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If your computer got stolen, how much data would you lose? Wedding photos, baby photos, important documents, photos of your recently deceased grandparents?
It’s vitally important that you have a backup solution ready for when disaster strikes, and one backup isn’t enough.
The basic principle of 3-2-1 Backup, is you have 3 copies of your data, stored on 2 different types of media and 1 of them is off site.
A good example of this is having one backup on an external hard drive at your house (local backup) and an online backup (offsite backup).
This is part 1 of 2 in a two part series on how to back up your computer. To see Part 2 on how to use CrashPlan as an online backup, click here!
The easiest way to do a local backup on a PC is using Windows Backup. It’s software built into Windows 7, 8 and 10, and all it requires is an external hard drive.
The greatest thing about Windows Backup is once it’s setup, it’s all automatic. As long as the drive is plugged in, it will backup. If there’s something wrong, it will bring up a little notification letting you know what happened and what to do to fix it (the most common problem is forgetting to plug the drive in).
Windows Backup will save you from things happening like: your computer dying, the hard drive in your computer failing, your computer being stolen/lost (assuming they don’t also steal the backup drive) or files being accidentally deleted, overwritten or corrupted.
What it won’t save you from: Someone stealing your computer *and* your backup drive, your house burning down and taking the hard drive with it, some types of virus (that also infect the backup drive) or the very rare situation where both your backup drive fails at the same time as your computer (eg. a really bad lightning strike that breaks both your computer and backup drive).
A quick note about Windows Backup, by default, it backs up your User Data folder. It won’t backup your applications or the system (but really, if something happens where you need to recover that, you would need to reinstall your applications etc anyway).
To use Windows Backup, you will need a USB Hard Drive, these are available in many different sizes.
Windows Backup will use all the space available on a drive to hold both the data currently on your PC and older versions/deleted files as far back as it can. The bigger your backup drive, the further back you can recover data from.
To determine how big of a drive you need, it is recommended that you get a drive that’s approximately 2x the size of your current drive, though it will work with a drive that is the same size as your PC (and depending on how much data you have, you could have a much smaller backup drive and still be okay).
To determine how big the drive in your PC is, you need to go to Windows Explorer then This PC (Shortcut version: Hold down the Windows Key and press E)
For Reference: 1000GB (Gigabyte) is the same as 1TB (Terrabyte)
You can see I have a 237GB Hard Drive, so a 500GB backup drive would be a good size for me.
Extra notes for buying hard drives
If you're not sure what Hard Drive to buy, feel free to call us or stop in and let us recommend one for you!
So, you’ve got a hard drive. All you need to do now is to set it up!
These instructions assume you’re running Windows 10. The process is very similar on Windows 8, and a bit different on Windows 7.
Step 1: Press the Start button and type the word “Backup”. Select “Backup Settings”
Step 2: With your USB hard drive plugged in, click on “Add a drive”
Step 3: Select your Hard Drive that you want to back up on to from the list.
Step 4: Once you’ve picked your drive, it may take a few minutes for it to set it up, there’s no feedback of what’s going on here either, so just let it sit for a minute.
Step 5: Click on “More Options” (just underneath the 1 Arrow above)
Here you can set your options for how often you want it to back up, every hour should be fine, it will only back up changes so if you haven’t changed much, then it will backup near instantly.
You should also set “Keep my backups” to “Until space is needed”. This way it will just delete the older backups when the drive gets full and continue backing up. Alternately, if you’re using the hard drive for other data too, you can set it to 3 months, that way it will keep all the data on your machine and old data up to 3 months back, leaving you with space on the backup drive you can use for other things.
Also check the “Back up these folders” section. Assuming you keep most of your data in the Documents, Pictures, Desktop etc folders in your home folder, you will be fine.
Please note that some strange programs keep data in weird places like directly on the C drive. These folders would need to be added using the Add a Folder option.
It will now back up all your data onto the drive. The first backup may take a few hours to run, so leave it plugged in and let it finish. You can force it to do a backup by clicking “Backup Now” in the more options page, or check the status of it in the same place.
From now on, whenever you plug the hard drive in, it will automatically backup. If you’ve got a laptop, I suggest you leave the backup drive on your desk at home, and whenever you put your laptop down, plug the backup drive in.
How do I know if it’s working?
If you go into the Backup Settings page and click More Options, it will tell you what’s happening with the drive (including when it last completed a backup)
If you’ve deleted a file or want to see what has been backed up, if you go to Backup Settings then More Options, right down the bottom is the option “Restore files from a current backup”
The window that comes up is the File History tool. In here you can press forward or back to go back in time to earlier backups and select files to restore by clicking the file or folder you want then clicking the big green restore button.
Fun Fact: If you want to restore a file to somewhere other than where it was originally, you can right click the Restore button and select “Restore to”