In Prepare Your PC for Future Data Disasters, Rick Broida recommended creating an image backup, but warned that it "isn't intended to preserve your data; that's an entirely different kind of backup." This worried Jack Maloney, who has been using Acronis True Image Home--an image backup program--for daily data backup.
An image backup, which copies everything on the drive or the partition, is the only reliable way to back up Windows and your applications. That's a chore that you only need to do once or twice a year.
But you should back up your data files (documents, photos, email, and so on) daily. Clearly, a program designed to back up everything into one big file is overkill on a daily basis. You need a program that can do incremental backups, copying only the files that have changed since the last backup.
You can buy an image backup program that does incremental backups. And Acronis True Image Home-the program Jack Maloney uses-is one of them. It puts both kinds of backup into one $50 program.
So yes, if you're creating daily, incremental backups with True Image, you're protected.
But some people, myself included, prefer to use different programs for these very different jobs. In fact, I have separate system and data partitions. I occasionally create an image backup of my system partition (C:) with Macrium Reflect Free (the same program that Rick recommended in his article). And every day I create two incremental backups of my data partition (D:), online with Mozy and locally with Cobian Backup.
Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter.