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March 30, 2009

Start Backing Up

I’ve recently implemented a straight forward backup method I think anyone and everyone should be doing. So today’s article is going to try and convince you to start doing those all-important backups at home and at work (if you’re not already backed up some other way). The idea is simple, get a hard drive with plenty of capacity and plug it in. Then tell it what to back up, how often, and viola, you’re ready for catastrophe to strike.

For me, I purchased a Toshiba USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive from TidgerDirect.com. First, an external hard drive is just another name for a big closet to keep all your stuff. When you get one, you just plug it in and the computer sees another hard drive (or closet) and you can put your stuff in it. External hard drives can be used as extra storage, but I’m going to use it to make an extra copy of everything just in case the computer goes kaput one day. I bought it on line from Tiger Direct because they’re reliable, have quick delivery, and great prices. But you can pick up an external hard drive at Best Buy or Staples if that’s more convenient for you.

There are different types of External Hard Drives

Another word about External Hard Drives, there are 2 types that you might come across. One is a big, hefty looking thing. This type of drive will be available in large storage sizes, and needs to get power from the wall (in other words, it comes with a power adapter you need to plug in to the wall to turn it on). The second type of external drive is smaller and might say “portable storage”. These drives are indeed smaller and more portable. They also get their power from your computer, so you only need to plug the USB cable into your computer and you’re ready to go. The portable drive I got from Toshiba is 500GB which should be enough storage for the next 2-3 years.

Now to install the drive and get the computer talking to it, you just plug the USB cable (included) into your drive, the other end into your computer and you’ve just installed your hard drive. The next trick is to get the drive to backup your important things – music, photos, documents – and have it do so on a schedule. My Toshiba drive came with software installed on the drive already, so I’ll be using that. But if you’re looking for something that will do this job, there’s a free program called SyncBack I highly recommend, and you can download it here from Download.com.

So, let’s back it up

Because every backup software is different, and to explain how to set it all up is going beyond this article, you might check out the manual for the software (there should be a PDF somewhere) for a detailed explanation. The main idea is to tell the software what you want backed up and how often. An example might be to backup the entire My Documents folder, which includes your My Music and My Pictures folders. Then tell it to backup every Friday at 5pm. If a weekly backup isn’t frequent enough, tell it to back up every hour! The important thing is to make sure the drive is plugged into the computer when backup time comes. If the drive is not plugged in, it will probably just skip that backup session and wait until the next one comes around.