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Backup Headaches Solved
Answers To 10 Common Questions

by Bill Eager

Backing up your system is a task we all know we should tend to more often than we do. But let's be honest—there's always tomorrow. The consequences of not backing up your vital data, however, can be disastrous. Taking steps to protect your data is not as complicated as it may seem, and the results can turn what could have been calamitous into a minor headache.
  • Question: How often should I back up my computer or data files?
    Answer: The answer depends upon how rapidly you create new files or make changes to existing files. If you do a lot of work every day, daily backups are a good idea. Remember, your computer can go down at any time, and you could lose anything you haven't backed up. Eight hours of work is a lot to do all over.
  • Question: Do I need to be concerned about virus protection issues for my backups?
    Answer: Yes. It is possible to back up a file that contains a virus. You definitely need to have the latest antivirus software and virus definitions. You can use this software to scan and evaluate the files you have stored on backup media. Then, clean or delete files that contain viruses.
  • Question: Do I need to back up my program files and my data files?
    Answer: This is a matter of personal preference. Program files (files that contain the executable parts of the program and are necessary for it to run) are large, and you should have CD-ROMs of your original program files. If your computer dies, you can always reinstall the software, but the individual data files (such as documents, pictures, music, and PowerPoint files) are often irreplaceable. To make things easier, many users save all of their data files in subfolders in the My Documents folder and then back up all of these files. If you have enough backup space, there's nothing wrong with mirroring (making a backup copy of everything on your system) your hard drive.
  • Question: I don't have backup software. Does Windows XP Home include any?
    Answer: Yes, but you have to install it. The WinXP Backup utility is not included in the default installation of WinXP Home Edition, nor is it listed in Add/Remove Programs. However, the utility is on the CD that comes with WinXP. Place this CD in your optical drive and browse to E :\VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACK UP, where E is the letter of your CD drive. Double-click NTBackup.msi to install the program.
    The disc will add the Backup utility to the System Tools group, which you access by going to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and Backup. When you launch the utility, a wizard helps you through the process of backing up or restoring files.
    The Windows backup wizard helps you tailor your backup.
  • Question: Will WinXP Backup/Restore restore things such as my system settings and bookmarks?
    Answer: Absolutely. Using WinXP Backup/Restore, it is possible to back up everything on your hard drive, including your bookmarks, Desktop configuration, and system settings, as well as make a system recovery diskette. You will also have a chance to select advanced backup options that enable you to determine the type of backup you want to perform. Options are Normal (backs up selected files and marks each file as backed up), Copy (backs up selected files but doesn't mark them as such), Incremental (backs up files only if they were created or modified since the previous backup), Differential (same as Incremental but doesn't mark files as backed up), and Daily (only backs up files that were created or modified that day).
  • Question: How do I use my backup media to restore my system when it does crash?
    Answer: Backup software will have specific instructions on the procedures for a full backup. Check the software's users manual to learn what you have to do. If you aren't using backup software, you can reinstall your software on a new computer (or your existing computer if it is repaired and requires reinstallation) and then copy all of your data files from the backup media.
  • Question: My backups are taking too long, and I'm using a ton of CDs. How can I speed this along?
    Answer: The best way to both save space and increase speed of backups on CDs is to compress your files and/or folders. You can purchase compression software, or if you have WinXP, that OS (operating system) has a way to compress folders, subfolders, and files. For example, you can compress all of the files and subfolders in your My Documents folder.
    Go to Start and right-click My Documents (or any other folder you'd like to compress). Select Properties from the pop-up menu. Click Advanced on the General tab. Select the Compress Contents To Save Disk Space checkbox and then click OK.
    WinXP will compress all of the files in this folder, as well as any files you add to the folder. The files are automatically uncompressed and will launch normally when you open them.
  • Question: How can I use an extra hard drive as a backup system?
    Answer: Second hard drives are an inexpensive way to back up files and programs. You can purchase an internal or external hard drive, but external hard drives carry some advantages. They are small, have tremendous amounts of space, are relatively inexpensive, and transfer data rapidly with USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 ports and/or FireWire. Iomega offers a series of portable and removable hard drives called REV (about $400, depending on the model; http://www.iomega.com ). They provide 35GB of storage, which, when compressed, increases to 90GB.
    Another manufacturer, AcomData, offers the RocketPod (about $200; http://www.acomdata.com ). RocketPod also lets you choose USB 2.0 or FireWire for data transfer. The RocketPod comes with a tremendous 160GB of hard drive space. If you add an AcomData DockPod (pricing not available at press time), you can stack multiple RocketPods. They seamlessly relay power and data signals, making it easy to add additional storage/backup space as you need it.
  • Question: How can I use a portable backup system to keep data with me?
    Answer: Portable backup solutions are another great way to back up your data and transfer it among PCs. There are two types of portable memory, USB drives and hard drives. USB flash drives have less storage capacity than portable hard drives and are more expensive, but they are smaller and more durable because they don't incorporate any moving parts.
    SanDisk offers the Cruzer Titanium USB 2.0 Hi-Speed flash drive ($199.99; http://www.sandisk.com ), which provides 512MB of backup space. This pocket-sized device features a titanium-coated metal casing, capable of surviving a force of up to 2,000 pounds. It comes bundled with Cruzer PocketCache software, which enables you to perform regular backup of PC files and directories. CruzerLock software provides a security application to protect your data files, enabling you to encrypt or decrypt individual files to prevent unauthorized viewing.
    If you want a lot more backup space, consider the Digitalway MPIO HS 100 ($199; http://www.mpio.com ), which provides 1.5GB of storage. The size of a deck of playing cards, MPIO is a moderately priced mobile backup product. It combines the capacity of a hard drive sans taking up much physical space. It is capable of fast data transmission (38Mbps [megabits per second]) via USB 2.0.
  • Question: Is there a way to use an online service to back up my files?
    Answer: There are several reasons to consider online backups. Online storage is off-site. If you lose everything in your physical location (due to a fire, for example), the off-site backup will still be intact. Online backups can include encryption during transmission and on the servers. Online storage means you can access, upload, or download your files from any location.
    If you decide to use an online service for backup, seriously consider high-speed Internet access. DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and cable modems offer speeds up to 1.5Mbps, which will help you upload and download the enormous amount of data required to back up a hard drive. With a 1.5Mbps connection, an 8MB file would take about 43 seconds to upload or download. The same 8MB file would require about 20 minutes to upload using a 56KB dial-up modem.
    Iomega has an online backup service called iStorage (http://www.iomega.com/istorage ). Archive data to your online storage account or download files to your laptop, desktop PC, or PDA (personal digital assistant). The service uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) 128-bit encryption. The iStorage desktop software backs up your critical data. Prices range from $2.49 a month for 50MB to $17.95 a month for 1,000MB. For other online backup options, consider FilesAnywhere (http://www.filesanywhere.com ), CapSure (http://www.capsure.com ), and Xdrive (http://www.xdrive.com ).
In The End
Backing up your system is vital, and now that you have some options for making the process easier, go ahead and make those backups. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Copyright Bill Eager. All Rights Reserved.

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