hardrive_000If you knew me personally, you’d be fed up with hearing me say this like a broken record:

“Backup, backup, backup. If your system crashes and is unrecoverable then if you have no backup you’re screwed.”

And people still don’t bother. When their system does crash, perhaps due to a hard-disk failure, I see them running to me whining, “Sharron, my computer’s not working, and I have extremely important data on it that I need right now. Can you fix it?”

Well, you can guess the rest.

I won’t go into massive detail on this issue. I’ll simply repeat: Back it up – If you don’t you’ll lose it one day.

There are lots of backup programs available. For minimum hassle I also use the Windows Automated System Recovery backup function in Windows XP. This is the reason why I always have a floppy drive attached to all my computers. (Windows backs up everything you ask it to to an external or internal second mapped-drive. It then writes a data file to a floppy. Without this data file that XP asks for on Drive A your backup is useless.)

There’s also Acronis True Image, – which has my personal recommendation – Paragon Drive Backup, and a host of others.

“But surely if my system goes tits-up I can rely on System Restore: Wasn’t that what Microsoft included it for?”

System Restore backs up your registry. It also backs up some other things, but mainly it backs up the registry. If you’re installing a new driver, for instance, it’ll record the system state before the driver update was installed. If you get problems with the new software, it’ll revert you back to how things were if you ask it to.

If you are asked to back up your registry, set a new System Restore point. System Restore is an excellent tool for the job.

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However, System restore does NOT back up your entire system so it’s not a substitute for a full backup.

  • System Restore doesn’t backup your data. If a file is damaged or deleted, System Restore will not recover it.
  • System Restore does not really “uninstall” software. Rather, it un-registers it. Files and folders created by that software installation may still remain on the disk.
  • If you’re looking for a previous version of a program that you use and once had installed, System Restore won’t have it.
  • System Restore won’t restore your system in the event of a system crash following which your Windows installation needs attention for any reason.

The Function of System Restore

System restore is for recovery from recent changes to your system which have caused problems. If you install a new driver or software package that somehow causes your system to go wonky, you can use System restore to “undo” most of the changes and return to pretty much how it was before you installed the offending piece of software. You may note that most setup programs now have a restore point created prior to starting so that if anything goes badly wrong, you’ll always have that restore point to go back to.

Don’t be misled though- System Restore is NOT a backup. I’m afraid to say that the best way to make a proper backup is going to cost you time and money.

Back it Up

Personally, I have a number of backups created on a 3 per-week basis. Backup #1 is on an external HDD and is a scheduled backup using the Windows Automated System Recovery function that comes with the XP operating system. Backup #2 is also automated, and is created on my other computer using Acronis True Image. Backup #3 is an online incremental backup using Carbonite.

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Maybe the above is overkill, but I prefer safety to sorrow. However you decide to do it, always have at least 2 accessible current backups: Preferably one offsite (on the Internet) and one onsite. (such as on external HDD.) Why two? Well imagine coming home and (I hope this doesn’t happen to you, but it does happen.) your house has been burglarized. They’ve taken your computer and your external hard drive with the backup on it: Oh ____! – Fortunately you have another full backup online. Phew!

Remember: Back it up or you’ll lose it. It is a matter of when, not IF.