Computer Backups

Computer Backup

Here is a straightforward and easy program for protecting yourself against system damage and data loss.

Acronis True Image 2010 IDrive Online Backup

Use coupon code NDJATIH2010 and get 10% off of Acronis True Image Home 2010 when you purchase from the links or banners here.


Backing up your computer is one of the most important things that you can do to protect your system. You can lose your system or data a number of ways. If your hard drive goes bad, all your programs and information could be lost. If a destructive virus got to some of your data or even if an annoying unrequested software install snuck into your system, you want to get back to where you were. Sometimes you might accidentally erase or overwrite an important file and need to get it back. A good backup plan will alleviate the problem.

The goals of the backup are;

  • Provide an easy, doable plan for computer backups that can be accomplished with minimal effort. The best backup plan is one that will get done
  • Capture all the necessary programs and data from the computer
  • Provide a mechanism for scheduled backups of the most recently changed data without requiring a full backup
  • Allow for easy restore of files that are lost or damaged
  • Provide a capability for a bare metal restore if the entire system is wiped<p align="center"> out and needs to be recreated. A big bonus would be the ability to restore to different hardware if necessary

Overall Approach

Get a top level local backup program such as Acronis backup and back up your system to an external drive on a regular, automated basis. Get an extra external drive to which you will do a full image backup of your entire system and keep the drive somewhere safe off of your premises. Subscribe to an online backup service for your most important data whch will capture changes as they happen and save them in the background while your work on other things.

For details about online backup see my Best Online Backup Solution blog post

Local Backup Method

Purchase 2 external hard drives with multiple times the storage of your system, one for your immediate daily needs and one as a disaster recovery drive which you will store elsewhere. You can tell how much room your hard drive has by right clicking on it in the file explorer and selecting properties. It will show you a pie chart of your drive and indicate the amount of used and unused space.

If you are backing up for the first time, back up the full system to the drive that you will store somewhere else. 

Set up a backup schedule for an incremental backup. This will backup whatever data is new since the last backup whenever it is run. If it is being run for the first time, it will do a full backup. A good plan would be to do a daily backup so that each day's data is captured.

Keep on doing the daily backups until the local backup disk gets full. When this happens, You will effectively ahve a full backup up to date on the full drive. Take this drive to the offline site. Get the other drive that was offline and empty it out. Start the incremental cycle on it and keep doiing the daily backup on it until it gets full. Rinse and repeat.

If a file changed multiple times and you want the version you ended up with on Tuesday, you would restore it from the Tuesday differential backup.

How to do it

My research indicates that Acronis computer backup software is the easiest and most effective backup program to use and it is very modestly priced. It provides for an effective bare metal restore if needed.

Get Acronis here

Set up a schedule for a full back up or multiple full backups weekly for a full month for example. Set up a Monday, Tuesday etc. differential backup for whatever suits you. Set it for a time that you won’t be actively using the computer. This will prevent any files from not being backed up since they were in the middle of being changed. Backups also use a lot of the computer’s power and will slow you down a lot if they are running while you are doing something.

You should periodically restore a small file just to be sure that your backup is working. You wouldn’t want to find out it isn’t when you need it most.

Acronis True Image 2009 IDrive Online Backup

Acronis True Image 2010 has great new features.

One-click protection - Initially, you decide what, where and when to back up. After that, backups occur automatically or with just one click.

Full text search - Search for file name and/or content within an archive, using Windows or Google desktop search.

Set and Forget backups - Configure once and perform backups automatically.

Use coupon code NDJATIH2010 and get 10% off of Acronis True Image Home 2010 when you purchase from the links or banners here.

Windows built in software

Ntbackup computer backup software comes for free in XP and Vista and this is also a possible backup tool which can be effective in restoring individual files. However, in order to allow for full system recovery it requires that a special ASR (automatic system recovery) be run which creates a recovery floppy. The floppy is going the way of the dodo into extinction. Additionally, XP Ntbackup doesn’t quite complete the job.

It doesn’t allow files that may be involved in the restore to be overwritten so usually some things end up messed up. It also can only restore data to its original location so that if you want to compare your current version to the stored version you would have to move your current version temporarily. The ElderGeek has details about how to use NtBackup.

Additional important considerations

Ideally you want to protect yourself even if the entire environment of the computer were destroyed. Disaster recovery is based on redundancy and separation of the sites of the data so that if one whole computer set up is destroyed, a viable copy exists somewhere else.

Offsite backups protect you from any disaster that might strike your computer environment. If you are worried about this, it might pay to have a 2nd backup drive and periodically do a backup to it and keep it somewhere safe such as Aunt Tilly’s safe.

Acronis offers the ability to backup directly to DVDs on your DVD burner. It would pay to periodically run a backup to DVDs to have your data offline. You might need to bread up what you save since a 100 gig drive would take about 25 standard DVDs.

If you take your backup disk with you and there is some risk of it falling into someone else’s hands, you would probably want to encrypt the data (scramble the data so that only you can read it using software that asks you for a password to unlock the data).

This is especially true for laptop owners who take their laptops from place to place and want their data to be secure.

Emergency Saves

Windows has a system restore utility that takes snapshots of system and program files at periodic intervals, when software is installed, when a Windows update is installed and when an unproven hardware driver is installed. It saves only system and program type information but not any user data or anything under the My Documents folder.

If some bad program is messing up your system or some spyware or virus just got loaded on your system, you can do a system restore which will bring you back to where you were before these problems occurred. None of your personal data or files will be touched.

You can get into system restore from the Help and Support item when you click the start button. Select Undo changes to your computer with System Restore and then follow the instructions.

You can also restore a previous driver if a new on messed you up by finding the device in the device manager and restoring the original driver.

You can get into device manager a number of ways but the easiest is to click start, click run and enter devmgmt.msc into the run box.

Select the item that you want and click on any plus signs to the left of the item to get to the lowest level. Right click on the item of interest and select properties. Select the drivers tab and click the roll back drivers button.

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