How To Do a Complete Backup

Dear Computer Lady,

I run vista and was wondering how to do a complete backup
Thank You Juanita


Dear Juanita,

Before I start explaining how to do a complete backup, we need to define what a complete backup is.

In my mind, a complete backup is a backup that copies every single file on your hard drive. When you do a complete backup with the right backup program, you would be able to restore the files and your computer would be exactly the way it was when you took the backup. This type of backup has advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage is that your installed programs are also backed up and restored, so you would not have to spend the time re-installing all your programs.

A related disadvantage is that any corrupted files or virus infected files will be copied as they are and would be restored the same way.

Complete backups take quite a bit of time to run, and because of this, they don’t get done very often. If you have files that have been changed or added since the last complete backup, they would be lost when you restored your computer.

I like to do a complete backup when the computer is fairly new, or at least in good working condition, and then suppliment that backup with data file backups. In the event of a problem, you can restore the complete backup, and then restore the most recent data backup.

Your first step is to have something to back your files up to. If you plan on doing this type of backup on a regular schedule, I would suggest an external hard drive that is at least as big as the hard drive on your computer. You should be able to find a good hard drive that connects to your computer by a USB2 connection at a decent price. I used to have two external drives and I alternated backing up to one and then the other every week.

You can also backup to DVD-R disks if you have a DVD-R drive, but each backup will probably use several disks and it will take even longer to perform the backup.

Next, you will need a backup program.

One program that I have used with great success is Nero BackItUp & Burn.


This program allows you to backup files or your entire drive. It comes with step by step directions in the manual, which you can also download from their website in PDF form.

Another program that works good is Roxio’s Back on Track software.


This program gives you even more options for backing up than Nero, but you need to be careful because some of the options (Instant Restore) will also slow older computers down a little bit. Their disaster recovery program will back up your entire hard drive, including all your applications and system preferences to a disc or external hard drive. The exact disk image can then be restored in case of hardware failure or theft.

I hope these options will help you with your backup needs.


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