Dear Computer Lady,
Thanks for a newsletter written simply and in understandable language. In answer to your question of what I would like to know about computer back up:
1. Is it necessary to back up the entire hard drive, or just documents?
2. If not, how would I know what programs I currently have on my computer if it crashed?
3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the options for backup?
Thanks for addressing this issue–it’s been in the back of my mind for quite a while. Maybe this will spur me to action!
You ask some excellent questions about backing up your computer. Lets take a look at each question.
1. Should you backup your entire hard drive, or just your documents. The answer to this question really depends on what your goals for backing up are. To start with, make sure you are at least backing up your documents. Things like photos, emails, video, and documents (letters, posters, cards, etc) are not replaceable if they are lost to a computer crash or virus. Everything else on your computer like programs, games, Office can be replaced. If you don’t have the install disks for those programs, you might have to purchase them again, but at least they are not lost forever.
I backup my documents, but not my entire hard drive. My reason is simple, I know that I can restore everything on my hard drive from the original disks (or downloads that I have saved on CDs) and most of the time, a fresh install like this will result in my computer running better and faster than it was before. If I am backing up my entire hard drive, I would be able to restore the computer back to exactly the way it was before the crash, including any problems that might have been slowing it down.
2. If you don’t back up your entire hard drive, you do need to do a little bit of preparation to be ready in the event of a computer crash or disaster. First, take stock of what came with your computer. Some companies ship their computers with CDs to restore the operating system (Windows) and hardware devices (drivers), other companies ship with a set of recovery disks that put your computer back exactly like it was when you purchased it, and still other companies don’t ship any disks, but you are prompted to create recovery disks when you first start the computer.
If you have a set of disks that came with your computer, that is great! If you don’t, now is the time to do something about it. Many computer companies will stock disks for each computer model, and will either sell you a set, or ship a set to you free of charge. If your computer is less than 3 or 4 years old, this is a great option, often if your computer is older than that, the company no longer has those disks available.
Once you are set with disks that get your computer back the way it was when it was new, you need to start looking at other things you might need. Did you install any programs after you brought the computer home? Make sure you keep the install disks in a safe place. If you purchased programs online, save the purchase information and the file that you downloaded in a folder together and burn them onto a CD or DVD.
Some of my favorite companies make it easy for me to re-install my programs after I have either re-installed Windows or switched to a new computer. One example is Big Fish Games. All I have to do is remember my email address and a password and all the games that I have purchased are listed with a “Download” button for each game so I can download and install them again on my new computer.
Once you have all your programs ready to be re-installed, you can simply backup your data files (documents, pictures, etc.) and be ready for any type of computer problem.
I find that the easiest way to backup my documents is to use an online service like Carbonite or Mozy Remote Backup. These programs backup your documents while you work on your computer, and you never have to take time out of your busy schedule to make your own backups.