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There are several movie files throughout "Senior's Guide to Computers" demonstrating many techniques. For a complete list of all of them including links to each one, please visit the VIDEOS page.


Back Up Your Data! - Part 2

CD/DVD Burning Software

There are pros and cons to using CD/DVD burning software. The major problem with these programs is that they have too many features and try to do too many things. Sometimes this "software bloat" can cause compatibility problems and other conflicts.

However, this is the backup method I use and prefer. These types of backup programs usually contain these features:

  1. They make it easy to burn identical copies of your files and folders.
  2. They can burn the data to CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R or DVD-RW discs.
  3. The discs are immediately useable and the data can be restored without using the burning program.
  4. The backup information can be saved and reused.
  5. You can make labels for your discs.
  6. The program will tell you how many CDs or DVDs you will need and will automatically tell you when to insert a new disc.

Basically, there are two programs that lead the competition in the category:

Roxio Creator NXT 2
Rating: 3 stars

Nero 2014
Rating: 3 stars

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External Hard Drive

An external hard drive is an excellent choice for data backup. An external hard drive is no different than an internal hard drive except it is enclosed in its own separate case, attached to the computer by a USB or Firewire cable, and can be disconnected and moved to almost any other computer.

Shop for External Hard Drives

There are several excellent programs that will automatically back up your data to an external hard drive on a regular schedule that you set up. Two of the best programs are:

Second Copy
Rating: 5 stars
Price (Nov. 2013): $29.95
Read customer reviews from CNet

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Drive Imaging Software

A drive or disk image is a computer file containing the complete contents and structure of another data storage device, usually a hard drive. The image usually can be stored on a second hard drive, another partition of the same drive or on a series of CDs or DVDs. This image is not particularly useful as a backup and restore item since it is not useable without the imaging program. However, since an exact duplicate of an entire hard is stored in this image it is extremely useful in the event of a hard drive failure.

Let's say that one day you turn your computer on and your hard drive goes CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK and drops dead. What do we need to do to get your brand new hard drive to duplicate the old one?

  1. Reinstall the Windows operating system from the original CD (of course, you still have it right? Right?)
  3. Update your anti-virus software with the latest virus definitions.
  4. Update your anti-spyware software with the latest spyware definitions.
  5. Update to Windows Service Pack 2, if necessary.
  6. Reinstall ALL the programs and utilities that you've come to know and love (of course, you still have ALL of the original discs right? Right?)
  7. Go to Windows Update and reload ALL the Windows patches and fixes from Microsoft.
  8. Find your recent backup of all of your data (you did do that, right?) and restore it to your new hard drive.

OR -- if you have a recent drive image, you can restore the image using the emergency CD or floppy disc that you made when you first used the imaging software. You can be back in business in around 20 minutes. If your personal data on the image is outdated, you can then restore more recent data from your data backup.

Acronis True Image Home 2014
     Rating: 3 stars

Drive Snapshot 1.4
Rating: 4 stars
Price (Nov. 2013): EUR 39.00 ($52.71)
Read customer reviews from CNet

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Online Storage

This is the ultimate in safe and secure data backup although it probably isn't necessary for the average user. Online backup is when you sign up for disc space on an external server and store your data there. Usually, the service includes the ability to run automatic backups on a regular schedule. If you suffer a loss of data, the data can easily be restored from the external server. There is often a monthly fee for this service but there are several free services that offer 1-2 gigabytes of storage.

The most important feature these services should offer is that your data is protected using password authentication and at least 128-bit SSL data encryption.

Rating: 5 stars
Price (Nov. 2013): $59.99 per year for unlimited storage
Read a review from PC Backup Review

Rating: 4 stars
Price (Nov. 2013): $9.95 per month for 100 GB
15 day free trial

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What does Jeff use?My personal backup plan includes the following:

  1. I have a 1.5 terabyte external hard drive connected to my computer with a USB 2.0 cable. I use the program Second Copy to automatically back up my data to the external hard drive every evening. I use the setting called "Synchronize" which means the backup files and folders will be an exact duplicate of the originals. The data that I backup includes:
    • The entire "My Documents" folder
    • Email files
    • Calendar files
    • Photos
    • Music files

    Your backup set should be designed to fit your needs.
  2. I use the online storage provider Carbonite. For $59.99 a year you get unlimited storage and it runs quietly and smoothly in the background. Your online data shows up as another hard drive on your computer.
  3. Once a week I backup my data set to DVDs (or CDs if you prefer) using Roxio Easy Media Creator 7.5 and have had no problems with it. The only Roxio tool you need for this task is "Creator Classic". If you don't have disc burning software, you can use Windows XP CD Copy to copy and burn your data. The safest place to store these discs is somewhere away from your home, like the office or at a friend's or relative's house. If a catastrophe occurs in your home, you want your data someplace else. I rotate four sets of discs every week. That way if one set gets damaged, I still have another chance of restoring what I need. Once a month, I store one set of discs away permanently and start a new set. Now you'll have a permanent set for each month.
  4. I have an image of my primary hard drive, that's the one with the Windows XP operating system and all my programs on it, created by Drive Snapshot 1.4. A good time to create an image of your primary hard drive is after you have installed a fresh copy of the operating system and have installed all of your most frequently used programs. That way if your hard drive fails, you can restore it to the original setup with the least amount of hassle.

Return to top      Back Up Your Data - Part 1

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