Doing a laptop backup should be a regular activity for all PC owners. This article highlights the folders/files that should be backed up along with recommended backup software for automating the process.
It is a simple fact that laptop hard drives will always have the potential of becoming damaged and you losing your data. The portability of laptops has the downside that internal components are being jolted around. This makes running a laptop backup even more important.
The key to doing an effective laptop data backup is to:
- Use synchronization/backup software to make the process run faster.
- Target the right files and folders to backup.
- Backup often. If you do a lot of data entry at home then you may wish to run a backup daily.
If you are using a ‘work’ laptop, then be aware that your firm may already have a backup policy in place, backing up shared or network data to offsite tape storage. In this case, you just need to confirm with the company which directories are included in backups, and how often.
Laptop Backup Software
It is fair to say that using software to automate the backup process speeds things up. Sure, you could simply copy over the files yourself but this can be a time consuming task, but there are better ways to do this.
There are two approaches to take when doing a laptop backup depending on how hands on you wish to be in the process.
- Hands Off Approach (minimal setup work required) Using Online Services:
In this scenario you simply purchase a specialized tool that automates the full process of versioning your system files and personal files and normally provides some form of archiving (of old data) as well as continuous backup.
Example: iDrive – Provides 2GB of space for a full laptop backup. Data is stored online so doesn’t require external hard drives to store the backup data.
- Hands On Approach (more setup; but better control):
This involves using synchronization tools to copy over files to an external drive, CD, DVD or tape backup. For many, this allows them the control to choose which files/folders are to be copied over. The value of such tools is that they only need to copy over a delta of files (i.e. only files that are new or been updated) so it is much quicker than a straight ‘copy & paste’. You could also free laptop space by removing the data from the laptop after the transfer, but this should only be considered for low-importance data.
Example: Final Sync – Backup solution that allows you to copy/sync files between multiple pieces of hardware (laptop <-> external drives <-> USB memory sticks).
Of the two computer backup options, using a local backup device provides more flexibility (of storage device, backup times) and works out faster than an online service.
The one thing to note is that data recovery after format/corruption of laptop drives is entirely possible using modern recovery software or the services of a PC technician. So while it is important to maintain your own back-up copies, there are always plenty of other ways to salvage your data if drive errors occur.
It should be apparent that the ‘My Documents’ folder should be on your list of folders you need to preserve. If you put personal files in other locations on the C drive then include them too. Doing a photo backup of your camera media is worth including as part of the process.
It is a good idea to password protect folder contents on the copies so that they are unreadable to others if found/stolen.
The registry file should also be versioned and copied during the laptop data backup. The registry file is a key operating system file that contains configuration data for all applications on your laptop. If a fault occurs (e.g. virus damage, software removal problems), then it can easily be repaired by reverting back to your Windows registry copy you have with your laptop backup. The Microsoft support site (http://support.microsoft.com/) has details on how to back up the registry.
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