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Much of the data you consider personal data files can be backed up by dragging and dropping to CDs, DVDs, network drives, or external hard drives. Dragging to external drives is as simple as right-clicking, dragging, and dropping, and then choosing Copy from the choices. When you’re dragging and dropping your personal data though, don’t forget about all of the personal files you have. You keep more than just documents; you also keep spreadsheets, PowerPoint Presentations, edited data, offline files, and more. Beyond that, you may have digital media including but not limited to music, movies, and photo.
If you haven’t backed up in a while, or ever, you’ll want to start with a full backup. This means getting as much of your personal data as you can. With a “complete" backup you can then focus on backing up only what you change – this will make backing up data at the end of the day easier and more manageable. So, when creating your first extensive back up, make sure to consider the following:
* All data folders, including My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos, My Music, and any folders you’ve created. These are almost always located on the root drive, C:, or the data drive, D:. You can use My Computer or Windows Explorer to browse to these files. (Note that in Vista the folder names are Documents, Pictures, Videos, etc., and can be found in your personal folder.
* Folders that contain downloaded applications or the compressed files for the applications. These files will probably by on the C: or D: drive. Hopefully, you’ve created a special folder for this type of data.
* Client files or work files. Again, these are personal folders you’ve created or documents in the My Documents folder.
* Data including tax information, wills, personal letters, personal projects, diaries, and so on. Check your personal folders on the C: or D: drive.
If you run across things you don’t need or want during this process, delete them. Only back up what you want to keep (and keep what you're going to need).
You'll also want to locate and back up some of the important system-level data. This includes data created with or by Internet Explorer and mail programs like Outlook Express. Both contain information you’ll need if you ever have to recover from a hard drive crash or if you purchase a new PC.
Remember, for the data in this article, consider dragging and dropping to an external or network drive, and then storing that data off-site for safety.