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Alternate Backup Strategies and Media

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/4/2010

There are backup options beyond copying data to DVDs, storing to external or network drives, or saving data to a USB drive, there are software utilities, Internet servers, and even the option of e-mailing yourself data.

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    There are lots of options for storing and backing up data. Sure, you can save to DVDs, external drives, and network servers by manually dragging and dropping files, but you can also use software options and Internet servers.

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    Windows XP Backup Utility

    If you have Windows XP, you have the Windows XP Backup Utility. It’s a wizard-based application that helps you backup important data by offering suggestions regarding what folders to backup. This utility also helps you back up system information like:

    * System state (the Registry files, system boot files, and other data)

    * Files and folders in My Network Places

    * Fonts

    * Drivers

    * Offline Web pages

    * Downloaded programs

    * Unzipped files

    * Service pack files

    Unfortunately, the backup utility that is native to Windows XP Professional isn’t included by default in the Window XP Home Edition. If you have the Home edition (or an earlier version of Windows), you’ll have to take some steps to install it manually.

    Here’s how to install Microsoft Backup for Windows XP Home:

    1. Place the Windows XP Home Edition CD into the CD-ROM drive.

    2. If it starts automatically, click Exit.

    3. Open My Computer, right-click the CD drive’s icon, and choose Explore.

    4. Locate the folder \VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACKUP.

    5. Double-click the Ntbackup.msi file and work through the wizard. When complete, click Finish.

    When you’re ready to create a backup, simply start the application and follow the prompts! You can then use the same application to recover the data if need be.

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    Windows Vista

    Windows Vista also comes with a backup utility. It’s called the Backup and Restore Center. As with XP’s backup utility, you can backup your personal data from contacts to e-mail to pictures and videos. If you have Windows Vista Ultimate, Business, or Enterprise, you can also create a complete backup of your system using Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore. This utility creates an “image” of your PC, which can then be used to restore it. Microsoft suggests you create this type of backup twice a year, and that you create a backup with the Backup and Restore Center anytime you have amassed data you cannot bear to lose, or anytime you install a driver, hardware, software, or perform another system change.

    Note: I’m not an advocate of these types of backups – backups that are created by software programs like Windows XP Backup Utility or Windows Vista Backup and Restore Center. They are OK if you want to restore the data to the same PC you backed up from, but if you want to restore the data to another PC, or a computer running Linux or a Mac OS, you can’t. If this is your only kind of backup, you may lose your data if you purchase a new computer and try to restore it with data from another one.

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    Windows Home Server

    Windows Home Server is another option for backing up data. Windows Home Server is a software and operating system combination that allows for automated backups of all the PCs in the home or office. While Windows Home Server is a great option, as with software backups, manual drag-and-drop backups of important data should also be created. If a Home Server is the only backup being created, and if that server is destroyed in a fire or flood (or stolen), all of your backups will be gone too.

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    Internet Options

    E-mailing yourself data using a Hotmail, Yahoo!, or Gmail account, or something similar, is a good way to temporarily back up data. That’s because data e-mailed to a web server such as these is also stored there until it’s manually deleted or until you run out of storage space.

    You can also choose to upload data to Internet servers for a fee, or to social networking sites like My Space. Many sites offer free storage of data, and even ways to share that data with others. If you’re interested in using an Internet option, check first with your favorite social networking site.