Back up - Guide to backing up your important files.
Welcome to our guide to backing up your computer.
Backing up files is a very important part of maintaining a PC and can save a lot of hassle if ever the PC has a problem.
What is backing up and why should I do it?
To back-up is to make spare copies of files and store them separately to the originals.
Computers have a tendency to go wrong from time to time, these days total hard drive failure is rare, but it does happen.
One of the more common problems nowadays is the threat from viruses, with some of the more serious infecting the master boot record of a hard drive's file system.
If the master boot record of a hard drive is infected with a virus, then the Fdisk utility, or similar, would most likely have to be run, the chances are the data on the drive would be lost, or at least costly to recover.
Operating system failure and bad software installation are other things that can cause problems when it comes to recovering files.
How frequently you back up will depend on how often you use your PC and what you use it for.
The average home user will probably just have to back up any important files as and when they are changed, and do a full back-up once a week/month (depending on PC use).
When PCs are used in a home office scenario then backing up should be done more frequently.
One rule of thumb would be if your important files change daily, back-up daily, if they change weekly, back-up weekly, and so on.
Although becoming less common, floppy disks are great for backing up small files. The average 3.5" floppy disk can hold up to 1.44 MB of data, which is sufficient for any letters or important text documents.
Backing up with floppy disks is as simple as copying the file, or saving the file to the floppy drive. A ZIP program, such as Winzip, can be useful to compress any files that are too big to fit on a standard floppy disk.
USB Flash Drives (memory sticks)
These fantastic little devices are great for backing up your data, although not as reliable for backing up as a CD or DVD on which the data is physically "burnt", USB flash drives provide a quick and very easy way to backup your files.
Their storage capacities range from around 1GB (GigaByte), up to 16GB (GigaByte) and beyond. The low cost of USB flash drives also makes them an inexpensive way to store fairly large amounts of data.
CD Writers/DVD Writers
With CD/DVD writers becoming ever more commonplace, they are ideal for making back-ups of large amounts of data. A typical CDR disk (blank CD) holds up to 800MB of data and costs pennies, a typical DVD disc can hold up to 3.4GB of data.
CD/DVD writers are also very easy to use. The software that comes with them is normally very straight forward and can create back-ups of your data in minutes.
Zip drives are still a popular media for backing up data. Both internal and external ZIP drives are available and some models can store up to around 750MB of data. These drives normally come with their own special software, which is usually very simple to use.
External Hard Drives
External hard drives are a great way of backing up your data, for more about these devices see our guide
to external hard drives.
Back-up Software Packages
There are many back-up software packages available, they are reasonably priced (compared to a lot of software) and can be invaluable if you have very important files.
Some back-up software makes it simple to back up whole drives, including operating system files with a few clicks. This means if the worst happened, you could have your PC system up and running again within hours.