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Simple Ways to Make Computer Backups

After talking to a neighbor recently about a devastating fire he was involved in, I was reminded of several simple ways to make computer backups. Here's a quick look at those approaches.

I currently live in a small apartment complex in Wasilla, Alaska, and I've quickly gotten to know most of my neighbors. Yesterday the man who lives downstairs from me was telling me that when he lived in the neighboring town of Palmer, his apartment complex was all but burned to the ground, including his computer.

It seems that an old man who lived in a downstairs unit who had emphysema decided that it would be a good idea to try to smoke a cigarette while he was on an oxygen tank. Of course the tank exploded and his apartment burned, eventually causing destruction to the entire apartment complex. As my neighbor spoke about losing his computer system and all of his data, being a computer guy, I was thinking about various ways to make computer system backups. Here's a quick look at the backup systems that came to mind.

Backup to USB drives

Probably the easiest way for people at home to make computer backups is to buy a handful of those USB "flash" drives you see. When they're on sale, you can by a 20GB flash drive for $10, and depending on how much data you have, a few of these may be all you need.

On both Windows and Mac computer systems, just plug the USB drive into one of your USB ports, and wait until the drive appears on your desktop, or in your Windows Explorer or Mac Finder, which should take just a few moments. Once the drive appears, all you have to do to make a simple backup is to copy your data to the drive. I prefer to create a folder on the drive first to indicate the date, so I'll first create a folder named something like "2010-07-29", and then copy my data into that folder. That makes it much easier to find different revisions of your data later.

Once you've made your backup, it's important to store it somewhere outside of your house or apartment. Heaven forbids you should ever be involved in a disaster like a fire or tornado, but a computer backup "best practice" is to store your data somewhere away from your actual computer systems.

Backup to CD or DVD

A second way to make a computer backup is to copy your data to CD or DVD. This is actually cheaper, but it's a little more work for you. The process is a little different on Mac and Windows systems, so I'll just describe the Mac backup process:

  1. Insert a blank CD, or preferably a DVD, which holds much more data.
  2. Your Mac system will prompt you, asking what you want to do. Choose the "Open Finder" option.
  3. This creates a Mac "burn folder" on your desktop. Just double-click that folder to open it, then drag and drop all the items you want to backup to that new folder.
  4. When you're done, press the "Burn" button on the upper-right corner of this Mac Finder window.
  5. I strongly recommend using the "more reliable" backup option. It's slower, but I have had problems when creating DVDs with the faster option, and after all, this is supposed to be your emergency backup.
  6. Give the DVD a name, then wait while the system is backed up. When it's finished, you'll have a backup of your data.

That's all you have to do to create a CD or DVD backup. (Once again, don't forget to take your backup off site.)

Mac Time Machine and Time Capsule

If you happen to use Mac systems, I also recommend buying a Mac Time Capsule device, and making automatic backups with their built-in Time Machine software. This takes just a little bit of setup timeFree Reprint Articles, and I'll discuss it in a future article.

Article Tags: Make Computer Backups, Make Computer, Computer Backups, Apartment Complex

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Alvin Alexander has written a number of tutorials about making computer system backups, including his popular Mac online backup service review, and a review of his favorite backup service, the Dropbox online backup service.

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