The Hard Disc Drive Crash Lessons – How To Use Your External Hard Disc Drive Properly – Backups are not necessarily fun, but nor are the efforts you need to recover from a hard drive crash.

New devices on the market however mean that backing up your Windows PC is not the onerous task it once was. With better software, cheaper hardware and a fast Internet connection, keeping your crucial files safe can be relatively painless. See: ExternalHardDiscDrives for more information and reviews about the latest hard disc drives on the market.

You should regularly backup data (including video, pictures, music etc) instead of just backing up the entire hard drive. You can usually get recovery discs easily enough.

If you don’t have recovery discs, make sure you have a copy of the operating system and all the programs you need to install. If you downloaded your software from the Web, make sure you know where to find it, and keep printouts of your software keys in a safe place.

Once you’re ready to back up your data, here are a few strategies for doing so:

• CDs/DVDs. If you don’t have much data ­— or if you do, and have lots of time to kill — there’s always the tried-and-true method of copying your files onto DVD or CD discs. It’s certainly inexpensive — you can buy a pack of 50 writable DVD discs for well under $20 — and it’s easy to do. Just open the folder that contains the files you want to save, select and then drag them onto the DVD or DVD drive’s icon. The big drawback to this (other than the manual aspect) is that you have to remember to do it regularly as your files increase in number or are changed.

• External drives. Because they’re now so inexpensive, external hard drives are your best bang for the buck for backup hardware. You can find off-brand 1-terabyte external drives for under $80, and brand-name models for under $100. Smaller drives are even less. You can take the same approach to backing up as with CD/DVD discs — just drag and copy. Or, you can use …

• Automated backup software. Programs that perform backups for you have gotten a lot friendlier, and in fact, the one built into the latest version of Windows 7 is very good. While Windows XP and Vista have their own backup programs, neither are as easy to use.

To access the Windows 7 backup program, just click the Start button, type backup into the search box and hit Enter. You’ll need to have an external drive connected; have another external drive available as a backup in your PC; or, if you’re using one of the Win7 editions that supports network backups, access to an available drive on your network.

The program will first make a complete system backup. It will back up data once a week after that, or you can set your own schedule.

The XP program is found at Start > Accessories > System Tools in the Professional Edition. In XP Home, there’s an installer for it on the system CD in the ValueAddMsftNtbackup folder. In Vista, you can launch it the same way as in Windows 7, via the search box.

• Online backup. If you’ve got a broadband Internet connection, you might want to consider using an online backup service. It’s smart to store your data away from your home, in case something happens to your computer or backup drives, and online backup services are now fairly inexpensive. Two of the most popular are Mozy ( and Carbonite (, which let you back up as much data as you like for less than $5 a month. When you need to recover your data, you just download it from the site.

But if you have a lot of data, the first upload can take a long time — in some cases, days. Take the necessary steps to avoid problems with your backups. See: ExternalHardDiscDrives

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