How Do I Back Up My Data?

Imagine if you lost every file on your computer in 10 minutes. Would you be able to recover your data from a backup, or would you spend the next several days trying to track down all of the information that you had stored on your hard drive? Windows Vista and Windows 7 make it easy to schedule backup sessions that will create copies of your most important data and transfer it to a secure place.

Before You Start

1. Select which files are most important. Certain things, such as computer games and applications, don't usually need to be backed up. You can easily reinstall these files from the original source in the event of a system failure. The most important documents to back up are items that you have created, like documents and photos.

2. Consider creating multiple backups. Having one backup may seem like enough, but a problem that you were unaware of could be present on a backup copy. In this event, recovering your data without experiencing the same problem may be impossible. Maintaining a cycle of two or three different backups is usually a good policy.

3. Decide how often you want to back up your files. If you use your computer daily for business, a daily backup of important files is a good idea. If you are a more casual user, a weekly backup may suffice.

Step by Step: Using Windows or a Backup Program

Step 1 Open the Start menu and click Control Panel.

Step 2 From the Classic View, open Backup and Restore Center. Using the new control panel, click Back up your computer under the 'System and Maintenance' heading.

Step 3 Click the Back up files button from the Backup and Restore Center menu.

Step 4 Select where to store the backed up files. The first drop-down menu allows you to choose from local drives such as a second hard drive, a DVD, or a recovery partition on your current hard drive. The second drop-down menu lets you select a location that you can connect to via a network. If you do not see your desired backup destination, try selecting the Refresh option from the drop-down menu.

Choosing a drive for file backup

Step 5 Click the Next button after selecting your desired location.

Step 6 Select which types of files to back up, and then click the Next button to proceed.

Selecting file types for backup

Step 7 Assign a schedule to your backup so that Windows will know how often to create a new backup of your files. Click Save settings and start backup when you are ready to create your backup.

Step by Step: Manual Backups

Step 1 Open Windows Explorer.

Step 2 Select the files to back up, and copy them to the Clipboard by right-clicking them and selecting Copy, or by pressing Ctrl+C. You can also drag and drop folders.

Step 3 Open the destination folder where you wish to back up the data. This folder should be on an external hard drive or on a DVD. This method is less precise than using a program like Windows Backup and Restore, but it will allow you to select exactly which files to back up.

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