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Computer Backup and Recovery Strategies for Home Users

Aug 17, 2007
With technology today, you have a variety of options of backing up your data. In this article, I will cover many of the options that are local to your computer. Before you begin, you need to create an inventory of your data the locations and size of all your data. Please note: The tips/advice here are for backing up user/data files and not for backing up system/Windows files. As you read through this information, you will notice that much of this is "old school" back-up processes. I have used Windows XP backup but I prefer writing my own batch files and creating my own process as I believe this is cleaner for what I need. For example, in Windows XP backup, when you create a backup of several files, Windows XP backup, backs them up all into a single file. My method simply copies the files to another location, file by file, which means you are not later dependant on any Windows software for restores. Now, please know, that the Windows XP backup utilities are full of cool features, it is just I prefer to have more control over what I am backing up.

You are now ready to backup where data? But wait, my data is spread out all over my hard drive. Is there an easy way? Yes, there is. My method may not be the best way, or most slick method, but it works for me and has saved me many times. I write a batch file using the old dos command (xcopy) and copy my data from all the different locations on my hard drive into one central location. I can then save this folder to CD/DVD/etc. To improve speed, I use the command line options to copy only new files or files that have changed. The batch file has several lines like this

xcopy c:\pictures\*.* d:\backup\pictures\ /e/s/h/c/d
xcopy c:\mydata\*.* d:\backup\data\ /e/s/h/c/d
xcopy c:\mydocu~1\*.* d:\backup\data\ /e/s/h/c/d
etc

I now have all the data I need in one main folder

With that in mind, here are your options:

Saving Data to Floppy - I feel silly even mentioning this option, but it is still an option if you need to back up a few very small files and bring them with you somewhere. Please note, most computers today do not even come with floppy drives making this option all but obsolete.

Saving to a Zip Disk - A Zip Disk is much like a supercharged floppy or external hard drive. It is just another form of media that you can use to store data. While quick and simple, in order to restore to another computer, it has to have a zip drive attached, or you need to bring your actual drive with you.

Saving to a CD - Most computers today come with a CD drive that has write capabilities. What this means is you can save your data (up to about 700 Meg) to a CD. This option is more than adequate for the majority of computer users. Each CD drive has its own set of software that enables you to do this, so you will have to refer to your own manufacture/software instructions for details.

Saving to a DVD - If you have more then 700 MB of data, you may want to consider getting a writable DVD drive for your computer. While you may think of DVD's for movies, the reality is a DVD is just another form of media for storing data. The movie is nothing more than zeros and ones. The advantage of the DVD is that a DVD can store up to 4.7 Gig of data. That is considerably more than a regular CD. Of course you will need a DVD writer. Fortunately, they are not that much more expensive than a CD writer. If you are buying a new computer, you should consider the DVD burner option. Like a CD, instructions for copying data to a DVD differ by the software being used.

Saving to a USB Flash Drive - Flash drives are now at 2 gigs of data and will soon be more. A flash drive is a small device you connect into a USB port. It is somewhat like your computer memory except it does not lose data when the power goes out. These handy little devices are becoming more and more popular as a quick and easy way to get data from one computer to another and have basically replaced the floppy drive. They can be used to back up your data, but you will only have the most current backup, and of course you are limited to the data storage limits of the device.

Another Disk Drive - Got tons of data? Get another drive. My preferred method of backing up data is to another hard drive. This is perhaps a little overkill, but it works. I back up all my data (many, many gigs of data) to another hard drive in my computer. This is quick and fast. It is also rather expensive and does not solve the off-site problem, so still need to save data to DVD's. But this method allows me to incrementally backup my data at any give time, and allows me the options to create a permanent backup at a later time. The advantage was clear when I had to rebuild my computer. Once the OS was installed and patched, I simply attached my backup drive, and presto, there was ALL my data. No restores, no waiting around, it was just there. Had I had to rebuild my computer due to viruses or other issues, I may not have been able to do this because my files on my backup drive could have also been infected. So be careful when using this strategy. You can purchase external hardrives for this type of activity.

Saving to Tape - It is unlikely that you will want to save your data to tape if all you have is a personal computer or two. Tape drives are expensive and the tapes for the drives are expensive as well. Tape backup does make sense in large data centers or file servers as this method provides a good alternative to backing large amounts of data day after day. It also provides a good back tracking record as tapes are usually rotated on some sort of schedule. If you have a home business with several computers, a few file servers, and gigs and gigs of data, then a tape backup may be the thing for you.
About the Author
Keith Scott is a successful Webmaster and publisher of Computer Backup and Recovery Strategies . His website provides practical backup tips, advice, solutions, remedies etc., on how to backup and secure your personal computer that you can explore in the privacy of your own home.
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