Most tech support experts recommend users regularly back up the files and folders on their PCs. That way, when something on your computer goes irreversibly wrong, a back up can prevent you from losing all of your important data.
But telling a computer newbie to simply ‘back up’ their PC often results in a confused stare. Today, we’re going to teach you how to quickly and easily back up your computer – even if you know next to nothing about computers.
Why do I need to back up my computer?
There are numerous reasons to back up your computer. Hard drive failure is a constant threat, particularly to older drives, and even the most reliable hard drives have a chance to fail at some point in the future. If this happens, you will obviously need to buy a new hard drive, which means that you will lose your operating system and all of your personal data.
Viruses and malware can also wreak havoc on your PC. While they may not cause your hard drive to fail, they can cause so many annoying pop-ups, freezes, and slowdowns that it’s easier to just wipe your hard drive clean and reinstall your operating system. Even the best antivirus software won’t eliminate 100% of all malware threats, and it’s important that you have a backup plan just in the case the worst were to happen.
How do I back up my computer and its files?
For the reasons listed above, it has never been more important to back up all of your personal data. Things like vacation photos, Word documents, or Excel spreadsheets can be irreplaceable in the event of a crash, and it’s important that you protect these files along with whatever else you want to hold onto.
The first thing you need to do is buy an external hard drive. Fortunately, hard drive space is becoming cheaper and cheaper every year, and external hard drives as large as 1TB can be found for around – or under – $100. 1TB should be more than enough space to back up all your files, and most users can get away with a hard drive half that size.
Next connect that drive to your PC and wait for Windows to recognize it. Then, go to the Start menu and search for the ‘Backup and Restore’ tool. A menu will pop up that allows you to configure various Windows backup settings. You can change the schedule of backups, for example, in order to automatically backup your files and applications on a regular basis. Depending on how frequently you change around important documents on your computer, and how protected you want your PC to be, you can set the tool to back up anywhere from once per day to once per month.
On this screen, you can also choose which types of files are saved, as well as the size of the backup folder on your external hard drive. If hard drive space is at a premium, you can set it to only keep the latest backup file, as opposed to several different files.
Once you’re done fiddling with the settings, you may want to hit the ‘Backup now’ button.
Double up your protection
An external hard drive will be able to protect your important files from things like hard drive failure or viruses, but what happens if your house burns down, or if your computer gets stolen? In that case, even the sturdiest external hard drive can be unrecoverable. This is why many users choose to back up their files online.
However, backing up files online can take a very long time, particularly if you’re uploading a lot of data. After all, most internet plans download information a lot faster than they upload it. For that reason, most users use online backup technology only for their most important files and folders. If you’re interested in protecting your computer with this method, then there are plenty of back up programs and services on the internet for you to choose from. In fact, a simple free service like Dropbox may be the only thing you need.
The bottom line
Backing up your computer is like wearing a seatbelt: hopefully, you’ll never need to use it, but just in case something bad happens, it can help save your (virtual) life.