Back up your computer

Why should I back up my computer? There are two types of hard drives: those that have failed and those that will.

Don’t get caught with your pants down when your computer crashes. There are numerous methods you can employ to organize and back up your computer files. I even find myself refining my backup strategy periodically. There’s also the constant struggle to organize local and offsite backups. What happens if there’s a local natural disaster? With a remote backup, you can have Aunt Stella FedEx your external backup hard drive from Australia and you’re all set.

Most of your files are likely in your My Documents folder (Windows) or Home directory (Mac and Linux). But do you know where your email messages are? Your applications? Your pictures? You’d better find out.

Here are some tips:

  • Back up your email. A quick search on Google for “email backup software” results in numerous listings, but the one I have personal experience with is for Macs called MailSteward ($49.95). You can download a demo that archives up to 3,000 emails. It even includes a scheduler that automatically archives emails without you having to lift a finger. With email archiving software, you can store those thousands of messages you want to keep without clogging up your email server.
  • Back up all your files. General purpose backup software can be configured to selectively back up your important files to external hard drives or even remote servers. You just need to organize your files, possibly buy some extra hard drives, and schedule your backups, and you can rest easy knowing that disaster recovery is just a few clicks away. My backup software of choice is ChronoSync ($30), because it can synchronize two hard drives – delete or change files on the master drive, and the copy automatically mirrors those changes.
  • Make a bootable backup of your computer. Let’s say your computer crashes. No worries with a bootable backup drive. All you have to do is start up from your bootable drive and continue working. In other words, a bootable drive includes your operating system, applications, files, and preferences. It’s literally a mirror image of your regular working hard drive. Backing up all your files/documents is a great start, but when your main hard drive crashes, you not only have to copy all your files, but also reinstall all of your software and preferences. What a pain! Unfortunately, ChronoSync doesn’t create bootable drives, so I use SuperDuper! ($27.95). Confirm that the hard drive you’re using is a compatible bootable drive for your operating system.