Everyone loses data at some point in their lives. Your computer’s hard drive could fail tomorrow, ransomware could hold your files hostage, or a software bug could delete your important files. If you’re not regularly backing up your computer, you could lose those files forever.
Backups don’t have to be hard or confusing, though. You’ve probably heard about countless different backup methods, but which one is right for you? And what files do you really need to back up?
Back Up and Protect Your Computer the Easy Way
Windows includes a number of backup and recovery tools for free, but the reality is that they aren’t anywhere near as good as commercial solutions. Carbonite automatically backs up all of your files, photos, and documents and stores them encrypted in the cloud.
Not only do you get cheap unlimited cloud backup, but you can also use Carbonite to backup your PC to a local hard drive. And you get versioning, deleted file protection, mobile apps so you can access your files from any device, and a whole lot more.
And for a limited time, How-To Geek readers get 2 free bonus months.
It’s All About Your Personal Data
Let’s start with the obvious: what do you need back up? Well, first and foremost, you need to back up your personal files. You can always reinstall your operating system and redownload your programs if your hard drive fails, but your own personal data is irreplaceable.
Any personal documents, photos, home videos, and any other data on your computer should be backed up regularly. Those can never be replaced. If you’ve spent hours painstakingly ripping audio CDs or video DVDs, you may want to back those files up, too, so you don’t have to do all that work over again.
Your operating system, programs, and other settings can also be backed up. You don’t have to back them up, necessarily, but it can make your life easier if your entire hard drive fails. If you’re the type of person that likes to play around with system files, edit the registry, and regularly update your hardware, having a full system backup may save you time when things go wrong.
The Many Ways to Back Up Your Files
There are many ways to back up your data, from using an external drive to backing up those files on a remote server over the Internet. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of each:
- Back Up to an External Drive: If you have an external USB hard drive, you can just back up to that drive using your computer’s built-in backup features. On Windows 10 and 8, use File History. On Windows 7, use Windows Backup. On Macs, use Time Machine. Occasionally connect the drive to the computer and use the backup tool, or leave it plugged in whenever your home and it’ll back up automatically. Pros: Backing up is cheap and fast. Cons: If your house gets robbed or catches on fire, your backup can be lost along with your computer, which is very bad.
- Back Up Over the Internet: If you want to ensure your files stay safe, you can back them up to the internet with a service like BackBlaze. BackBlaze is the well-known online backup service we like and recommend since CrashPlan no longer serves home users, but there are also competitors like Carbonite and MozyHome. For a low monthly fee (about $5 a month), these programs run in the background on your PC or Mac, automatically backing up your files to the service’s web storage. If you ever lose those files and need them again, you can…
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