Four options for backing up:
Two options for what to back up:
Personally, I use an external hard drive (this is a 120 gig hard drive, they also have 20 gig, 40 gig, 60 gig, and 80 gig available. I suggest getting one that is 20 gigs bigger than your hard drive.). It saved me when my computer had to be reformatted a few months ago. Typically, the hard drive is supposed to be rebootable and load everything back exactly as it was before the crash.
Obviously, that didn't happen. It worked out for the best because some of my system files were bad. The hard drive still had my data files and programs. First, I referred to my latest copy from Belarc Advisor. This is a free program that lists all the applications on your computer. Since I don't have a CD of every program I use, this was handy.
Using this list, I reloaded all applications first starting with the most important working down to the least important. It takes time to load everything, so you won't want to reload everything in one sitting.
As soon as an application was reloaded, I copied all of its data files from the external hard drive back on the computer. I try to keep all of my data files in as minimal folders as possible. That is where My Documents, My Music, and My Photos comes in handy, but I hate those names. For the most part, I have /docs, /media (with subfolders for music and photos), /sites (for Web-related docs).
Keeping data files in as few folders as possible makes it easier to keep them organized and to find them when you need to restore data.
Programs like Norton's Ghost, AlohaBob, and NTI Backup Now are useful for creating and managing back ups.
Using a RW-CD and tape back up are also viable solutions. I prefer the external hard drive since I don't have to use an external media like a tape or CD. No sitting around and waiting for the CD or tape to fill up and inserting the next one.
Thumb drives (portable hard drives) are helpful, but typically can't hold enough if you have as much data as I do. It's great for critical data and data that you need at all times.
When buying a USB drive, make sure you have USB 2.0 not 1.1 as most the drives require 2.0.
At a minimium, back up your data files - the products of your work. Have a copy of these file somewhere other than your hard drive. Ideally, I'd like to back up my data on a network server because:
However, storage is not cheap enough for personal use just yet. I am sure it's one of the future options we can expect to become a regular part of safe computing.
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