How to Back Up Your Windows Computer

Hopefully, you will never know the pain of being caught without a backup. I had been a computer technician for over 20 years – and it never got easier telling clients their data was unrecoverable.

Today is Better.

Years ago, all hard drives had one or more metal spinning discs inside which stored all of your data and programs. One quick trip to the floor, and a mechanical failure meant the possible end of your data.

Today, most storage has moved to solid-state drives (SSD). They don’t spin; they’re much like your computer’s RAM – storing data using only electrical charges.

Also, as internet speeds have increased and services have moved into the cloud, there is now a greater chance that your pictures are on Facebook or other social media and your music still downloadable from wherever you first got it.

But, still.

Of course, you may still have many legitimate reasons for an “on-site backup”, and I’m going to tell you how to protect yourself.

First of all, do not use your backup drive as your data drive. If only one copy of something exists, it is not a backup – it is the data. If you can, store all of your data on a single logical drive.

In business, those of my clients wise enough to listen to my advice, which they paid for, would have what is called a rotational backup system. Each day, the data would be backed up to a different backup tape, or other devices. In my business, this wasn’t paranoia – this is smart administration.

While this may well be overkill for what you’re backing up, you have to plan for the unexpected. Many will tell you to buy an external drive to backup your computer, I’m suggesting you buy at least two. Have one that you use most days, and one you store offsite and use like every Monday. Also, if you are going to be taking your data offsite, you might want to look into encryption software such as VeraCrypt or BitLocker, but that’s another discussion.

Heaven forbid your computer AND backup get stolen, fried, flooded, or even simply corrupted, using multiple backups, you will not be out of luck.

Purchase one or more additional USB drives with twice as much room, if possible. This way, you have room for your data to grow as well as room for multiple backups.

Most versions of Windows have some sort of backup program, usually located in the Control Panel. You just click the Start menu and type backup, and see what you get. However, I don’t suggest using the included Windows software.

There are a few backup solutions, but I recommend FreeFileSync which you can just download from the Internet. The name accurately describes what it does.

One additional piece of advice is the make sure your files have actually been backed up. Explore files in a few different folders and make sure they open

Since you’re reading this, I assume your drive hasn’t crapped out. If it has and you’ve tried other methods to recover deleted files, such as the Recuva utility, there are services such as Ontrack which may be able to recover your data. The only thing absolute about this method is that it will be expensive.

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Carl Mann

Full-Stack Developer

Former owner of an I.T. consultancy business in Southampton, NY, Carl gave up the hustle-bustle of I.T. to live his dream of becoming a full-time application developer. When not busy blogging or programming, you might find Carl out taking a ride on his motorcycle or hiking off in some woodland trails.

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