One newsletter reader asked a question today: "How do I make backups?" I thought I would answer here in the newsletter as others may have the same question.
The answer is, "There are many, many ways of doing that." In fact, there is backup software included with all recent versions of Windows and Macintosh. In addition, dozens of third-party software producers make other software products that are either better than Windows' built-in software or else are easier to use. Also, many companies also make backup software to safely and securely store the backed up information in the cloud, something not included with the backup software supplied by Microsoft or by Apple.
If you are a Macintosh user, you already have excellent backup software called Time Machine that is included in every Macintosh at no extra cost. You can read a tutorial about using it at http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1427.
That tutorial states, "Connect the drive, tell Time Machine to use it, and relax. Time Machine automatically backs up your entire Mac, including system files, applications, accounts, preferences, email messages, music, photos, movies, and documents."
If you are using Windows, the subject becomes a bit more complex as there are many variables and decisions you need to make. For one thing, Microsoft seems to make significant changes to its backup software every time the company comes out with a new version of Windows. The result is better backup software: the backup software built into Windows 7 and Windows 8 is a lot better than it was in earlier versions. The downside is it is difficult to write a brief article about making backups that applies to all versions of Windows.
Microsoft provides a tutorial about how to make backups and then later restore the data, if needed, at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/features/backup-and-restore. I would suggest that be required reading for all Windows users.
Next, dozens of companies make backup software for Windows and almost all of them are better programs than that produced by Microsoft. You might want to read an article entitled "The Best Backup Software" in PC Mag's web site at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2278661,00.asp and an article about free backup software at http://goo.gl/j2ezm and still another article that describes Cobian backup software at http://goo.gl/7Q3Ho. Those articles describe the more popular Windows backup products but there are dozens of others available as well.
For motivation, you also might want to read my article from 2008 at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2008/03/the-mac-died.html in which I described the experience I had when my Macintosh system died one day. The hard drive crashed and the system wouldn't boot. I replaced the hard drive and then used the Time Machine backup to restore everything. I was up and running about an hour later and everything was exactly the same as it had been earlier before the original hard drive crashed. I didn’t lose a single byte. All my documents, e-mail messages, and system settings were exactly the same as before.
You can do the same if your hard drive ever crashes, although only if you plan properly NOW.