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2 Minute Tutes
Backing Up

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2 Minute Tutes - Backing Up

In 2 minutes, you should know:


Ways computers fail

Your data is stored on a hard drive.  This data can be lost by

  • user error
  • software error
  • virus or hacker
  • hard drive failure
  • other hardware failure
  • disaster, such as fire

If you keep your backup disks or tapes in the same room as your computer, you risk losing them all if there is a fire.  You must have an off-site backup of any data which you cannot afford to lose.

Backup Alternatives

Because some types of failure are more likely than others, and some methods of backup are more difficult than others, there are many ways to back up your data.  Common backup methods include

Method Advantages & Disadvantages
Floppy disk Most computers have one, small capacity (1.44 MB)
Zip drive Higher capacity (100-250 MB), expensive media ($20-$40/disc)
CD burner Higher capacity (700 MB), cheap media (under $1/disc)
Tape drive Highest capacity (over 100 GB), easily automated
Network copy No extra expense, easy to restore but not off-site
Backup service Your backups are performed by a specialist backup service provider

Floppy disks

To backup a file or folder to a floppy disk:

  • Insert a blank floppy disk in the drive
  • Find the file or folder to be backed up (click Start, My Documents)
  • Right-click, Send To, 3 floppy
  • Remove the disk and store off-site


Zip drive

A Zip drive is like a floppy drive that can store the equivalent 70 to 180 floppy disks.  They are also much faster & more reliable.  The drive may cost $100 to $400 dollars and Zip disks are between $20 & $40 each.

CD burner

Many computers now come with a CD burner.  If not, you can add one for under $100, and blank CD's start from 29 cents each!

To backup to a CD burner in Windows XP:

  • Insert a blank CD in the drive
  • Find the file or folder to be backed up (click Start, My Documents)
  • Right-click, Send To, CD drive
  • A yellow balloon will guide you to finish writing
  • Remove the disk and store off-site
Tape drive

There are many types of tape drive, but most new ones store between 30 & 240 GB.  A new tape drive will cost at least $600 & tapes are often $40 - $80 each.  High capacity tape backups are usually scheduled to run overnight, and the only manual process is swapping the tape & checking the log.

Network Copy

If you have a network, you can arrange to have your data copied from one computer to another.  This backup is not off-site, so must be used in conjunction with another backup method.  There is no extra expense, and it is good protection against many common failures.

If a hard drive or entire computer fails, you can simply go to the other computer (either physically or over the network) and access all your data from there.

Backup Service

A backup service provider can look after your backup for you.  Each day, whatever data has changed since the last backup is encrypted (for security), compressed (for speed) & transmitted (by modem or broadband connection) to the backup service provider.  It is fully automatic & runs after hours with no human support needed.

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Most importantly, you need to do a test restore to prove that your backup is working.  The method of restoring varies widely depending on how you backup.

Take the time to know how to perform a restore, and have the procedure written down and handy for when it's needed.