You've heard every mantra and cautionary tale a dozen times, but if you still haven't backed up that hard drive by now, the lessons haven't sunk in. It may not seem like a big deal if everything's humming along, but losing files or precious photos to malware, food spills, fire, or any other corrosive indignity brings on those twin sensations of panic and despair. This article takes you through some simple hardware and software solutions to save those files, then weighs the pros and cons of each approach.
Back up to an external hard drive
External hard drives and network-attached storage are local ways to back up your files to a physical drive that lives outside your PC. Since network-attached storage devices are typically for the home networker with multiple computers to safeguard from data loss, most people looking for a basic backup option will lean toward external hard drives, like some of these CNET favorites.
After purchasing an external drive, you'll just plug it into your computer to get started. Most conventional drives like the ultraportable 320GB Seagate FreeAgent Go will trigger your computer to open a separate drive folder, like "Removable Drive F:". Copying or dragging the files you'd like to save from their original folder into the external drive folder transfers them over.
The purpose-built 320GB Clickfree Portable Backup Drive provides an even simpler backup method. After plugging it in, the drive's native software automatically finds and backs up all of your computer's data. Not bad for about $200. If that's not enough storage space for you, there's also the four-bay Drobo for serious data nuts. It's not without its shortcomings, including its high price. For backups, it's best used for creating redundancy in case one of your other drives fail.
Desktop backup software
One of the primary advantages of using software to copy your files is being able to schedule backups of your data, although all programs will let you manually back up data as well. While most people will find online storage solutions the easiest to maintain, desktop backup software has its merits.
For example, for $50, the Acronis True Image Home 2009 images your hard drive, including your programs, documents, music, photos, and Outlook e-mail. In the event of a crash, you can boot it from the PC or from a CD.… Read more