS does mess up, all too frequently) you can restore to a RECENT known good image copy and get back to work while MS figures out a fix.

    My backup strategy includes “Partitioning” the HD. Partitioning is a way of logically subdividing your single physical HD into smaller parts. By default you probably already a couple of partitions on your drive. All Windows computers have one large “C:\” partition. Even though you are not aware of it, most computers also include a “recovery partition” that can be used to reset your computer back to “factory Fresh”.

    I have created a separate “D:\” for “Data” logical “drive” for my personal data files. This includes my Windows Profile with the personal desktop, favorites, documents, pictures etc folders. C:\ contains Windows and installed programs only. This way, if I am forced to restore C: it does not affect any of my personal data files. And it makes my backup schedule easier to work with.

    • Stewstew
    • June 24, 2014

    It’s a pity that you did not do what you normally do, that is share your personal choice of backup software. :-). There are hundreds (like me) who follow your every suggestion. Thanks.

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