Friday, March 12, 2010

The System Backup

 A few days ago I wrote about how to back up just your files.  While that is a good start, a full system backup is a better option for most people.  With a system backup, you can have a new hard drive installed in your computer and get everything back the way it was with a few clicks of your mouse.  With this method, not only are your personal files backed up, but your entire operating system, installed programs and any other files are duplicated.

The hardest part of a system backup is getting it set up.  Because your hard drive is so large, the only thing that will most likely be able to hold all of your data is another hard drive.  Also, remember that the whole point of backing up your computer is getting your backup separated from your computer itself.  Because of this, you should wander down to your local electronics store and ask for an external hard drive.  They come in all shapes and sizes, but the important thing is that you get a hard drive that has a larger capacity than the amount of data stored on your computer.  For example, if you go into My Computer and see that your c: drive has 50 of 250 GB used.  You would want a hard drive that can hold at least the 50 GB, but I would recommend planning for the future and getting one that is 250 GB or larger.

The second part of the system backup is the software.  Unfortunately, full system backups do require a special program as it is not a simple copy and paste.  The good news is that if you have Windows 7 or Mac OS X leopard, you already have a great backup program built into the operating system.  If you have an earlier flavor of windows, you might have a system backup program as well, but you may not, so consult a friend if you can't figure out what yours has.  That external hard drive you just bought in the last paragraph probably comes with a backup program, but typically those programs offer file backups, but not a full system backup.  My recommendation if you need to go out and buy a program for a system backup, would be to look at Norton Ghost.  The newest version is a bit expensive at $70, but you can find the perfectly capable previous version for $50 on Amazon.   There is also a free trial if you want to try before you buy available here.

There are free backup programs out there, but to be honest, I have yet to find one as good and as easy to use as Norton Ghost.  Ghost has been around since 1995 and I have used it professionally for years.  You install, it configure it, and forget it.  Ghost will backup your computer to the removable hard drive on whatever schedule you would like.  It will manage how many backups you have saved and it will minimize the needed storage space by only backing files that have changed since the previous backup.  If you ever have your hard drive fail, after replacing the drive, you put the ghost CD in your drive, restart your computer and restore everything from your last backup.

OK, ok, there is a free program if you do not want to spend the money for Ghost.  It is called Macrium Reflect Free.  It is the same idea as Ghost, but it is not quite as easy to use.  I have had experience with it in the past, but I would still rather use Ghost if given the option.  I really like Ghost, but for my needs, I have moved on to bigger and better backups.  Stay tuned as I wrap the subject of backups tomorrow with the Network Backup.

1 comment:

  1. Full HD you're talking! When catastrophe strikes....getting back up using 'recovery disks' is a real pain. It's definitely worth the money to have a mirror image on HD.