Computer Backup - Easy Steps to Get Started

Roger DeReu

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Day after day, I am forced to face computer users who have just lost some data that was important to them. Computer backup was the last thing on their mind, if on their mind at all. Almost every single one of them knew that they should have been backing up their data, but excuses abound and they never did. Or, maybe once, back in 90's was it?

Invariably, they ask me the same question as everyone else. It's a question that tips me off to their lazy attitude toward computer backup. It lets me know that they don't want to do any more than the absolute minimum.

“How often do I have to backup?"
Boy, what an opportunity. But instead, I suck it up, try my best to smile, and give them the same answer I give to everyone else.
“Every time you have completed some work that you don't want to have to do over. "

I really should have a camera ready to capture their expression. It's really pretty simple, though, isn't it? Because you never know when disaster will strike. All it takes is for a bolt of lightning or that backhoe digging down the street to cut your power, even if only for half a second. Ah, but you were smart and bought a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). Good for you. When was the last time you tested it?

Computer backup is so important it should be an integral part of your computer activities. Just a natural process, kind of like having something to drink when you eat.

Before I get into the steps to start backing up, let me diffuse the most often heard excuse people give me as to why they don't backup.

“Nothing on my PC is really that important. "
To which I have two favorite responses:
“I'll remember that when your hard drive crashes. "
“Then let's delete everything right now and gain back some valuable space. "
It's another Kodak moment, I assure you.

Here is how easy it can be.

Step 1: Identify what's important to you. That's easy, keep track of what you use often. To help make that easier, keep your data together. Some programs make that tougher than it should be, but Microsoft has tried to overcome that hurdle with the “My Documents" folder. The “My" part has always gotten under my skin, kind of like the fingernails on the blackboard. Thankfully, in Windows Vista, they have finally dropped the “My" prefix.

Step 2: Choose your method of backup. This can be as simple as buying a USB Flash Drive at I've been getting 1 and 2GB name brand units for prices ranging from free up to $5 a piece, after rebate, ever since before Christmas. Can't beat that. Use Windows Explorer to copy your entire “My Documents" (or wherever your data is stored) to the USB flash drive. Not fancy, but at least you have a copy. I highly recommend alternating between multiple flash drives.

If you aren't afraid to spend some money and still want a “no brain required" backup strategy, look at my review of the Seagate Mirra Sync and Share Personal Server at

The Mirra software helps you locate your data when you install it, then quietly performs computer backup in the background. If you ever need to restore the data, you can call Seagate and they will help you.

Step 3: Take a copy of your data to another (trusted) location. Maybe a locked drawer at work, mail an encrypted backup on CD to your mother, or even a safe deposit box. Just in case you have a fire, flood, theft or tornado.

Step 4: Repeat often. If you think you backed up your computer last week, it was probably last month. You know what I mean, time gets away from you. The backup was never recent enough once you realize you overwrote, deleted or lost something important.

Roger DeReu has been working with PC's, as a programmer, IT specialist and independent consultant, since 1984. He currently consults primarily with small and medium sized businesses in the Midwest. He is a Microsoft Certified Professional and Small Business Specialist. was originally created to be a free resource for the employees of his clients to have access to his knowledge for benefit of their home PC's.

Sign up for his free weekly e-zine, Tip-Of-The-Week, at


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