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Folks often ask me what they should do to keep their PC working smoothly and keep their photos and other data secure from loss.
Without exception, I always offer the following recommendations:
1 – Keep viruses and other forms of malware off of your computer (this post explains how).
2 – Always install security updates for Windows and all of your other installed software as soon as possible after they are released.
4 – Make regular backups of your computer’s hard drive or SSD.
All of the above suggestions can help keep your system running smoothly and protect your photos and other data from loss, but it’s the last one that I want to discuss with you today.
Always having a recent backup of your computer’s hard drive or SSD on hand will ensure that you’ll quickly be able to get your computer back up and running and your files restored after a hard drive crash or some other disaster.
There are many ways to back up a computer’s hard drive or SSD, and I recommend using several of them together to ensure that your irreplaceable data is never lost.
The first thing I do is clone each of my hard drives and SSDs to another drive once a week.
If you’re wondering why it’s because a “clone” of your PC’s hard drive/SSD is the best form of backup you can have.
If you have a backup drive that holds a cloned copy of everything that’s on your PC’s hard drive or SSD and something happens to the drive in your machine, you can simply remove the bad drive and replace it with the clone.
The beauty of a “clone” backup is when you replace a bad drive with a clone of it you’ll get your computer back up and running in minutes without having to actually “restore” a single file.
If you make a fresh clone of your drive once a week that will ensure that you’ll never lose more than a week’s worth of work if you end up having to replace a failed drive.
If you’re wondering what you need to do in order to clone your computer’s hard drive or SSD onto another drive, just follow these steps:
If your computer is a laptop you’ll likely need to purchase a 2.5 inch laptop drive. If it’s a desktop machine you’ll likely need a 3.5 inch drive.
2 – Purchase a SATA/IDE to USB adapter. There are several good ones to choose from, but this one from Vantec is the one I currently use and recommend.
3 – Connect the bare external drive to one of your computer’s USB ports with the USB adapter.
4 – Clone the contents of the computer’s hard drive or SSD onto the external drive (this post explains three ways to do it).
5 – After the cloning process is finished, unplug the bare drive and store it in a fire-proof lock box or other safe place.
You now have a literal clone of your computer’s internal drive (well, at least the data on it is a clone). Great job!
I also recommend that you create a new System Image Backup on an external USB hard drive at least once a month and store that drive in a separate location from the cloned backup drive.
System Image Backups are basically digital copies of everything that’s stored on your hard drive. But unlike a cloned drive, a System Image Backup must be restored onto a new drive before its data can be used.
If you’re wondering why I recommend making monthly System Image Backups in addition to weekly “clone” backups, its for redundancy.
If something were to happen to the cloned drive you’ll still be able to restore your files from the System Image Backup, and vice versa.
And finally, if you have files on your PC that you simply could not bear to lose, you can add a third level of redundancy to your backup plan by using Carbonite or another similar service to back up your irreplaceable files to the cloud.
Well, that’s all there is to it. Now you know how to effectively back up your computer’s hard drive or SSD to protect your precious data from loss to a drive failure or other catastrophe.
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