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Beginner's Guide to PC Backup

We all know that we should back up our data. It is important for people's well-being and peace of mind, and a copy of a file on your computer does not make a backup. Redundancy, people, redundancy!

Just look at these statistics directly from WorldBackupDay.com – the big day is Sunday, March 31, presented video style:

That's millions of people, who produce quadrillions of files ever year ( There were 1

.2 trillion digital photos taken in 2017 alone, imagine what that number is now), with great risk of losing all this work.

Why do so many people-30 percent of us, according to WorldBackupDay-still do not disturb to back up? Phones disappear or become stolen, computers become infected, accidents occur. But even after losing an important document, an irreplaceable photo or the entire set of financial records, some still don't take time.

Maybe it's because backup takes a little effort. Previously, it has been too complicated. Now, thanks to new software, hardware and services, it's easier than ever. Here is a quick look at what types of backups are available, as well as the tools you need to pull off with as little work as possible.

Types of PC Backup

Backing up can be as simple as copying a file from one location to another, say from your hard drive to a removable USB flash drive. But the arsenal of tools at your disposal can do so much more. What you need for redundancy, security and access dictates the type of backup you should use.

Select files and folders

If you only need to back up specific data, use software that lets you select and select which files you want to save. (Remember, just moving a file does not back it up. You need at least two copies.) To be safe, back up entire folders on a recurring basis to ensure that newly created or updated files are backed up to a later opportunity.

There is plenty of free software to handle this, including Windows 10's integrated Backup and Restore feature. You can find it via Start Menu> Settings> ] Update and Security> Backup . It allows you to create a complete system image or even create a repair disc for when Windows inevitably goes bad.

A system image is a complete copy of your entire Windows system drive as it exists-so if you ever have to restore it, it will be just as it was on the backup day (for more on disk images, see below) .

 Windows 10 File History

There is also File History a backup option that first followed in Windows 8. It offers recurring copying of files that you use to a secondary device such as backup and ability to just restore the version of a file you need to restore. File history is much easier to set up, but it is also more limited.

For more information, see Best Backup Software.

Cloud Storage and File-Synchronization Services

] Best Solutions for Cloud Storage

A must for anyone who has more than one computer or device being used, with the synchronization program ensures that You have the same files on all your computers. Make a change to a file and send it automatically to all other computers with the account, even on other operating systems. They always contain a backup of files online, which you can access anywhere, even via smartphones. It is the ultimate in redundancy.

Larger names in this area are Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive; the latter earned a full five star in our latest review.

All services provide a few gigabytes of online storage for free, usually 2 GB, but you can get much more by paying monthly fee or annual fee.

For more, check out The Best Cloud Storage and File Sharing Services.

Online Backup Services

 The best online backup services for 2016

We are in the sky time, so online backup, once a bit specialized, is now the norm for important files. Unlike the above services, which also include a file synchronization option, straight backup products lean against the direct transfer of files from a hard drive to online / cloud storage, with simple recovery options. They can throw in any file synchronization, but you are more likely to see security as the bigger option.

Install software on a computer, tell which files / folders to back up, and do the rest in the background. Since the storage is online, you can normally read files via the browser, or restore the files to other systems, as needed. Major names you have heard of are: iDrive, SOS Online Backup, Acronis True Image (all editorial selections) and Carbonite .

For more, read The Best Online Backup Services for 2019.

Cloning a Full Disk Image

There are several ways to back up an entire hard drive. The first: use software to copy all files from the device to another (larger) device. That means you get everything, even if you don't need it, but it's easy to keep up to date and restore selected files from it as needed.

Presumably, it is better to create a image of the unit, also called cloning . An image is a copy of all your data-all files and folders, including programs and system files taken as a snapshot of the device at the given moment. When used to restore, clone / click the clone / existing system and the hard disk returns to the state it was in at backup.

Image processing / cloning is a great way to back up a whole new computer. Then, when it starts to work wonky (it happens with all computers), you can restore the device to its original settings. Keep in mind that this is to go back to the factory settings – albeit your own – which means that the restoration will not include data accumulated after the original image. The data should be backed up separately. (Yes, you should have two sets of backups running. Have I mentioned redundancy yet?)

(To return to factory settings with Windows 10, you do not even need a disk image. The Windows 10 update tool will try to set the operating system back to how it should be at the beginning of use.)

Your Best Option: Make a full disk backup regularly with the included data, using software that can read images and selectively drag files for restoration as needed. You need a very large backup destination to pull it off, usually an external hard drive or your own home network storage option.

 Windows 10 Creating a System Image

Third-party image processing software for a device includes the free DriveImage XML, Clonezilla or Macrium Reflector Free;

Learn how to clone a hard drive.

Backup Destinations

Here's how to back up data may depend on the type of media you use as your destination site. Here are some options.

External Devices

It won't be much easier than this: Connect an external storage device to your computer and start. Of course, the units come in all shapes, sizes and configurations. An ordinary unit does not cost much, but it will do nothing but sit there and let you do all the work (not that there is anything wrong with it). Almost all devices today use connections such as USB 3.0 or USB-C for incredibly fast transfer speeds.

Maybe your biggest decision is to go with faster but more expensive solid state drives (SSD). Unlike hard drives, SSDs have no moving parts and that means great performance, which is always a plus when you have a lot of data to copy.

For more, check out the SSD vs HDD: What is the difference and the video above. If you're not sure how to choose, read The Best M.2 Solid State Drives and To copy your Windows installation to an SSD.

CD / DVD / Blu-ray Discs

The old backup standby is to copy your files to a shiny disc. The disadvantages remain the capacity and the speed; The new drawback is that it is harder to get computers with CDs these days.

CD-Recordables (CD-R) can only hold as much data (about 700 MB, maximum) – it is so small it will feel like using a floppy disk. A DVD-R is much better at 4.7GB, but also 8.5GB of dual-layer DVD-Rs won't hold your entire music and photo collection. Dual-layer Blu-ray Discs (BD-R) store up to 50 GB, but prices fluctuate. A few years ago, we found a $ 25 spindle for $ 25, but the supply has to be down because they are currently running for nearly $ 90. Also in this capacity, playback to discs will feel unreasonably slow compared to fast hard drives and flash drivers. Who wants to change discs in and out all the time?

The Ups: Disk-based media is cheap (as long as it is in stock). Discs are super portable, and it is always a good idea to back up your data, if possible. If a disaster takes out your computer, it will not destroy what is not there.

USB Flash Drives

Small USB devices are almost as cheap as discs, although their capacity is increasing. They have the advantage of being extremely portable. Maybe too portable, because they are easy to lose (and steal). But locking a multi-GB flash drive into a safe is easier than storing discs or hard drives. Some USB devices are also designed for protection from the elements, making them a safer destination for your data.

 Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate GT USB Flash Driver

Of course, you need to get the largest capacity drive you can get – generally 512GB – to back up everything, especially if you are to map your device. It can be expensive, but it may be worth it for convenience.

Network Connected Storage (NAS)

A NAS device is a storage device (or devices) that lives on your network so that all users on the network can access it. Sometimes a NAS is called a home server. They are not always cheap, and some do not even include built-in storage – you have to purchase devices separately. NAS boxes are easier to work with every day.

NAS can do much more than back up some files. Many can back up multiple computers in a home or office. Streaming media from a NAS to a device that a game console or smartphone is common; Sharing files over the network and out to the Internet, making it a web server, is also the norm. Most NAS boxes have FTP, online remote access, security controls and various RAID configurations to determine how devices store your data (redundant or scattered across devices). Some have multiple Ethernet, Wi-Fi and USB ports. Some capture inputs from networked digital video cameras. The options seem almost endless, which makes it worthwhile to shop to get the right one for your home or office.

 Synology DiskStation DS1515 +

Of course, we have opt for Best Network Connected Storage Devices . You can't go wrong with the price or ability of our top-rated NAS brands, which tend to be QNAP, and Synology the latter is consistently the winner of our NAS manufacturer readership awards.



] We kind of covered the above, but it repeated, because the cloud is the future (as well as the present) of backup. The cloud refers to online storage. Sometimes it is used by a service, like Google Drive, to store your data. It can also be easy storage space provided by large companies or small ones, such as our current Editors Choice favorite, iDrive, which allows you to back up multiple devices to 2TB cloud storage for $ 69.50 per year.

 iDrive ]

Cloud-based direct PC backup is not new. Carbonite and competitors have been around for years, providing direct backup of files on your computer to the internet, usually in the background and in a completely discreet manner. There is usually a free service level and a subscription fee to back up more things (the amount depends on the service).

If you only have a few small files to store and you probably have a Google / Gmail account, then stick with Google Docs. Upload the type of file you want to use, as long as the file is less than 250 MB in size. You get 15 GB of free space across all of your Google services. The next level is 100GB for $ 1.99 / month.

Adding files or entire folders is as easy as dragging them to your document list if you use the Chrome browser. Google Docs converts the file to Docs format for online editing if you want, then the file is not counted against your storage. And if you're backing up photos and videos, use Google Photos, which lets you store them for free if you make sure the pictures / videos are limited in quality.

Read tricks to Master Google Photos ] for more.

Backup (in addition to the obvious)

It may seem like enough to point your backup software to your documents, pictures, videos and music folders and let it do that. Perhaps it is if you are diligent in putting your data in the right place on your devices. Nevertheless, there are other types of data that you should consider when backing up.


Don't lose carefully cultivated browser bookmarks or favorites. Biggest web browser like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome has built-in backup as long as you have accounts with Mozilla and Google. The browsers back up data such as bookmarks, history, extensions, even your open tabs in some cases, and sync it across browsers and computers.

 Firefox backup

On the Firefox type in "about: preferences # sync" in the address bar; In Chrome, type "Chrome: // Settings / SyncSetup" (both without quotes). Microsoft provides some information about backing up favorites in Edge browser.

For more information, see how to organize and synchronize your browser bookmarks.


If you use a web based email system like Gmail or Outlook.com, this may not seem like a problem. All your mail is in the cloud, controlled by big companies, what can go wrong? Well, even big companies have interruptions and are hacked. So if all your messages are mission critical, take a backup sometimes.

For Gmail, you can use Google Takeout. Outlook.com does not allow you to export, but a third-party software such as eM Client (free for home use, $ 49.95 for pro) can access Gmail and Outlook.com and run an autobackup.

Using client software such as Outlook with Microsoft Office 365 is many, but the backup situation is much more complicated, because it is required to be backed up by a file called PST (Personal Storage Table). Microsoft provides full instructions.

The best solution for everyone: Use Outlook with a service that stores your email on the server. It can be something like Microsoft's own Outlook.com or Gmail, or in a work account through an Exchange Server or IMAP. Then you have your message in the cloud, but also in an OST file (Offline Outlook data file), which you can back up separately.


If you have hard disk equipment for your computer, you have drivers – the software that lets your computer talk to graphics cards, printers, scanners and the like. If you haven't made a disk image, at least grab your current drivers with a utility like Double Driver.

 Double driver

If you do not back up, you may have to move through the manufacturers' websites to capture drivers during a PC recovery – but to be honest, it may be the better way to go. Then you have the most current drivers all digitally signed and from the right source. It will take longer, but can benefit your computer and you in the long run. . to never ever suffer a catastrophic loss of data? Be ready. You cannot exactly use these backups to restore them to use online, but better to have a redundant copy for your records and erroneous memory than to risk losing everything.

 Facebook Data Download

Read How to download your Facebook data (and 6 surprising things I found) for details. Twitter is similar, but less complex: on your desktop browser go to your account settings . Scroll down and click "Request your archive." You will be emailed a link with the entire file of all your tweets and uploaded images.

Mobile Backups

This story is meant to cover computers, not smartphones, but we've covered you. Learn how to back up and restore your Android phone or tablet or how to back up and restore your iPhone for all the details.

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