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What’s the Best Way to Back Up Your Files?

Nowadays, a lot of people’s lives are on the computer. Whether that be a business, or personal stuff such as family photos, music, games, and just overall, how you have your computer set up.

Now, there’s a few different ways to back up, but I prefer system imaging. A lot of the external backup hard drives you purchase come with software that backs up, but only your files, and not your operating system. Let me explain.

If you just backup your files, and your computer crashes, you will have to reinstall windows, or what ever operating system you are using, and have to set up your computer to get it the way you like all over again, including organizing all your files/folders.

Now, the reason I like system imaging is because it literally takes a snap shot of your computer at that date. So let’s say your computer crashes tomorrow, but you did a system image backup today, you can simply go buy a new hard drive, and restore that system image, restoring your computer exactly the way it was on the day you did the system image.

A system image saves so much time if hard drive failure happens, but not only saving your files, but all your driver updates, computer settings, the way how you have icons, or folders organized etc.

Backing UP — External, or Interal Hard Drives?

Either one works, it depends what’s most affordable to you.

Personally, I have an internal, and an external drive, just for the sake of organization purposes. I don’t want tons of external drives all over my desk, but one isn’t too bad. So, I also have an internal hard drive, which allows it to be hidden inside my computer tower, yet still back up.

System Imaging — In Depth,

A system image is literally taking a picture of your computer as it is today. If something would happen to your computer tomorrow, you can restore your computer to the date of that “picture” you took of your computer!

Importance of System Imaging,

System imaging saves you lots of time and headaches, the only thing is learning, and understanding how system images work.

Here’s a quick step by step idea of how system images save you time in case of hard drive failure:

  1. Just put your backup hard drive in, and restore your image that was last backed-up onto a new drive.
  2. Don’t have to re-install Windows, drivers, software, etc.
  3. Your computer will be restored EXACTLY the way it was on the day of the crash/hard drive failure
  4. A sense of “relief” cause you know your computer is fully backed up and you won’t have to re-install windows! (That takes lots of time!).

How to Create a System Image?

In this video tutorial, I’ve talked about a few different companies, all offering similar products. Some free, some paid:

  1. Backup and Restore by Windows 7
  2. Macrium Reflect (You are able to create a full system image in the free edition, which is nice, but not incremental back-ups! (Incremental is important!).
  3. True Image by Acronis (My favorite out of the 3!).
  4. Time Machine — This is for Mac, and something not covered in this tutorial, how ever, it’s worth looking into if you use Mac!

Incremental Backups — System Imaging,

Incremental backups is something I have not covered yet while talking about system imaging. Incremental backups, again, save you time, and allow you to back up regularly without long waits, and more wear to your hard drive.

What are Incremental Backups? How Do I Do Them?

Incremental means to increase gradually.

An incremental backup, first starts with a full backup, this is your WHOLE computer, all the files in every corner of the hard drive. The next backup, which would be an incremental backup, only backs up the files you have changed since that last full backup. If you’re catching on, you can see how much time this saves!

A full back up, on most computers, takes an hour or two at least. So, let’s say you did a full backup, and a two days later, you recorded a video, edited it, and put it on YouTube. Well, that might be 2-3GB, let’s say. Now, when your computer goes to do its daily backup, it will only back up what you’ve changed, so that video you record and edited, which is 2-3GB.

A good routine to get into is do a weekly full backup on let’s say Sunday, then for the rest of the week, do incremental backups. Then again, do a full backup on Sunday, starting the incremental back up throughout the week again. This saves space on a hard drive to stay on top of the changes to your computer!

These programs have options to set it and forget it.
Set a day, a time, and it will auto backup!

Keeping ALL the Increments for a Safe Restore,

Now, this is very important to keep in mind.

To restore your system image back to the most recent incremental backup, you will need to have all the increments from your last full back up.

What that means is if you do a full back up on the 1st of the month, and do an incremental back up every day, and you’re computer crashes on the 4th of the month, you will need to have the incremental backups from the 1st-4th.

If you are missing one of the incremental backups from the 1st-4th, you can only back up from the last incremental backup that is in chronological order! So if #3 was corrupt, you could only restore your computer back to incremental #2, as #1 and #2 are fine, but since #3 is corrupt, you cant use #4, cause #4 works off #3.

If all of your incremental back ups are corrupt, you’d have to use the full back up!

Now, let’s talk about saving space on your hard drive, keeping your back ups secure, and not getting that annoying, “Your Hard Drive is Full!”.

How Often Should I Do Backups?

This all depends on the size of your computer’s hard drive that you are using, and the size of your backup drive.

But to give you an idea, you could do something like this:

Do a full back-up every week, and in between full back ups, do incremental back ups daily. This allows for not much error in the incremental backups, and keeps your full backups closely up to date with what you’ve done that week.

So, if you your computer crashed on the third day of the week, you hopefully have your backups prior to that. And if your 3rd incremental is corrupt, you at least have the second, and first incremental backup, only losing one incremental, which hopefully you didn’t do lots on that day ;).

What About Syncing to Other Hard Drives?

I feel syncing is a great route to take.

For those who don’t know what syncing hard drives means, there is software that allows you to make two hard drives the exact same. If you delete something on your computer, it will delete it on the other hard drive. If you add something to one hard drive, it will add it to the synced hard drive.

Why is System Imaging Better than Syncing?

Well, system imaging literally backs up your computer. It keeps those files safe, until you delete the backup.

Syncing is an identical copy of the hard drive that is being synced. So if you delete something by accident, guess what, it’s gone from the synced drive! However, syncing is really nice if you bring an external hard drive around, such as to a studio, then when you come and plug the external back into your main computer, it should sync the files over to your main hard drive. (Very easy to keep up to date on your files).

A nice route to take would be having both, a separate sync hard drive (whether that be external or internal), and a system imaging hard drive.

And personally, I’d back up your important stuff such as albums, beat tapes, and important photos to DVD’s, or purchase a separate hard drive and just click and drag those files onto the hard drive, and keep it in a safe place.

What if I Want to Move My Old Hard Drive to a New BIGGER Hard Drive?

Well both Macrium, and Acronis will do the job! You are looking for Cloning.

If you search “cloning hard drives” into Google, you will definitely find your answer. Cloning will again, take a “snapshot” of your hard drive the way it is, and put it onto another hard drive, a larger-sized one if that is your intention!

Keep in mind, this is not syncing, although they are similar. Cloning is literally copying the files onto a new hard drive, and that’s it, the hard drive is now it’s own entity, allowing you to pop it into another computer for use ;).

Backing Up — Final Thoughts,

Backups are very important, even though a lot of people don’t look at them that way.

Hopefully this makes you be aware. Stay up to date with your back ups, and hopefully, I’ve made it very easy to understand how to do it!

Wow, Wow, Wow! — What Happens if My Computer Breaks Down? — How Do I Restore?

Now, you will want to create a bootable CD (which Acronis True Image gives you the option to do). Upon hard drive failure, you pop your CD in, restart the computer, and Windows will give you an option to boot from the disk.

From there, you will be able to select your backup file off your backup hard drive, allowing you to restore your backup to a newly purchased hard drive. Just wait for the restore to happen, depending on how many files you have in the backup, and you should be done !

I’ve always found backing up my files complicating until I found out about system imaging. It’s really smoothed out my backing up process, not allowing me to think about them so much, but still knowing that my backups are being backed up.

I also set my backups to start every day, at a time where I feel I don’t use the computer the most, as backups can slow down your computer when you’re trying to work.

Hope this helps. Please, if you are confused, just leave it in the comments — Backing up is pretty serious stuff. If any of my information is wrong, misleading, or confusing, just comment to clarify :).

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